How to Plan An Anniversary Celebration

By: Jason Lee

Anniversaries are incredibly exciting milestones. Whether it’s a wedding anniversary celebration or a relationship milestone, it represents the love, commitment, and faithfulness of two people to one another. And what do we do when we reach one of these milestones? We party!

If you and your significant other or a couple special to you (parents, grandparents, friends, coworkers, etc.) have a big day coming up, you may be wondering what steps you need to take to plan the perfect get-together.

In this guide, we’re tackling all of that (and more)! We’ll look at:


The Importance of Knowing What Year Anniversary It Is

Did you know that every anniversary year has a theme to it? While you aren’t required by any unwritten law to use these themes and ideas in your event planning, it’s something we recommend. One—it shows you really put some effort into the planning process. Two—each year is different, which means you only get one shot in your relationship’s lifetime to celebrate each theme.

If you want to check out the details of your upcoming year, check out our detailed guides on anniversary years.

Getting the Perfect Anniversary Gift

And before we start talking about how to plan an anniversary celebration, we need to talk about the elephant in the room—getting the perfect gift. If you throw an incredible party but you get a gift that doesn’t send the same message, it can really detract from the overall experience.

If you want to see our helpful guides, check out our lists of the absolute best anniversary gifts by year now.

Here are a few additional thoughts about gift-giving and planning an anniversary celebration.

  • If you’re planning a party for someone else, it’s totally okay if that is your gift. While you can certainly get them something too if you want and it’s in the budget, you probably don’t have to. The only place where we don’t feel this applies is if you’re planning the event for your own significant other and anniversary. Grab at least something small or you may end up sleeping on the couch for a while.
  • There are traditional and modern gifts for each anniversary year, as well. No, you don’t have to follow these guidelines, but it’s at least worth checking out. The anniversary gift guides we linked above break all of this down for you with traditional gift ideas, modern gift ideas, and some “regular” gift ideas.

Deciding on a Guest List – Intimate vs. Grand

The first step in planning an anniversary celebration is determining a guest list. Is this celebration just going to be the two of you? Are you going to invite close friends and family? Is it going to be a big blowout with everyone and their mother that you know?

Are any of these the “right” answer? Nope! It’s totally up to what you think is going to be best. A great wedding anniversary celebration or relationship celebration can be intimate or grand—it’s totally up to you.

Here are a few thoughts to help you answer those questions:

  • If budget is tight and it’s your anniversary celebration, just do something special with only the two of you.
  • If budget is tight and it’s someone else’s celebration, you may want to limit the guest count to control costs. You can also ask other people to pitch in either financially, with their time, or to bring something (like a food item) if you want to expand that.
  • Ultimately, it depends on what your wife/husband/significant other or the couple you’re planning for is going to like best. If you love big parties but they like small gatherings, keep it small. If you’re not a huge fan of big gatherings but they absolutely love blowouts, get the party started!
  • If you’re planning and you’re unsure of what your significant other or the couple might like, just ask them. Unless it’s a complete surprise party (which we don’t really recommend), there’s nothing wrong with getting a little feedback. You can ask them about the celebration size or who they absolutely want (or don’t want) to attend.

Choosing Where to Host the Celebration

Once you’ve determined who is coming, the next step of how to plan an anniversary celebration is determining a location for the party.

First, is the celebration going to be local or are you going to go on a trip? If it’s more than just the two of you, you’re probably best keeping things local. It’s a lot to ask other people to pay to travel for a relationship celebration outside of a wedding. If you’re footing the entire bill (including the travel and accommodations), well…more power to you! But realistically, you’re probably going to want to keep it local.

If it is a trip outside of where you live with your husband, wife, or significant other, here are a few things for you to consider:

  • Are there any places that are memorable to your relationship history? Where you met? First date? Where you both went to school? Hometowns?
  • Is the place you’re looking at somewhere you’ve taken another romantic interest before? If so, that’s probably a big no-no (trust us on this one).
  • What’s the budget look like? While we’re advocates for spending a little extra on major milestones, that’s only if it’s comfortably within the budget.
  • How will you handle logistics? Kids? Pets? Work? Make sure you have a plan for all of these things so you can 100% enjoy your anniversary vacation celebration.

For Local Anniversary Celebrations

If you’re inviting people, you’re most likely going to have the celebration locally. But where? Well, here are a few options to consider:

  • At your house
  • At the couple’s house (if planning for someone else)
  • At a local park
  • At a community center
  • At an entertainment establishment
  • At a restaurant
  • At a church

Any one of these places is a great spot to hold an anniversary celebration. One thing to consider is that if you’re planning this for someone else, doing it at your house instead of their house is a real pro move. Why? Because when the party is over, they can relax and they don’t have to worry about cleaning up.

Here are a few things to consider when selecting the location for your local anniversary celebration:

  • Proximity for guests (what side of town)
  • What’s open and what’s closed
  • If you need a permit for the location (some local parks require this)
  • What amenities are at the location and what you’d need to bring
  • Accessibility and parking (especially important if you have older or handicapped guests)
  • Safety of the location

An Anniversary Celebration Checklist for Planning

Deciding on the guest list and where to have the celebration are big steps, but they’re just the beginning. There are a lot more things that go into planning an anniversary celebration. Instead of making this guide a mile long, we decided the best way to present the information you need to know is by creating an anniversary celebration checklist.

