No Time? No Creativity? … No Worries. Whose tears are we talking about? If you’re thinking the kids, well then maybe you haven’t planned a kid’s birthday party before. If you have and you have no idea what we’re talking about, then stop reading. Or if you’re like most Hot Moms, your time is extremely valuable, and although you may be able to get a team of sales reps to produce record breaking goals, you may be lacking in the event planning arena. No one can understand better than you, the stress that your child’s birthday can bring on. What theme? Where to host it? Who to invite? What to serve? Damn, so-and-so’s got a peanut allergy. It’s enough to drive even the most patient mom, absolutely nuts!
Well, you may not be a self-proclaimed Martha Stewart, but if you secretly wish you could pull off a party that looks liked it’s been pulled from her magazine, then we’ve got some recommendations that will keep you sane and the kids smiling.
Start by planning early. I can only tell you from experience that of all the parties I’ve planned, thrown, and attended, the single most important thing you can do, is to give yourself more time than you think you need. Sleep deprivation and 15 screaming 4 year olds do not mix well and your perfectly orchestrated plans can go to hell in a hand-basket if the main item you need is suddenly out of stock or is discontinued. Oh, and by early, I mean starting a few months out. By plan, I mean actually sit down and write out a game plan. Here are the components of a great game plan that will keep you sane and the kids cheering.
1. How many are you going to invite? If the kids are under 5 years of age, you should plan on inviting 1 or both parents. Over 5 and you are probably safe to have the parents drop off the kids, but plan to have a 1:5 adult/kid ratio. Deciding on the number of guest is a key factor that you should consider first. This will help you know if you can realistically accommodate the party at home, or if you need to consider taking it elsewhere, like a park or facility that hosts birthday parties.
2. If a budget is important to you, then establish a budget as soon as you’ve decided on the number of guests. Divide the budget by the number of guest so that you can get an accurate gauge of how much per guest you have to spend. At this point you may reconsider the number of guests…that’s ok.
3. Choose a location. Consider the time of year. If you live in Chicago and your party is in January, accommodating 15 children inside your home might not seem too appealing. You may want to opt for a remote location that caters to larger groups. If you will be taking it outside your home, start calling around for availability as soon as you can. If you have a few places in mind, see if they will take a tentative reservation while you continue to explore options. When choosing a remote location, be sure to ask lot’s of questions, like what are the deposits and fees? What about last minute cancellations? What is, and is not, included? If you’re planning your party at home, schedule time to get your house in order and don’t let your husband convince you that you should re-do the bathrooms a week before the party.
4. Decide on a theme. If your child is very young, you may make this decision for them. If you child is old enough to have an opinion (in the case of mine, at 2 years of age), your best bet is help them feel empowered by letting them choose from 2 or 3 options that you have already carefully considered.
Now that you’ve gotten the grunt work out of the way, let the fun stuff begin.
1. Decorations. Your theme should dictate everything from the food you serve to the take-home goody bags you may consider sending home with each guest. This actually makes your shopping much easier. Consider an all inclusive party decoration kit, like the ones that we offer at [url]www.SocialCouture.com[/url]. Not only will this make your life easier, but you will actually save money and time, not to mention your sanity. Also, for great ideas, you can explore our blog, [url]www.SocialCouture-TableTalk.com[/url] , where you can find all kinds of ideas from menu suggestions, to activity suggestions, to how to write a proper thank you note.
2. Activity, Activity. Plan to incorporate an activity that gets the kids moving. If your party is at home, consider summer activities like slip’n’slides, bouncies, croquet and carnival type games. For an indoor party, think about karaoke, craft projects, or movie watching.
3. Set a time frame and try to stick to it. Indicate this in your invite (i.e. time: 11am-1pm). Post your schedule somewhere that you can see it, but others can’t. If you’re unsure about how long things take, ask some friends. Generally plan to start the party with play for 30 minutes to an hour to help the kids burn off the pre-party energy they’re sure to arrive with. Serve food/cake (which will only take about 25 minutes) and then finish off the party with more activity.
4. Gifts are synonymous with birthday parties, but consider other options as well. After 2 children, 5 birthdays, and a mountain of toys that were bulging from every crevice of our home, I opted to go a different route. Options to consider would be to simply state on the invitation, “no gifts please” or you could also consider asking people in lieu of a gift to make a donation to your favorite charity. This can be a great learning experience for a child over 4. If it’s family that seem to go overboard on toys, consider giving them the option to donate to a college fund or a gift certificate towards swim lessons, gymnastics or some other physical activity. If gifts will be received, designate an area to place them and keep a pen handy and write the gift-givers name somewhere on the wrapping, in case cards get shuffles around or a tag falls off. If you’ll be having more than 12-15 guests, consider having your child open them after the party. Take pictures of he or she opening each one; you can send this with the thank you note.
5. Take home gift bags. You can choose to spend as much or as little as you want on this, or you can simply choose not to bother. I think it is a nice touch and it really doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. We offer some adorable princess gift bags that a little girl’s name can be added with a marker or paint pen for under $2 apiece. Anything with a child’s name that they can take home, they will love, especially if they are filled with fresh baked cookies. For my son’s beach themed party, we handed out woven beach mats that I found at the dollar store. A cute paper name tag made them personalized and the kids absolutely loved them.
6. Last but not least, don’t forget to send thank you notes after the party. If and when gifts are received and opened, please have someone write down what they received and then try to send out thank you notes within a few weeks of receiving the gift. Here is where those pictures can come in handy. Glue them to the front of a plain colored card, or include it inside.
Last but not least remember that this is about your child having fun. When you look back on it in 20 years, you and your child will want to remember the amazing memory that you created, not a tear-laden, frazzled-hair, crazy woman….save that for your summer vacation. J
Author, Colleen Sprunk, mother of Aiden and Addy, is the co-founder of Social Couture. Colleen and her partner, Lisa Cabanes, create parties in a box. Together they truly have made the art of throwing a party as simple as point, click…party. Social Couture provides all the information and necessities needed to plan, organize and host a successful and stress-free event…yourself. No need to hire an event planner, Social Couture makes being the hostess with the mostest as easy as cake. Visit their website at Social Couture where you will find an amazing array of unique party creations as well as their blog, TableTalk, where you can find party etiquette tips, menu & drink suggestions and a ton of other fun ideas that will get you in the mood to party.