Growing up, one of my favorite days of the year was always my birthday. The thought of a day made especially for me gave me so much joy and excitement; feelings I have cherished ever since. But as I have grown older the excitement isn't quite the same. I am not unique in this sense; most children get excited by the thought of their birthday, while many adults think of it as just another day. What better way to foster this youthful excitement than a party just for them?
Party planning can be very time consuming if you let it and throwing a party can be very expensive if you don't spend sufficient effort planning ahead of time. I like to start several months before, but in reality a few weeks would be just fine.
Where to start?
Having a preset budget is very important to planning a successful party. Your budget will help determine the length of the guest list, the venue, the food, and many other details for your event. I have seen, and thrown, some very successful parties on very low budgets and have also seen parties being thrown with unlimited budgets that were complete flops. The budget does not make or break a party.
Choosing a venue
Traditionally a child's birthday party was always held in the home, but it has become more and more common for business to offer party packages where they supply the venue, entertainment, and sometimes even food. These packages are often more expensive than having an at-home party but they do take much of the work out of planning. Do a search for local trampoline parks, swimming pools, movie theaters, and even zoos to find businesses that offer these services in your area. Be sure not to choose something too far away so you don't put your guests in a situation where they have to drive a long distance to get to the party.
Choose a date
At the beginning of my party planning I like to pick two or three dates that I feel will work best for the party. I find the most convenient day for us, and our guests, always seem to be Saturday as to not interrupt the work week or Sunday church services. I rarely choose an exact date until a few weeks before the event, when I create the invitations. This allows for input and flexibility for the guests. (Especially those special friends who are willing to help with setup and tear down). If you are having a party at a business you might be very limited with the dates available. Some places book up very quickly, especially seasonal locales. Be sure to plan several weeks ahead and be flexible.
How big do you want your party to be?
Some adults are very comfortable entertaining a large group of people while others prefer to celebrate with just a few close friends. This is the same with children. Some children will love the idea of inviting their whole class, while others will prefer to have just their close friends. Too many people can be very overwhelming for both the children and adults involved. This is where a preset budget really comes in handy: more people means more mouths to feed, more minds to entertain, and more money spent. Sit down with your child and start a list of who they would like to come. Give them a set number of people they can invite and stick to it. If you are purchasing a party package at a business, the number of people attending might be designated by them already so be sure to do your research first.
For us, this is where we spend most of our budget. We like to invite their whole class and we always encourage parents AND siblings to stay. We hosted over seventy kiddos, parents, and younger siblings in our home for a seventh birthday- and it rocked! My children are very close in age and often have the same group of friends who have same aged siblings. This is a very important thing for our family but may not be right for you and your child.
Choosing a theme
Choosing a theme is very important not only because it ties the party together but also because it will give you a basic guideline and makes planning much easier for you. For a first or second birthday you will likely be in charge of this task, but allowing an older child to help pick out the theme of their special day will enrich the experience for them that much more. A good technique is to make a list of three or four themes that you prefer then allow the child to pick from that list. This will ensure that you don't end up planning a party around a pink and teal zebra from outer space and it gives the child a sense of participation and empowerment. The theme can be a character or activity that your child loves or even just a trio of their favorite colors.
Need some theme ideas? Check out my Etsy shop! Your Little Cupcake
Sending out invites
I make my own invites with the help of the birthday child. I like the invites to reflect the theme of the party as well as my child's personality. If making the invites isn't your cup of tea there are many websites like mine that will customize your invites for you. When giving out invites be sure to allow at least a week prior to the event for the guests to receive them, and R.S.V.P. Don't forget: if you are putting them in the mail you will need to leave an extra few days for the shipping time as well. We like to give out our invites two weeks before hand.
Helpful Gnomes, or other friends