“Planning is the key,” said every parent everywhere. But, we hear you…DULL! We’d rather wing it, live in the moment and be one with the spirit of our children. That, my friends, is the type of thinking that got you into this mess. Trust us, last minute is not an option – give yourself at least a month before the party, possibly 6 weeks if you’re the type that can spend an entire day in the party favours aisle of Big W.
It almost goes without saying but the key is not setting the budget, the key is S-T-I-C-K-I-N-G to it. Figure out your budget and set it in stone. Not a penny more...hopefully many pennies less.
Keep in mind that forewarned is forearmed. Do NOT let your child’s gorgeous, innocent and completely unrealistic expectations of what makes the perfect party cloud your judgement and pocketbook. You may think you have the upper hand but your child has spent their entire life perfecting the perfect pitch, speed, and repetitiveness of “mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum, mum…why can’t I”. If you don’t focus, remain firm and buy earplugs, you’ll have thrown in the towel after a day. Don’t consider it, don’t even look at more expensive options – you’ll thank us later.
Now that you have a firm number in mind, it’s time to ask THE question, what kind of party does your child want? You can thank us for the tip on budget now because your definition of a circus party (red noses and balloons) and your child’s (VIP backstage passes for 15 to Cirque du Soleil’s latest show) can be quickly managed and decisively quashed. Once the tears have subsided (candy is always good to combat tears), you can now discuss expectations on decorations and activities.
Major tip 1 - have Gucci taste on a Gap budget!
There’s nothing like overdosing on Pinterest and Instagram searching for that perfect theme. Want rainbow unicorns? There are countless Pinterest boards for it. If it’s Batman you crave, Instagram can flood you with images of OTT parties and tricked-out BatMobiles. Our advice? Don’t covet the decorations or the venue, keep Rule #2 in mind and hit the discount party outlets, the $2 dollar shops, online stores and your friends & family network. Think atmosphere – be disciplined. Use what you’ve got, borrow what you can, buy only if you need to. Necessity truly is the mother of invention but in a totally fun way.
Next major hurdle, how many kiddies to invite. Again, having determined your budget makes this easier. Weigh up the following: do you have to invite the entire class (goodbye jumping castle)? Do you need/want to invite friends, family and neighbours? You might feel obliged to have a big party but many children just can't cope with big numbers. Work through the pros and cons.
It might be HUGE so, this is very important, come up with a definitive list – this will have major implications on your budget. Now, take your budget and divide by invitees – this is your number – memorise it, embody it and write it on your child’s arm. You cannot plan anything that exceeds, is greater than or is above this number (remember candy is good for calming tears).
Based on what type of party your child wants to have (pizza and footy in the park, movies, bowling) you need to book a venue. Major tip 2 – do this in advance, seriously, there’s nothing worse than finding out the venue is booked. Major tip 3 – ask other parents for recommendations, we’ve all been there – we are happy to give the unvarnished truth of what (or who) works and what is a sure ticket to disaster.
Oh, a home party is so much nicer and more low-key, but it's a major ordeal - what if it rains? What if the parents stay and bring the sibling? Moving the furniture, cleaning the bathroom, etc. It is lovely but don't forget the hassle and hidden costs. The park is brilliant, especially if there's a scout hall or something as an indoor alternative just in case
Invitations are insanely important. I can’t tell you how many parties I have been tripped up by this step. Remember ALL the W’s: When (date & time), Where (venue), What (yup – what kind of party, pool, sport, socks/towels/costumes required), Why (birthday, duh!), WTF! (category encapsulating all other information). WooHoo! I think that covers it. Major tip 4 - you may want to double check that best friends are available before you decide on a date, tears on party day are never fun. Don't forget dietary considerations on the party invitation - ask people to tell you about allergies or dietary restrictions.
What is it your child wants for their birthday? Don’t forget to ask, it may be a bike or a tablet or it may be they want to rejoice in ripping through a mountain of wrapped gifts. It’s worth asking the question because a lot of time and effort from your guests goes into this step.
We’ve been through this: 7 kids x (avg.) 13 years and know that it that may or may not be a gift they like, a re-gifted gift, a gift requiring batteries it will take you 3 months to purchase or a gift you already have 6 of gathering dust in the cupboard. A group gift is the way to go! It saves all of the parents time (and money), and your child gets something they really want. Start the trend with your group, next time you're invited to a kid's birthday party just ask, "Would you like me to organise a group gift on your behalf? What would Jimmy love?"
If you hate them, learn to love lists. For example:
Major tip 4 - add shopping dates into your phone and take a pic of the list before you go, or keep them in the notes on your phone so you can always add to them when you think of something.
We hear you, it may be boring but it’s necessary to keep the party from descending into chaos. If you’re lucky to have someone else planning the party – then just grab a glass of wine and skip this step.
I CAN'T STRESS THIS ENOUGH: make sure parents know drop-off time (you can fudge this a bit) and pick-up times (honestly go for 15 minutes early) as there is nothing worse than waiting around for tardy parents.
There are always lots of odds and ends. Double check with invitees – who’s coming and who’s not. A few days out make sure you have completed the shopping and have all the items on your lists. Check with the venue to confirm the times. The day before – send out a reminder to all the guests that you’ll see them soon. If the event is at another venue make sure you’ve packed any items you need to bring and leave them in the car. If you’re at home, organise your house (clean, decorate, cook/bake and drink lots of wine!). The day of – take care of any last-minute details: put out the food, display the cake, consult your running sheet and greet the kids.
Don’t spend all your time, energy and money trying to make everything perfect because you can’t. Instead, breathe deeply, let go of the tension and focus your energy on three things...
Oh! And keep your camera/phone (charged) at the ready to get those perfect shots.
One great gift, less stuff
Parents can spend less and give more when they chip in together. If there's 20 kids x $15 = one great gift! Organise it easily online with GroupTogether.