Birthdays are supposed to be fun, but the prospect of hosting a party fills many of us with dread. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, know that you’re definitely not alone. Many families operate on a tight budget and under a busy schedule, but there’s often pressure to impress other parents, friends, and family. Maybe it’s the venue or what to put in those goodie bags that are causing you sleepless nights. Whatever the case, here are some tips from other parents for planning the perfect birthday party.
"My kids have had joint birthday parties in the past. It does mean more kids to entertain and feed, but you only have to do it once. Joint parties only really work until they are 5 years old. Then they want to have a theme of their own."
– Jacqueline Chen, mom of Elizabeth (5) and Eliott (7)
Set a Budget
It’s important to set a budget right and to stick to it. It may be cheaper to pick an external party venue with an all-inclusive cost per child, or it may work out cheaper to do it yourself at home. Entertainers can cost a lot; good old-fashioned party games can be just as fun for little ones.
Make sure to do your research and add up the costs. Even if you’re shopping in bulk, you’d be surprised by how it all adds up. Use the opportunity to teach your children about budgeting; help them decide between a more expensive party with fewer friends or a cheaper party with more friends. If a classmate or a sibling has a birthday around the same time, consider having a joint party and splitting the planning, preparation, and cost – not to mention the headache.
"Our birthday parties are mostly held at home. The kids choose a theme, and then I organize the games, goodie bags, and decorations."
– Jessica Bajors-Sabate, mom of Elias (9), Adelaide (6), and Abel (2)
The next step is to decide on the venue. Consider the practicalities and costs before you discuss options with the birthday boy or girl; otherwise they might get disappointed if the budget doesn’t stretch to what they want. Once you have a few options, be sure to get them involved; after all, it’s their party.
Costs can be considerably kept down if you hold the party at home. There are no overhead costs for the venue, the party can be kept small, and everything from decorations to catering can be made or bought cheaply. Many children, particularly younger ones, feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings. The downside is you have to clear up afterwards; enlist your ayi and some helpers.
Put away valuable or fragile items, and childproof the area.
Pets can feel as overwhelmed as children; put them somewhere safe and peaceful.
Have plenty of wet wipes and paper towels for faces, hands, and spills.
Restock the first aid kit before the party.
Mark out rooms and areas that are out-of-bounds; tape a length of party ribbon across the floor if you can’t lock doors.
On the other hand, home is probably not the first place that springs to mind if you intend on inviting 30 guests (even if they’re angels). Some themes work better in a venue or the child’s age may suit an activity center. Some venues offer good value and include catering, entertainment, and a party leader, leaving you to relax and enjoy the party.
Cost is not the only factor to take into consideration. Think about location, size, and food. It’s a good idea to drop by the venue when it’s hosting another birthday party to get a better idea of whether it suits your needs.
Ask the following:
Availability: Can you have the time and day you want? How far in advance must you book the party?
Cost: What’s included? Factors include maximum number of guests, party leader, food and cake, entertainment, music, activities, party bags, decorations
Privacy: Do you have exclusive use of the space or do you have to share?
DIY: Can you hire the venue but provide your own catering, entertainment, music, decorations?
Scheduling: How long is the party and is it possible to go in early to prepare?
Staff: How many and which staff members will be available on the day?
Safety: Is there a first aid kit onsite? If it’s a pool party, are there lifeguards on duty?
Contingencies: If it’s an outdoor venue, do the organizers have a “plan B” in case of inclement weather?
Book early; the best venues go quickly.
Don’t forget the cake knife and candles if they’re not provided.
Blu-Tack, tape, and scissors may come in handy.
Take garbage bags for presents and rubbish.
Have a table ready for presents and cards.
“If your child’s birthday is during the summer months, you can’t beat a pool party. The kids just entertain themselves!”
– Sarah Struthers, mom of Katie (6) and Matthew (7)
This article originally appeared on p60-61 in the November 2014 issue of beijingkids. To view it online for free, click here. To find out how you can obtain your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Sally Wilson, Manu (Flickr)