For those who don’t know, in a former life I moonlighted as an Events’ Planner extraordinaire…. well an average Events’ Planner at least. But this background paired with a (possibly medically diagnosable) need to turn every single life event into some kind of over the top soirée, means this mama may go ever so slightly over board with her little’uns parties.
And woe to the person who lets slip that they’re ‘gonna skip the whole birthday party thing this year’….. my inner Events addict cannot handle it! The thought of a milestone going un-celebrated is enough to send me into a take-control, list-writing, Pinterest-stalking, no-sleeping, piñata-creating frenzy! It doesn’t matter if I’ve just met you on the bus…. your desire for a small family gathering has now been blown out of the water and taken over by moi!!!
Ok, so I might have a teeny tiny bit of a problem…. one that is only getting worse the longer it’s been since professionally planning shindigs. BUT, my problem is your asset!! 🙂 Since it’s been approximately 98 days since my last party (feel like I’m in confession right now) I’m in dire need of some form of event coordination…. so let me articulate for you what I believe are some essential steps to planning your kid’s birthday party…..
- Set a budget and STICK TO IT!
I refuse to adhere to the belief that little Johnny neeeeeeds three clowns at the party so mummy and daddy have the choice to either remortgage the house or fail as parents! Seriously! Have you not seen the movies? All this equals is kids becoming brats who rule the roost and parents who look 30 years older than they are. If you have $10 in the kitty then stop crying and get creative! My daughters birthday was catered by Costco and Betty Crocker packet mixes and guess what?…. not a single toddler knew the difference! Parties = memories….. and if you spend all the month’s rent on it, then the memories will be ever so slightly (massively) tainted.
- Choose ONE theme.
Oh Pinterest how we love you! Your endless feed of beautiful, styled and delicious images….. But Pinterest is the enemy of anyone who struggles with making decisions. One day you’ll be set on a cowboy themed party, with hobby horses ordered, three cake design options drawn up and knee deep in papier mache making a cactus piñata when ‘oh wow! An Outer Space 3rd Birthday!! Look at that amazing Galaxy backdrop!!…. Maybe Cowboys is outdated?!’ … Rule of thumb, once the first party item has been purchased or made, the theme isn’t allowed to change
- Pick 3 features
Once again, ‘over inspiration’ can trip you up here, and I am quite often falling flat on my face trying to have all the options happening all at once. Pick three features and do them really well, as opposed to trying everything and it looking mediocre or too busy. Features can be photo booths, craft/activity centres, beautifully styled dessert buffets, Piñatas, Games etc.
- Who’s invited?
Decide nice and early who is invited and who’s not, and try to avoid throwing around casual invitations….. Don’t feel pressured to invite everyone who’s ever invited your kids to parties, if you’d prefer a small crowd then go for it! And if you’re happy with every man and his dog being there as well then don’t let the (party) haters get you down.
- Careful catering
We have never been so educated (and terrified) of food allergies… especially when kids are involved. Include a request on the invitation to advise you of any known allergies to ensure all kids are catered for. And do everyone a favour and make sure there is plenty of fresh fruit and water available as well…. something to dampen any sugar hyperactivity. I also like to bring out all the serving platters and utensils at least a few days before to do a mock up of how the tables will be set out and what food goes on what platters. This ensures everything will have its place, minimises the chances of needing to wash anything mid-party and helps visually map the food tables out so they look as tantalising as possible.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to plan the party out so that as much as possible can be finished the day before. Plan in enough time to get goodie bags filled, piñatas stuffed, playlists created, signs made and games prepared days before. And be smart with planning your menu, aim to have the majority of items able to be pre-made the day before (or only needing garnishing or heating at party time).
I’ve been to some incredible, beautifully styled parties in my time…. and can clearly remember each one that didn’t have music! It is the perfect base for setting a theme or mood and is an absolute essential for any party, especially to fill the silence of any ‘first guest awkwardness’. I like to create a playlist the week before and play it whenever cooking, planning, crafting for the party…. having it playing in the background gives you the opportunity to notice any songs that stand out badly, and delete. Try to create a playlist at least 2 hours long to minimise noticeable repetitions.
Make sure someone is delegated to take photographs, and let them know any specific moments or images you definitely want on film. I strongly advise against relying on yourself to get the pics, I never remember to take photos when I should and find I prefer being involved as much as possible in the moments than being behind the lens.
One lesson learnt from professional events management that I employ for every single celebration (not matter how small) is mapping the entire day out into a timeline or schedule. This has always helped me to visualise what happens when, who needs to be where and any ‘problem’ areas. Jump onto Excel spreadsheets and go crazy (I enjoy Excel way too much… I am prone to colour code)… map out absolutely everything… hanging any lights, when to check the local weather (if the event is outdoors), heating up food, sound and music test, setting up chairs etc etc. This is the perfect time to identify what can be done the day before and what needs to remain for just before the guests arrive.
The final tip, one of the most important and the one I probably struggle with the most, is to DELEGATE! I hate asking for help, bothering people and losing control…. so am often happier to just not sleep for the 3 days prior than ask someone else to help with stuffing party bags or whatever (don’t ask what I was like for my wedding….. all I’ll say is ‘decorating my cake the morning of the wedding’….NOT a good idea). But although I secretly love the pressure and control…. I have missed out on actually enjoying and being present for too many celebrations. So am (slowly) learning to ask for help. Ask family to bring food instead of presents, or a musical friend to take charge of the playlist and sound set up, the guys can put the tables and chairs out at a set time. And don’t forget to make sure there will be people to help with the pack down and clean up…. if you provide a relaxing beer or wine at the end it’ll round out the memorable, perfect day nicely.
and ENJOY!! Check yourself for your real motivation behind throwing the party. It needs to be purely to celebrate your little one, and to congratulate yourself and partner on surviving another year as parents! Don’t be motivated by the desire to show off or compete with other families or parties (admit it, we all struggle with this)…. try your hardest to not get overwhelmed with the small details….. if you start ‘eye-twitching’ or notice the family hiding whenever you come near… might be time to re-evaluate and remind yourself that the kids will probably love it anyway. Ultimately, little smiles = party success!
I could honestly go on and on with tips and tricks for parties but won’t overload you….. might start a ‘Little Parties’ series….
Thanks for reading, let me know your bit of advice for planning a kid’s party! Time to learn from everyone else’s mistakes maybe 😉