If there is such a thing as Event Coordinators Anonymous.. A place for over-the-top party planners to gather and find answers to their frequent glitter-induced fiesta frenzies, then I need to sign up! My (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. Admitting it is the first step right?
But what’s a girl to do? I haven’t worked professionally in Events Management for over two years now (have been upgraded to professional nappy-changer, baby-snuggler and laundry lady) and I need an outlet somewhere.. So between planning for my little family and helping (pestering) all friends with their special days, I love troubleshooting common party problems and sharing my mountains of wisdom 😉
So lets have a look at some essential steps to making your kid’s birthday party a happy success…..
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! Parties in my house are catered by Costco and Betty Crocker packet mixes and guess what? ..Not a single toddler knows 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 you are the enemy of anyone who struggles with making decisions. One day you’ll be set on a cowboy theme, with hobby horses ordered, three cake design options drawn up and knee deep in a papier mâché cactus piñata when, ‘Oh wow! Star Wars theme!! 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 Maybe Cowboys is outdated?!’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 a max of 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 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.
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.
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 play it safe by avoiding nuts. Also, do everyone a favour and have plenty of fresh fruit and water available.. Anything to dampen 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. Slightly crazy yes but 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). 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. 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… Many hands make light and less stressful work!
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!
~ the original version of this article was published on babybean.co ~
Photos by Poppies for Grace: www.poppiesforgrace.com
“Wife to someone ridiculously handsome. Mum to a sassy, hilarious little girl. Past pro events planner who you now find in my loved escape of both exploring the inspiring and FUN world of kids interiors and fashion, while writing REAL, relatable and (hopefully) humorous posts on this incredible and overwhelming parenting gig!” @_baby_bean
Elise’s Website: babybean.co