HOW TO PLAN A PARTY: AWESOME BIRTHDAY BASH
Birthday parties are exciting events, but planning them can often be stressful. So today I’m sharing some awesome ideas on how to plan a birthday party. In advance, I must state that when I’m planning a birthday party for kids, these events involve elaborate themes and organized activities. I’m very comfortable with throwing large parties of 50 plus guests. But parties of any size and budget are fun, festive, and need not break the bank. Don’t feel pressured to go large-scale or fancy if that doesn’t fit your own comfort zone and style. My advice is to take away the ideas and tips you find useful, and just leave the rest. So ready…set…go! Here’s how to plan a birthday party with style.
SET A BUDGET
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First things first! Party planning should begin with setting a proper budget. Keep in mind that there may be some last-minute unplanned expenses, so all party budgets should have a bit of wiggle room.
SELECT A DATE AND TIME
For the highest rate of guest attendance, Saturdays are the best time to throw a birthday party. When deciding on the time for your event, consider whether or not you want to serve a full meal (lunch or dinner), or just snacks like fruit and popcorn, drinks and desserts. If your party begins between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m, guests will assume that lunch will be provided. If your party begins around dinner time or extends into the dinner hour, plan on serving your guests dinner.
[bctt tweet=”Birthday Trivia: The highest number of birthday celebrations occur in the month of August.” via=”no”]
DEVELOP A GUEST LIST
How many guests would you like to invite? The total number of guests you invite should be a manageable number so that everyone – including you as the host – can have a great time. Expect that 85% of the guests you invite to the party will be able to attend the event. But only 60% of your guests will RSVP.
When planning a birthday party for a young child, the general guideline for party planning is to invite as many children as as your child’s age plus one more. If the birthday child will be turning age 4, invite 5 children to the birthday party. But for me, I tossed that number out the window! Here’s my party philosophy: The more the merrier.
Something you’ll want to keep in mind when planning a child’s party is that many parents will want to stay at the party with their child. Whether they want to linger to supervise their child or just stay and get chatty with other parents, accommodating these extra guests will require extra space as well as extra food, drinks, cake, and paper products. And then comes the really tricky part. Whether or not you expect it, some parents may actually bring or drop off uninvited siblings. I know, this sounds rude and hard to believe, but seriously it DOES happen. If this situation is not something you’re okay with, or if it will result in going over budget, especially in the case of costly activities, I highly recommend including wording such as “sorry, no siblings please” in the RSVP section of the birthday invitation.
CHOOSE A LOCATION
Will the birthday party be held at your home? Will the event be indoors or outdoors? How large of a venue will you need for the number of guests you are planning to invite? If the birthday party will be held at a place other than your home, for activity venues call in advance to see how much the cost is per person, or the same in the case of a rented room or party hall. Right away you’ll discover whether or not this is a viable option in terms of your budget.
If you’re planning to hold the birthday party at a public park or a neighborhood community center, call the city in advance to check on availability and the cost of a permit. We’ve unfortunately seen birthday parties derailed at a park when one family settles into a prime area, decorates it and sets up a beautiful party only to discover mid-event that the area was reserved and paid for by another party who has a use permit.
BIRTHDAY PARTY THEMES
The next step in party planning is to select a fabulous birthday party theme. This is really fun to do and generates anticipation and excitement for the upcoming event. A a collection of the hottest birthday party themes for babies and toddlers, children, teens, and adults are covered in depth on our birthday party themes page. Put your own unique spin on whichever party theme you choose and let your imagination flow.
BIRTHDAY PARTY INVITATIONS
Lovely invites will set the tone and theme for your birthday party celebration. I love selecting gorgeous, adorable party invites.
FOOD & DRINK MENU
Food and drinks can easily eat up the largest portion of your party budget. If you’re a member of a big box store like Costco or Sam’s Club, I advise that you head on over and price out all food and drink items that will be needed from top to bottom. Factor in the cost of bags of ice that will be a last-minute purchase on the day of the party. Select foods that can be prepared the day before or can be easily put together the day of the big event.
THE DESSERT TABLE
Let’s talk cake! If you have your heart set on a fancy dessert table as the main centerpiece of the party, or an awesome birthday cake that you saw on Pinterest, start contacting bakeries now to find out exactly how much the cake and bakery items will cost and how far in advance they must be ordered.
Specialty cakes, cookies and treats are stunningly gorgeous. The crowning area of a birthday party bash is usually the dessert table with beautifully staged items to include the birthday cake on a lovely cake stand surrounded by tiny bite-size desserts, cookies and treats. These baked goods are artfully arranged to include beautiful birthday party decorations and paper products that enhance the birthday party theme.
