As parents, we’ve all been there and we’ve all said it, that seminal line, spoken moments after your child’s birthday party has ended, “NEVER again”. And yet…in our infinite wisdom and another year wiser, we cleverly decide to hold our darling child’s party at a kids play centre or the like only to discover, too late, that it’s just a different type of torture. So rather than give up and refuse to have parties (grinch I hear my kids whisper) or girding your loins for the chaos that is 15 sugar-injected, screaming, hyper-active kids running riot through your once beautiful home, GroupTogether has come up with 10 easy birthday party guidelines to live by. Something to make those annual fiestas a more welcome and ultimately calm event.
“Planning is the key” said every parent everywhere. But, we hear you…DULL! We’d rather wing it, live in the moment, 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.
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.
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 back stage 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.
Next major hurdle, how may 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.
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 tattoo 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, soiree at the Ritz) you need to either book a cleaner for your home or book a venue. Major tip 1 – do this in advance, seriously, there’s nothing worse than finding out either (a) your cleaner is already booked or (b) the venue is booked. Major tip 2 – 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.
Invitations – Insanely important. Can’t tell you how many parties 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. Tip 3: You may want to double check that best friends are available before you decide on a date, tears on party day are never fun.
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 thru a mountain of wrapped gifts. It’s worth asking the question because a lot of time and effort of your guests go 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 cupboard. If a group gift is in the cards, then you may want to consider asking other parents to chip-in for a group gift. Or, gasp!, you could even use GroupTogether.com, a website that collects for you. Taking care of the invitations, rsvps, reminders, contributions, group card, and transfer of birthday funds.
If you hate them, learn to love lists. For example: (1) BUY LIST (groceries, decorations, wine (adults only), (2) BORROW LIST (tables, chairs, homes – I’m not joking), (3) PARTY SUPPLIES LIST (plates, cups, forks, knives…maybe not knives), (4) ACTIVITIES LIST (craft, sport, clean up around the house, etc) and (5) HELP LIST (friends or other parents to help supervise). And our best tip evah, add shopping dates into your phone and take pic of the list and add it into the notes section).
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. Otherwise include: (1) Arrival (what to do while waiting for all the kids to show up – reminder jumping on the couch is not allowed), (2) Activitites (do you need to explain what’s happening – build in time for that too), (3) Eating (one of the favourite pastimes of kids): snacks, cake and don’t forget setup time, eating, candle lighting and the inevitable crying from a child who did not get the corner piece, (4) Farewell (Finally!). I CANNOT 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. (um…if you use grouptogether.com, we’ll do that for you – no more hassles – just sayin’). A few days out make sure you have completed shopping and have all the items on your various lists. Check with venue to confirm times. 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!). Day of – take care of any last minute details: put out the food, display the cake, consult your running sheet (do some shots – optional) and greet the kids.
Voila – that’s it…well sure, there’s the clean-up, inevitable food-poisoning (who knew you couldn’t leave tuna fish out all day) and vomiting. But that’s par for the course, are we right? We hope this list is a fun guide to a stress free party. And if we’ve forgotten anything, we’d love to hear your best tips – let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie + Ali
Best gifts for teachers that they actually want and you can afford
By Ali Linz, Co-Founder of GroupTogether and Mum to 4 kids
Another mum and I helped 40,000 parents organise group