Our team of experts has done their best to put together the most comprehensive checklist on how to plan an anniversary celebration. We think we’ve covered everything, but don’t hesitate to ask friends and families to “check your work” and make sure you didn’t forget anything important.

  1. Confirm with your significant other or the couple you are planning for that they’re okay with an anniversary celebration.
  2. Decide on the guest list. Consult the celebrating couple if planning for someone else.
  3. Determine if anyone else is going to help you plan the event.
  4. Decide on a budget.
  5. Select a location for the anniversary celebration.
  6. Check and see if you need any permits to hold the event.
  7. Choose a time for the event. Make sure to check that:
    1. The location is available at that time
    1. Consider things like traffic, safety, crowds, and availability.
    1. Be aware if you have a large group coming, you won’t be able to appease everyone.
  8. See if you are required (or are able) to reserve the location for your event date and time.
  9. If you’re not able to reserve the location, start developing a plan to have someone arrive early and secure the location for your group.
  10. Select an anniversary gift. If you’re getting them something, take care of this early, so you don’t have to worry about it.
  11. Plan the theme for the party and what activities you’ll be having. This can be as simple as just food or drinks, but it can be elaborate with games and more interactive activities.
  12. Create a list of all of the supplies and amenities you are going to need for the anniversary celebration. Separate the list into things that are available at the event location and things that will need to be brought.
  13. Determine exactly who is going to bring what. This can be a good time to plan backup options in case someone has trouble getting what they’re supposed to bring.
  14. Create a timeline of events. This is a great way to make sure you’re not stretching yourself too thin on the day of the party.
  15. Determine if you want to have any decorations for the event.
  16. Get information to your guests about the event as soon as possible.
    1. Require an RSVP by a certain date so you know how much stuff to buy.
    1. Give information on the location, address, event time, and directions.
    1. Make sure your event also has an end time set.
    1. Let guests know if they can bring a plus one or if it’s just them invited.
    1. If there is a dress code (or recommendations), include that in the correspondence.
  17. If you are bringing in any outside vendors, secure those contracts as soon as possible.
  18. Make sure you go over all of the details with each vendor and what they are providing is clearly laid out in a contract. Remember, a contract protects you just as much as it does the vendor.
  19. Prepare as many things as possible before the day of the event. The more you can get ready now, the easier things will go on the day of.
  20. If you have extensive setup, make sure you identify a few people willing to come early and help.
  21. Don’t forget about music. If it’s a party, have a plan for some background music (or foreground music if you’re planning on having people dance).
    1. Make sure to consider a playlist, edited versions of songs if children will be there, speakers, and who is in charge of starting and stopping the music.
  22. Decide if you want to have anyone make toasts or speeches during the event. If so, make sure you let those people know beforehand.
    1. We highly recommend giving these people guidelines on speech length and roughly what you’re looking for. You don’t have to tell them what to say, but you can prevent some awkward situations.
  23. Once you have completed your planning, get a second or third set of eyes to review your work. Have them ask questions and try and see if there is anything that you forgot.
    1. Really ask them to try and poke holes in your plan. The idea here is to figure out any issues before the day of.
  24. Check-in with all vendors and guests expected to bring or do something the week before the event. Ensure everyone understands their tasks and is ready to execute on them.
  25. Check the weather. Be prepared with some contingencies if your event is outside and it looks like it’s going to be too hot or things are going to get a little wet. Also, if you are setting up tents, consider looking at the wind forecast.
  26. Double-check your timeline and get ready to have some fun.
  27. Follow your plan and have an amazing anniversary celebration!

Additional Tips for a Successful Anniversary Celebration

  • People will always try and give their input on how the event should be planned. There’s nothing wrong with listening to these suggestions. Remember, though, you’re the one setting the event up, so your say is going to be final. The only exception to this is if the suggestion comes from your significant other or the couple you’re planning the event for. If you let too many chefs in the kitchen, it can create a mess.
  • Remember the point of the event. The point of a wedding anniversary celebration or relationship milestone celebration is to celebrate the couple! And while you want to make a nice event for the guests, what’s really important is that the couple gets to truly enjoy their time and reflect on the milestone achievement.
  • Be prepared for unexpected things. Not everything is going to go according to plan, and that’s okay! Life happens. And if you’re reaching a relationship milestone, you already know that. Have contingencies in place, and do your best to roll with the punches. Remember, the event is about having fun and celebrating.

Additional Resources


Written By: Jason Lee

Jason Lee is a data analyst with a passion for studying online dating, relationships, personal growth, healthcare, and finance. In 2008, Jason earned a Bachelors of Science from the University of Florida, where he studied business and finance and taught interpersonal communication.

His work has been featured in the likes of The USA Today, MSN, The Motley Fool, Net Health, and The Simple Dollar. As a business owner, relationship strategist, dating coach, and officer in the U.S. military, Jason enjoys sharing his unique knowledge base with the rest of the world.