BIRTHDAY PARTY ACTIVITIES
Research fun party activities that fit the birthday party theme. If there will be live entertainment such as a performer, face painter, jump house, clown or magician, be sure to book this out several weeks in advance. Plan to have a few different activity stations set up to keep everyone entertained. For a kids birthday party, the various stations should be spread out from one another and manned by an adult.
Purchase all items for the various party activities at least two weeks in advance to make sure you have everything together and important pieces are not back ordered. When the main activity is a craft, keep in mind the age of the birthday child and guests, the average attention span and skill level, and determine how much adult help will be needed. In advance, contact a few family members and friends to round up a good group of helpers for the day of the big birthday bash.
Determine if you will need to rent or borrow any party supplies such as a jump house, chocolate fountain, popcorn machine, snow cone machine, bubble machine, chafing dishes, photo booth, or tables and chairs. For tables plan on enough to accommodate seated guests plus two tables for food, cutlery and paper products, one table for drinks and cups, and two tables that will serve as the beautiful centerpiece of the party. You will also need extra tables for birthday presents, party favors, and for activities such as arts and crafts. Make sure you have enough serving utensils and tongs for the food table.
BIRTHDAY PARTY SUPPLIES
Now that you’ve selected a birthday party theme and know how much food, drinks, cake, desserts and party rentals will cost, you have a good idea on how much is left in the budget for fun birthday party decorations, paper products, tablecloths, centerpieces and favors.
Shopping for unique and colorful birthday party supplies to fit a fun theme is my favorite part of party planning! Start off with a foundation of gorgeous basics from an online party supply house such as Sweet Lulu. Then continue to build on the birthday party theme by round things out with additional party supplies from your local dollar store, Target, Walmart, Jo-Ann Fabric, and Michaels. Beautiful party goods will tug at your heartstrings and dance in your dreams, but remember to keep your budget in check!
PARTY MUSIC & PLAYLIST
Develop a custom party playlist of fabulous tunes that will set the mood and keep the party going! If the party is outdoors, plan ahead for a sound system and speakers.
DAY OF THE BIG BIRTHDAY BASH!
If possible, start the set up a few hours in advance. However, if you will be preparing food dishes the day of the party, then get going first thing in the morning. If the party is at your home or a rented location, begin by putting on festive music. Then set up all the tables and chairs. Lay down the tablecloths and put out the centerpieces.
Ice down canned and bottled drinks two to three hours in advance. I like using big, deep colorful bins, but a large ice chest works well too. Keep all food items covered and at appropriate temperatures. I pull out my restaurant-sized chafing dishes and put ice in the larger deep-bottom trays. Any food items that need to stay cold are placed in small containers that are artfully set up on top of the ice. I then further surround each small container with more ice.
Go over your food serving plan with a helper to make sure everything happens on schedule. Don’t allow food and snack packages to be opened all at once. Make sure this is emphasized to those who are helping you. Start by putting out enough food and snack items to get the party started, then tuck away the remaining items beneath the table, away from view. Throughout the party, refill items on the food tables as needed. After the party’s over, all unopened packages (non-refrigerated items) can be returned to the store along with a receipt.
Before guests arrive take beautiful photos of the dessert table, activity tables and centerpieces. Then enlist two dependable friends to be in charge of taking thoughtful photos during the party. In advance let them know what party scenes are the most important to capture for lasting memories.
Let’s be honest. Hosting a party means a lot of rushing around and organizing this and that. No matter how perfect your party planning skills become, there is that little voice in your head reminding you that this or that needs to happen right now to keep things on schedule. And your guests get that. They’ve been in your shoes too. But be sure to take time to socialize and mingle with them. Birthday Parties fly by way to quickly, and you want to enjoy them!
REMEMBER TO WRITE THANK YOU NOTES!
After the presents are opened and party clean up has been completed, remember to send out thank you notes to all of your birthday party guests. And if the party was for a child, this is the perfect opportunity to teach them how to write a thank you note. And if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed about finding just the right wording to express your thanks, feel free to use our lovely thank you note wording examples! And for more beautiful and thoughtful thank you note wording, visit our sister site: freethankyounotes.com
Pin your favorite birthday party images to Pinterest so you can view them again later! What is your best tip for planning a birthday party? Share in the comments below.
If you liked this birthday party post, I know you’ll love these helpful posts too:
Birthday Party Checklist
Birthday Party Themes
Another awesome birthday party resource: freethankyounotes.com