Parties have changed so much since I was a kid. Now it’s all about inviting the entire class for the younger kids and talk of the town events for the older kids. As your child’s birthday approaches, so does the pressure to have the party of their dreams. Now I might date myself a little bit here but back when I was kid, birthday parties were with your siblings, cousins, and maybe the neighbor kids. I certainly didn’t have any big parties but have gotten into the habit of having parties for my kids. I’m a planner and list maker by nature so planning parties brings a certain level of excitement for me. Yes there’s some stress involved too, and usually a bit of hard work to pull it all off, but I love doing it and seeing how happy my kids are.
Here’s a mom confession for ya: those first parties when my kids were little were just as much for me as they were for the kids. I wanted some time with other mom friends or time to at least chat with other parents. When you’re working full time, it’s not always easy to make friends with the other parents, especially when it seems like they’re all already friends. The parties continued as my kids got older but they changed as my kids did. Parents were more excited to drop their kids off and get a few hours of free time (which I totally get!) and the invite list was scaled down to friends.
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Regardless of what kind of party you’re looking to host, here are five tips to help you make it from planning to party without completely stressing out:
Nail Down the Basics
Take a look at the calendar and figure out the date and time you’d like to have the party. You’ll also want to come up with the theme of your party. Having this information will help you make other decisions about the party (more on that later…).
Set the Budget
You’ll want your budget to include things like rentals (location, linens, tables, chairs, activities, etc), activities or entertainment, decor, invitations, and food. Prioritize your budget so the must have items are all taken care of. Start at the top of your list and start working on costs for those items. If you’ve got a hard budget, you’ll need to know the hard numbers for your most important things so you can continue to work down your list to the less important things until you run out of money.
There are lots of ways to make that budget stretch. Start looking around your house to see what you can use for decorations. Have kids make their own invitations. Hit the dollar store – no one will know where things are from unless they shop there too! Wrap cardboard boxes to put food in or turn upside down to use as stands to add height to your table displays.
Decide Who’s Coming
After you figure out how much you’re willing to spend, you’ll know how many people you’ll be able to invite based on your budget. Everyone doesn’t get an invite. It’s ok if there are some people who don’t receive an invitation. I promise it’s really going to be alright. Now the exception to the rule is something like if you’re handing out invitations at school and their rule is everyone has to get an invitation, then you do need to invite everyone.
To help stretch the budget, think about how you’re inviting people. Skip paper invitations and use an online invitation site, set up a Facebook event, or just send out text messages to the people you’d like to attend. If your priority is to have all your friends and family attend, there are other ways to work out the budget to make that happen.
Pick the Menu
Depending on your budget and the number of guests, there are lots of different food options for parties. Punch and cake is perfectly fine. Pizza and cupcakes are great. Hot dogs and popsicles are yummy. Slow cooker options are great for the budget too. Making a big batch of chili, chicken and dumplings, or meatballs can feed a crowd without breaking the bank. Bars are great too. It lets guests fix their own food so if you’ve got guests with allergies or food aversions, they’ll likely be able to find something to eat too. Just be careful because the cost can get out of hand quickly. You don’t have to offer every topping for the baked potato or taco bar. Pick a few things and stick to those. Breakfast is super cheap too and everyone loves it. Donut holes, a waffle bar, or cereal and yogurt are all simple and inexpensive things for your guests to enjoy.
When you’re looking for extra pennies in your budget, reach out to friends and ask them to bring something. They’ll get it – and probably be very happy to help. Or make it a potluck and ask all of your guests to bring something. Be sure if you go this route to have a little planning in place to make sure guests are bringing different things so you don’t end up with all cookies and no sides or whatever.
You’ve worked so hard to make this party happen, make sure you take time to enjoy it! Accept the offers when friends want to help set up or clean up. They’re asking because they really want to help you. Get on the dance floor and show off your moves. Make sure you take time to grab some of that yummy food for yourself. And when it comes to clean up, do what needs to be done right away and leave the rest for a little bit if you can. Take a few minutes to sit down and relax then come back later to finish cleaning up later.
But Wait There’s More
Presents – if you’re over stuff, consider collecting donations for something your child or family is interested in. Maybe you can get a list from the local animal shelter, food bank, or library and ask your guests to bring some of those items instead of presents.
Treat Bags – I hate when my kids bring them home. Usually not long after we’re home, they wind up in the garbage and I hate wasting money. When I do treat bags for my kid’s parties, I try to make sure what’s in there is something useful. Maybe it’s snacks to enjoy later (pack them in their lunches!) or they do an activity at the party to take the place of a treat bag.
What do you do to help make party planning less stressful?
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