A group of us moms where having this discussion the other day, we all have kids in pre-school, and the debate was do you have it at home or at a venue? Do you invite the whole class or just a few friends? Family too? It’s an interesting conversation cause it has SO MANY VARIABLES. Budget, social circle, is family near enough or far away, can you handle people in your home or do you prefer to go out? My experience has been pretty much split down the middle. I’ve done one of each and I’m STILL on the fence!
Let me just say up-front that our budget for birthday’s is pretty slim in comparison to some of the parties I’ve been to. We literally keep it lean, gift included, otherwise things just get out of hand and we end up in a hole. This is not the case for other families, that is why I say this debate has so many variables, it’s quite a personal choice at the end of the day, we like to get a decent present, have a nice cake made (for now) and have a low key time at home with a few friends, family and other kids that are friends with our kids.
My experience with a “venue” party was very pleasant, the only down-side is playing host becomes a lot more stressful cause you have to do all the ordering, make sure the kids are okay and generally be a bit more formal. A party at home, is a lot more casual, I find. There’s space to relax and parts of the home become “chatting corners” and people feel more at ease to break off and have separate conversations with one another, and the kids can play a little more organically around the garden and the house (obviously with strategic areas closed off). I keep my dogs one side of the house and then the kids can play, unhindered, on the other side of the house and in the house.
I would say for us, who prefer a more relaxed, home atmosphere, would choose a home party over a venue (while the kids are still little) and then keep it relaxed and informal, cause that’s how we like to live, relaxed and informal, no fancy dinner plates here.
My top tips for birthday planning are:
Choose a reputable baker for the cake and other goodies.
The cake is always a big deal and all moms know, USE A REPUTABLE BAKER, I’ve had a bad experience previously and ended up with a very ugly cake (good thing my son didn’t really care) and I learned from this, only use a cake baker that you KNOW everyone loves and recommends, don’t try someone new on a special occasion. Also order your cake and baked goodies well in advance to ensure you fit into their schedule and pay a deposit if necessary to secure the booking.
Buy your goodies ahead of time.
I got this tip from a mommy friend of mine and I’ve used it for just about every special occasion on my calendar since! Look ahead in your calendar, at least three or four months. See which special events are coming up and plant the “look” ahead of time, then spread out the purchasing of extra decor items over a few months, then you don’t feel the drain on your budget quite as much. So for example, this month buy the paper plates and napkins, next months do the table cloth and paper straws, and so on and so on. I did this for Christmas last year, and it made the preparation a breeze! I started buying Christmas decor and extras in October already, so by the time Christmas rolled around I had my table decor and tree sorted!
Send out a “save the date”.
To make the party a great success and ensure that your guests actually have it in their calendar, send out a save the date about six weeks before the party. If you haven’t nailed down the venue yet, just say “venue to be confirmed”. This is helps people to plan ahead and ensure they are prepared when the party comes around. Send a reminder the week before and get a confirmed number of responses so you are ready to cater accordingly. Remember, at least 10% of invitees will decline so keep this in mind when doing your planning.
Have a plan B for bad weather.
If your party is planned for mostly outdoors, have a plan B ready in case of bad weather. Have a look at the weather report and if it looks like bad weather have a movie and popcorn on hand for the kids, get lots of pillows and prepare yourself for a messy house. If the party is at a venue, make sure they have a bad weather option available otherwise you may have to postpone or even cancel!
Yes, birthday parties can stressful and noisy and full of people, but remember this is a celebration for your little one. It’s THEIR birthday, so put on a happy face and enjoy the day! If everything doesn’t go to plan, don’t let anyone know, it won’t help on the day anyway, just roll with it and make the most of the celebration time with your friends and family!