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Tuesday’s Tech of the Week: Party Planning Edition

Throwing a great party these days goes way beyond the scope of any "how to" page, since a great party can only be defined post-hoc, after it is over, and is the result of a combination of awesome planning and super good luck! Read on as expert Event Planner Amanda Cey tells us about her favorite apps, gadgets, and websites for pulling off a party without a hitch!

The best we can hope for is to plan ahead, double-check our spreadsheets, and then wing it. As a professional event planner, I love to be prepared and I also love technology. Here is a list of the Top 10 Tech Tools that will help you throw a party like a pro from the planning stage to making sure your guests get home safely and recover the morning after. Keep in mind, while all these planning apps and tips are super helpful, what matters the most is who you invite, as the people are what make the party!

1. Planning: No more scraps of paper with unorganized notes and to-do lists. Simple Soiree is a super functional and comprehensive party planning app that is easy to use and will help keep your party detailed and organized! This is a one stop shop that will help you get a theme going, record RSVP’s, coordinate shopping lists, track your party decor, entertainment, errands, and more. The invite feature allows you to create an invitation that sends an elegant HTML email and Web Page to all your guests! 

2. Invitations: We all know Evite, but pingg offers more customizable artistic invitations including artwork by established and emerging artists and are available online and in print. We particularly love their charity registry feature, called “Changing the Present,” where hosts can choose from a variety of charities in a categorized, cause-specific list. Their social networking linking is one of the best found online, linking up to nearly every popular social networking service, making sure everyone is kept in the loop about your event from time changes to reminders. Bonus Features: You can add videos and music!

3. Digital Bar Companion: You are probably wondering what this is. Drinkspiration by Absolut is a free app provides you with instant drink recommendation no matter what your preferences are. Just tell the app what drinks you are looking for – based on categories such as taste, color, weather, trends, time, location, bar vibe, or much, much more. The application includes 400 drinks based on vodka, gin, rum, brandy, whisky and tequila – complete with cool images and expertly crafted recipes. This app even has a location based feature using GPS!

4. Music Playlists: I’d say this might be the most important part of your party, aside from having the right people there! But, then again I’m a bit of a music fanatic. If you can’t afford to hire an actual dj, there are still some great options out there. I fall more in love with Spotify every day, and am especially fond of their collaborative playlist feature. Simply right click on the playlist in the sidebar menu and select the collaborative playlist option instead of publishing. This way people with whom you share the list will be able to add their own tracks.

Also, be sure to check out TuneTug. This cool services lets you vote for your favorite songs and lets guests  ‘Tug’ up and down songs with their mobile phone that they want to hear. This way everyone can be the DJ!

5. Live Entertainment: If you want to take your party up a notch and go beyond the typical dj or Playlist, check out Hear It Local. Currently available in San Francisco and the Twin Cities, Hear It Local lets you discover and book the best independent musicians for your own private party or living room concert! They will also give you the fundraising tools to fund live music events through your friends online. Love it!

6. Digital Photobooth: Everyone loves taking their own pics at parties, but photobooths are always so much fun and create great interaction between guests. There are many companies out there that do this, but we are big fans of Photography for Good and SmileBooth. Think open air booth meets studio fashion shoot. Both companies have the most incredible themed custom props, costumes, and backdrops and will be by far the best photo booth you will ever experience. Get your digital photo in a snap or tweet away your shots to people that weren’t invited. ;)

7. Meal Planning: Pepperplate is a great app that will help plan a menu for your soiree. Recipes, menus and schedules appear on the iPad without connecting to a computer and you can track and update timers remotely. You can also use Pepperplate online to import recipes from the most popular sites, or add your own. Other features include cooking several recipes at the same time and setting timers for each one, or you can set the app to iPad cook mode to prevent your screen from dimming.

8. Party Rentals: Most of the party rental stores out there can be kind of a pain in the butt to deal with. I always wish that I could just hop online and get all of my additional glassware with just a simple click. Getable has made this a reality. This service connects people with their favorite products on-demand, from trusted rental establishments. You can pretty much find anything you need from any rental company. They have a young customer demographic that is focused on "access over ownership" which makes perfect sense for those throwing a one-time party.

9. Group Chats: Get the convo started with a group of your friends that will be attending your upcoming party and start generating some buzz. It’s collaborative and you can ask your friends last minute to grab that extra bag of ice. Group Me is a cool free service that allows you to create groups with people already in your contacts. When you send a message, it is instantly received. It’s just like a private chat room that works on any phone. 

10. Getting Home Safely: As the night goes on, you may have some guests that had a bit too much to drink and Last Call lets you check. This app will calculate your blood-alcohol level to determine if it’s safe to drive. You can also use the app to call a cab and it even provides a list of local DUI lawyers. If you can't get a cab through Last Call, fire up the Uber app and ride home safely and in style.

Bonus Graffiti Gadget: You may not have the budget for this one, but if you do, the YR Graffiti Wall by Lumacoustics is pretty rad! This is a fantastic interactive tool for creating digital, virtual graffiti on a large screen using a modified spray paint can. Instead of paint, when the cap is pressed the can ‘sprays’ infrared light, which is tracked by a computer as it moves across the screen. The digital paint appears wherever the can is sprayed, just like spraying paint on a real wall. Let your inner bad girl or boy come out and get your tag on! Designs can be saved as a jpeg and can be used to create all sorts of mementos such as stickers, t-shirts and photos. It’s just like real graffiti, but you won’t make a mess or get arrested. 

What apps or gadgets do you use for party planning? Tweet tips our way or leave a note in the comments below. Now… time to party!

Amanda Cey is the founder and CEO of ABCey Events, San Francisco’s premier corporate event planning firm and has produced events for Apple, Oracle, Tesla, Adobe, L’Oreal and more. She has also been featured in the New York Times bestseller The Facebook Era and has just launched a new website and brand.You can also find Amanda on Facebook, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn or follow her Events blog.