Anniversary Party Planning & Etiquette

Party Planning FAQ

Any celebration needs a level of planning to ensure it is successful. A common question is when do you start this planning? This is depends on what type of party you are having and what you need for the party. We’ve found, especially with Anniversary parties, the opposite is often the case in that you’ve become aware the anniversary is coming up and decide to have a party late in the day.

The starting point is deciding when you want the celebration. The obvious choice is on the actual anniversary date however if this falls midweek then you may consider moving it to the nearest weekend to allow your friends and family to attend without having to take time off work etc. It’s also a good idea to have it at the weekend as it helps the party atmosphere when people are more relaxed knowing they do not have to get up for work the next day.

As an aside your 25th anniversary (Silver) would generally fall 4 week days in advance of your actual wedding day e.g. if you got married on a Sunday then your 25th Anniversary will fall on a Thursday, likewise your 40th (Ruby Wedding) will fall on the week day after the week day you got married with the 50th Anniversary (Golden Wedding) will fall on the actual week day you got married or the day before. These are estimates that take into account leaps years for marriages that occurred between 1960-2000, the actual day however depends on the number of leap years between the two dates.

Etiquette experts are divided on whether it is appropriate to have an anniversary party at an alternative date or season. We would generally recommend it is best to have it as close as possible to the anniversary date and if possible within a month of the anniversary date either way.

Combining an anniversary with another event is not a particularly good idea as this detracts from the focus on the couple, this is especially true for the major anniversaries.

Check the date selected with key people. 

At any party, large or small, make sure you have checked that the guests of honour, closest friends and family will be able to attend and that the date does not conflict with other major anniversaries (particularly bad anniversaries, e.g. deaths of prominent figures either in the family or in society) that may conflict or take away the focus on the couple celebrating the anniversary before you set the date in stone. If you are worried about key people being occupied on the specific date then it may be worth sending out a “save a date” notelet or postcard as early as possible to notify them in advance of the official invitation

If you want a popular location you’ll generally find you would have needed to start last week; don’t you always find that? You go to book a venue and they say the date you wanted was booked last week! Anyway I digress.

If you are planning on a large celebration then you should have thought about it well in advance possibly as far away as a year. If you think of marriages, these are often planned up to a year or longer in advance to ensure you can get the right venue and other requirements, as you would use similar resources for large anniversary celebrations you are effectively competing with these other events for the right venue.

This is more important if you want a weekend celebration as with only 52 weekends a year of which 2 are likely to be the most appropriate to when the anniversary falls then it is important to secure a popular venue early.

Who to invite and how many people?

These two questions are often interrelated, the answer also depends upon the type of party you are having, if you are having a intimate family gathering then the number and who will be decided within that circle. If however you are having a repeat of your wedding breakfast then who to invite is opened up to friends both past and present and your extended family.

Bookings resources (caterers, restaurants, MCs, bands etc.)

Allow at least two months to book up caterers or a restaurant. Remember: the bigger the party, the more notice you need to give. Even if you’ve decided to cater for yourself and only want to hire some waiters, more glasses and plates, you’ll need to book these up too. The more you can plan in advance the easier it will be nearer the time.

Resources for those unable to attend the event.

How about setting up a web cam for the event and letting people unable to attend know the how to access it on the day so that they can log on to send their congratulations. This is especially good for a geographically dispersed family.

Failing that you could get them to send in congratulatory emails/telegrams/letters/cards ahead of time so that they can either be placed on a wall board at the event or read out during a speech.

What to call it.

  • Cocktail parties only occur after 5.00 pm
  • Open house parties (a.k.a. Come and go parties) occur at any time.
  • Dessert celebrations typically occur in the afternoon.
  • Pitch-in celebrations can occur at any time.


An anniversary party is what you want it to be, whether that means a relatively straightforward get-together in your home or a more formal affair in a location with caterers and possibly entertainment or a private function room in a restaurant or hotel.