The rise of internet-connected smartphones has made it easier than ever before to spend time with friends and family. But what about spending time with them at parties or reunions in the real-world? Well, your phone can help with that too. You can lean on apps to choose a good date and time, send invitations and updates, and generally organize your event with a minimum of stress.
Through the app, you suggest some dates and times for a get-together, and then the people you've invited—who don't need Doodle accounts themselves—can vote on which option suits them best.
Doodle makes this process easy and straightforward with a clean and clever interface. It also incorporates features such as integration with your existing calendars (Google, Outlook, or Apple), a private messaging thread for each event, and push notifications. To add even more abilities, including ad removal and emails that automatically remind invitees to RSVP, you can upgrade to a premium account for $39 per year.
Meetup (for Android and iOS) aims to push you out of the house so you can attend events with people who share your interests. However, you can also use the app to create your own gatherings. This service works best if you're hoping to meet and gather together people you don't know yet, rather than close friends.
Start by creating a group: Tap Browse (Android) or Meetup (iOS), followed by the Plus icon. Then you can set the parameters for the new group and write a blurb explaining what you want to achieve and who should consider joining—meetups must be between people who share a purpose, goal, interest, identity, or activity.. Finally, you can begin creating specific events for your group to attend.
To use Meetup this way, you'll need a premium subscription, which costs $15 per month. Before you pay up, you can also try out a 30-day trial of the subscription tier.
Facebook might have some issues with its News Feed, but the network can help you enormously when you're organizing an event: Almost everyone you know already has an account, and the Events aspect of the app (for Android and iOS) is very easy to use.
Open your app, tap the menu button (three horizontal lines), choose Events, and select Create. At first, you'll only have to fill in an event name and time, but you can add other details as well, including a location, a cover photo, and a description that tells guests what's happening and why. You can also determine who gets to see these details: Set an event to private, and it will only be visible to invited guests; set it to public, and anyone will be able to view it.
Once the event page is up and running, take advantage of other Facebook tools. For example, you can message all the guests at once, or check out who's seen your event listing but hasn't yet responded to it. Guests can also post messages and photos to the event page, making it easy for everyone to stay in the loop.
This free service lets you quickly and easily create a web page for your event. Unlike the other programs we've discussed, Attending lacks an app—it's only available through its website. Still, we like its elegant and intuitive interface so much that we felt we had to include it. Besides, the site works well in mobile browsers, so you and your guests can still access it on your phones.
To make your free event page, just click Make an event page and then start inviting people—you don't even need to sign up for an account.
Visitors will be able to see details about the host and attendees, a location and map of where the event will take place, and options for adding the gathering to their Google or Apple calendars. To confirm their attendance, guests can use their Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn accounts, or they can enter their email addresses. They can also take part in the comment thread that each event page includes.
The sheer popularity of Google accounts makes the company's calendar app an obvious choice for this roundup. Google Calendar (for Android and iOS) lets you create events, add details, and invite any friends and family members who have a Google account—which is probably most of them.
To start a new event, open the app and hit the big red plus button on the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Once you've entered a date, time, and location, you can start adding guests via the Invite people (Android) or Add guests (iOS) link. Only invited guests will see the event in their own Google Calendar apps. If you'd like to include more people, you can let those guests invite additional people, an option that appears when you start sending invites.
In addition to the event basics, Google Calendar has some neat bonus features. For example, it lets you create a Google hangouts video call that all guests can join, which lets you talk through preparations in advance or include people who can't make it in person. You can also mass-email everyone who's coming if you need to get in touch with your guests.
Pro Party Planner
For a more comprehensive app, best suited to big get-togethers with a lot of moving parts, you can try Pro Party Planner (for iOS only). Once you pay the required $5 access fee, you get a tool that keeps lists of attendees, tracks whether people have paid up (if you're charging for admission), and stores where everyone should sit. For another $1 a year (free for your first six months of usage), the app will sync across devices and let you collaborate with others as you plan.
When you create an event with this app, you go through a succession of screens that walk you through ordering the food and drinks and organizing the entertainment, such as DJs or singers, in good time. You can also take advantage of a budget section that divvies up your budget and figures out where your money is going.
Unfortunately, because the app includes so many features, it might add to your confusion rather than alleviating it. This problem is exacerbated by a counter-intuitive interface, which is difficult to navigate. Before you pony up for this app, see if one of the aforementioned free options will arrange the event for you. For more complex parties, however, Pro Party Planner might be worth the investment.
Even more comprehensive than Pro Party Planner, Eventbrite Organizer (for Android and iOS) is designed to cover you when you're planning a professional-level experience. We're talking sharp-looking event listings, a variety of ways to contact attendees, and the ability to generate and sell digital tickets from within the app.
As you might expect, all this functionality will cost you. On the Essentials plan, you have to pay 1 percent of your profit plus $1 per paid ticket; with the Professional plan, that jumps to 2.5 percent plus $2 per paid ticket. In exchange for the higher price, the Professional plan provides more ticket types, the option to sell tickets on your own site, and more detailed sales analytics, among other goodies. However, there's an even higher tier: With a Premium plan, you'll get extras like on-site staffing and 24/7 phone support—but you'll need to contact Eventbrite directly to find out more details about the price.
If you're organizing a family reunion, this app will be overkill. But if you're hosting an event where you plan to sell tickets, then Eventbrite Organizer will make the experience polished and at least semi-professional. Best of all, it lets you do all this, from checking in VIP guests to counting up unsold tickets, on your phone.