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26 September 2011

{Party Planning} Or how to learn from my mistakes - Part 1..

Well this is it ! My eldest daughter's birthday party is over. All this planning for 2 short hours of fun (on the kids side...).

Two parties in one month was a bit more than I could chew. The Rainbow party was in august and the Bear Hunt one today.
Now I can finally breathe (or start thinking about next year's parties !)  and I intend to share the party pictures ASAP.

I have decided that I should share with you one or two things I learned along the way about kids parties. This is not advice you should follow, just a few thoughts on what works best for me.

This first part is about general party planning. I will talk about the food and activities in further posts.


Having 3 children under 5, my craft time is very limited. My evenings all start with cooking and sorting out the laundry, and when I'm done with that I have little energy left for crafts and I usually just want to get a few hours sleep before baby wakes up...
So I just start really early, like 6 months before the party (that might sound a bit mad I know). This way I have time to research ideas, find supplies and make all the decorations.
I also get carried away easily, so with more time on my hands I can step back and consider all my options before deciding on what I really want.

When Noemie was younger I tried to stick with age = number of guests. This worked out quite well.
In any case, do consider the size of your house when deciding on numbers.

if you have family or friends willing to help look after the younger ones then use them ! Today we really struggled. A baby that needs feeding and a toddler overexcited with the food buffet: not good ! I really thought we would manage, but it was hard work and sadly we ended up not having time for pictures during the party.
I feel parties for younger children can be more of a family / friends gathering. But when they turn 4 or 5, it becomes a party. They expect to be entertained and you then need to be 100% available.

I always try to keep the budget "reasonable".
I shop around and I look for free printable. I also spend time designing my own printable in publisher. There are loads of digital papers you can buy online (Etsy being my favorite place to shop) and with these you can easily design cupcake toppers and labels to match your theme.
I try and buy prop that can be used with several themes. White plates and platters can be used with any colour.
For tablecloth and background, it is often cheaper to buy fabric by the meter. Also wallpaper turns out to be an affordable way to create a stunning background. Do think about how you background decor should be attached to your wall. If you live in a rented property and cannot drill into the wall, you may have to make a frame to hold your fabric.

If you think you are doing ok with time on the big day, then think again, perhaps you're not !
I remember one birthday when I opened the door to the first guest literally dripping with sweat from stress. I had just finished setting everything up and I had no time left for pictures or freshening up.
My advice would be to do a trial run a couple of weeks before the party. If you are doing a dessert table or a buffet, set it up without the food. This will not only help you see what you are missing, it will also show you if you have achieved the look you want.
Then the week before I make lists, loads of them ! What I need to do, day by day. What I need to buy. Etc.
The house gets decorated the day before (apart from balloon which sometimes deflate during the night).

Only last minute tasks should be left for the party day. This includes food that cannot be prepared in advance (be careful not to have to much of this), pictures, and any outdoor decoration if it might rain.

Allow at least 1/2 hour before the party starts to take pictures.
Also it may be possible to take further pictures the next day. I find it really difficult to get my children to stand still long enough for pictures during the party. So we sometimes make portraits the next day. Just remember to leave the decorations up.

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