So You Want to Throw a Birthday Party
The perfect party requires perfect planning! There are several things to consider when planning your party. Before you make out your guest list, before you buy your party decorations, take a minute to put your plan on paper (or computer screen). Pre-planning will save time, money, and your composure on the day of the party. Most importantly, have fun! This isn't rocket science, and you won't be graded on the results!
The guest of honor should of course be an important consideration, after all the party is for them! This concept can especially be lost on a young child where the party can turn into a party for the adults and not the child. Consider their age, likes and dislikes, personality and attention span. The type of party as well as the length of the party needs to be planned according to the guest of honor. A slumber party that lasts for several hours may be perfect for a teenager but highly inappropriate for a six year old. On the same note, an outgoing, social child may respond well to many guests and loud entertainment, while a shy child may prefer a small, intimate gathering.
Don't spend a single penny until you have considered your budget. You still have to feed your family after the party so plan accordingly. How much can you spend, how much do you want to spend or in my case how much will the hubby let you spend? When planning your budget you will need to allocate for:
When planning your party be sure to take into consideration what your theme is; strive to have every detail relate to your theme. This will include invitations, decorations, and food. Consider asking your guests to dress a certain way for the party. When considering your theme do some brainstorming. If the party isn't a surprise let the guest of honor choose a theme. For a child, themes can come from a favorite cartoon character, toy or game while a theme for a teenager can come from a sport, pastime, favorite color or celebrity. A theme can even be adapted from a movie such as a pirate theme from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. The possibilities are endless but to get your creativity started consider these themes --- Tea Time for Little Girls, Luau, Treasure Island, Flashback to the 80's, Everything Pink (or red, blue, etc), Black & White, Formal, PJ Party, Private Eye, the list goes on and on. If you are having trouble thinking of a theme visit one of the large party stores; each aisle is packed with theme ideas.
Be sure to remember your budget. The more elaborate the theme the more you'll begin to see dollar signs. At the same time with a little imagination, you can find ways to reduce the price of your party.
The availability of space for your party can dictate the number of guests, the theme of the party, entertainment and length of the party. If your budget permits, you have the option of renting space or holding your party at a restaurant or party venue. If you are on a tight budget and want to save money by having your party at your home, look at the possibilities around your home. Do you have adequate space outside or would you prefer to have an inside party? Do you have an area that will be safe for your guests as well as your furnishings; you don't want to spend your time at the party running for the prized vase that is about to fall over.
While it is of utmost importance to consider the birthday girl or boy, it is also important to look at your guest list. If your guests are very young it might benefit you as the hostess to also invite the parents, being sure to have elements of the party that appeal to both kids and parents. Strive to make the environment safe and pleasant for your guests. If you know of a guest with a food allergy or special diet be sure to have something available that they can eat. On the same note it's always good to ask parents if their child has a known allergy.
It goes without saying to consider the number of expected guests when planning your menu but also remember the number when planning your schedule. Five guests may can play a game in 15 minutes while 20 guests would need much longer. If you have a large number of guests, how will you keep all of them entertained through the whole game? Once again remember attention span; a good rule of thumb is to invite the number of guests that equals the age of your child. Always go back to your budget; the more guests you have the more expenses you will incur.
If you are a busy parent you may not have the time to make homemade invitations, prepare a gourmet meal and arrange for extravagant entertainment. Find shortcuts such as premade invitations and decorations or consider hiring or persuading someone else to do the legwork. Don't plan to make everything yourself if you don't enjoy crafting; by the time of the party you will already be at the end of your rope! On the same note don't leave all the decorating to the last minute; if your party is in the morning, you probably won't get up as early as you plan. In short, look at the time you have and plan accordingly.
The amount of time you have allotted for your party will dictate the amount of games or other entertainment. Have a schedule but don't be a Time Nazi; if the guests are enjoying a certain game let them keep playing it even if it means not having time for another game. Also, consider the age of the party-goers, you may have plenty of time to devote to a party but the attention span of your child's age level needs to be taken into consideration when determining the length of the party.
Try to enlist the help of a friend, older sibling, grandparent, etc. You may be the hostess with the mostess but you can't be in five places doing five things at one time! While a sibling or grandparent is available you may want to ask a friend who doesn't have as much of a stake in the guest of honor; grandma will not want to miss the birthday girl blowing out her candles in order to scoop icecream! Find someone you are comfortable with and that is capable of supporting you throughout the party. Don't try to go it alone!
Finally, have a backup plan. There are many factors that can cause heartache on the day of the party. The guest of honor can be sick or grumpy, more or less guests than expected can show up, an outside party could be rained out, the hired entertainment could not show up or the games you had planned can take less time to play and you're left with 15 five year-olds staring at you asking "What next or I'm bored" Think through the entire party and have a backup plan in place for every detail. If the party is outside, have an alternative venue. Have extra games in your arsenal to pull out if needed. Have more food than you expect to need; you can always send leftovers home with guests or give to a homeless shelter.