I’m sure everyone’s child has by now been invited to a party that rivals the extravagance of your wedding day. You know the one, perfectly themed, decorations galore, mountains of delicious food, entertainment for the kids, and a price tag to boot. These parties are amazing, and the kids (and adults!) seem to have a ball. The reality is though, that most people don’t have the creative or organisational skills required to plan and pull off such a large scale event…let alone the funds! Most kids will love a birthday party regardless of the price tag, they just want to have some fun with their friends and eat ridiculous amounts of yummy food.
I’ve been both parents, the parent whose little one’s first birthday extravaganza is still topic of conversation amongst family and friends, and the parent who banged together a last minute packet mix cake and a game of pass the parcel.
Do you know what? Both of these options are perfectly fine, and fun, as long as the birthday boy or girl and their friends have fun.
It is possible though to plan an amazing party for a fraction of the price, and I’ll give you some ideas on how to make this happen without having your credit card statement send you to an early grave, and a plan that will have you in bed by 10pm on party eve.’
11 Party Planning Tips
Give yourself plenty of time to plan and organise things. It sounds like an obvious suggestion, but you’d be surprised how many parents realise a week or two out from the party date that they need to get organised, and haven’t left themselves time to do everything they need to do and do it on a budget. Even things like having to pay for express post for items you need for the party, will eat into your budget. You also don’t want to be awake until ridiculous o’clock the night before the party finishing off last minute things that you could have done weeks earlier.
Choose a theme
Most parents find this part pretty easy, and you can bet your bottom dollar that every kid will know what theme they want their party to be. Take a moment to consider the theme you’d like to have, and how easy things will be to source for that theme. Popular themes will usually have party items to coordinate very readily available, but choose something a little more abstract, and you may struggle. Consider for a second how much Frozen stuff you’ve seen at the shops lately in comparison to say Snow White. A less popular theme doesn’t mean impossible, but it may mean you need to think outside the box a little bit and be a bit more creative. Can’t think of a theme? Even just a basic colour scheme will help with your planning…black and white, yellow and white spots, pink and white cheveron. Once you have chosen a theme, be doubly sure that your child is happy with that theme, or you could find yourself changing a week out from the party which potentially will end in tears for both you and your child.
Budget, budget, budget
Have a think about your budget, and try to make it realistic. You are not going to be able to feed 60 people a gourmet sit down lunch for $150, but you could probably cater a morning tea or afternoon tea for this amount. Likewise, don’t expect to buy a professionally made, themed birthday cake for 50 people for $30. Having a good think about what day and time to hold your party will really help at this stage too. I’m a big fan of keeping it simple and making party times NOT at main meal times. Then, you only need to provide snack food and cake. So much easier and so much cheaper!
Select a venue
Do you have room to hold the party at home, or will you need to source an alternative venue? Obviously having a party at home is the cheapest option, but consider things like the potential weather and how many people you can comfortably fit in your home. You may decide that for practical reasons you need to find another venue. Ask around your local family and friends, as quite often there are great halls or other spaces that can be hired cheaply, however they are not always advertised widely. There is always the option of an all in party venue (play centre, fast food outlet, trampoline centre etc), however these are costly and usually don’t allow you to provide your own food and decorations.
If you still don’t have an idea of what you want your party to look like, then head back to step 2, otherwise, get pinning! Seriously, Pinterest is the ultimate party planners best friend. It’s full of great ideas, and even has craft tutorials for DIY things you can create yourself for the party. Start a new Pinterest board (make it a secret board if you want the party to be a surprise) and get pinning. You don’t need to copy any one party, but you can find ideas you can adapt to make your own or string several ideas from different parties together to come up with your own unique event.
Write some lists
First write a list of the lists you need to make…just kidding…no, seriously! Now you have some direction, you will need to write a guest list, a food list, party games list, a decorations list and lastly, a list of things to be done between now and the party. Try to spread things out as much as you can across the time you have before party day. Trust me, you DO NOT want to be hot glue gunning 50 ribbon bows to paper bags on the morning of the party. Your lists will also help you to figure out what you can do yourself (to save costs…dur!) and what you need to find help with (to save sanity of course!).
By now you have written your lists and worked out what you can and can’t do yourself. If you’ve decided that you can handle lolly bags yourself, but the thought of icing the birthday cake leaves you in a cold sweat, then see if you can outsource it. Yes, a cake shop will cost money, but perhaps there is a family member or friend that is super talented at making cakes and would do you a favour in return for a bottle of wine or even in lieu of a gift for the birthday boy or girl. It’s worth asking! If you do need to hire professional suppliers (cake maker, caterer, party entertainment etc), then book it in as early as possible, as some do book out very quickly, and you may find particularly the more budget friendly suppliers will be booked out sooner than the more expensive options.
Get your craft on
When it comes to decorations, choose things that will make the maximum impact for the minimum cost. 100 helium balloons may look great, but they will also chew into your party budget. 100 regular balloons hanging from the roof may give a similar look for a fraction of the cost. You may have gotten some great decoration ideas from Pinterest (Step 5)Have a look online for free party printable packs you can download to suit your theme. These packs usually include posters, banners, food labels, cupcake toppers, water bottle wrappers and more. These printables will really add to your theme, and generally require only a little effort on your behalf in getting them printed and cutting them out (and some minimal assembly if required).
Organisation is key
Hopefully a few days before the party have already planned and prepared everything for the big day, but if not, get those lists back out or write yourself a new one. Set up as much of the party as you can the day before so that all you have to do on the day of the party is prepare food. If you have time, try to prepare as much of the food the day before as well. The smoothest party I have ever hosted saw me opening a bag of potato chips and pulling out pre-prepared nibbly platters out of the fridge 10 minutes before the first guest arrived. I was actually able to sit back and chat with some of the other parents and enjoy the party myself instead of running around like a chook with its head chopped off. If the doorbell has just rung to signal the arrival of the first party guest and you still have a million things to do, then simply rope in some other parents to help. You will usually find some parents looking for an excuse to hang around and keep an eye on their child at the party, so giving them a job or two makes them look less awkward.
Entertainment is easy
There are so many awesome party entertainment options around these days (baby animal farms, princesses who facepaint, jumping castles, magic shoes etc.), but honestly, most kids are excited to play old school party games. Games like pass the parcel, musical statues, pin the tail on the whatever, you know the games I mean, you probably happily played them at parties when you were younger. These days, kids almost consider these games to be ‘retro’. That’s ok, we can work with that. If you really want someone to come and entertain the children at the party, have a think of any adolescents in your life or perhaps a university student who is good with kids. They may be more than happy to dress up and entertain a group of kids for a few hours in return for a small fee.
Remember, as long as there is birthday cake and fun, your kids will love their party and no matter what, they will always love you! Not every party runs smoothly, but stressing yourself out over it wont help at all. Make sure you have some cold drinks on hand to enjoy after the party guests have all left, and sit down for 5 minutes with your feet up before you start cleaning up. Better yet, rope in some stragglers that are still hanging around once the party end time to help you!