Do We Really Need to do this to Ourselves?
So you find yourself thinking about your precious bundle’s birthday that’s still two months away. Plenty of time, right? Nope. The panic sets in as you ask yourself where you will host the party? What will the theme be? Who will I invite? Then you begin going over the list of things you’ll need to host this out of the park party you must plan. Invitations, Decorations, Games, Crafts, Cake, Centerpieces, Bouncy houses, Ponies – Ahhhhhhh! Sadly this whole conversation in your head usually happens at 2am in the morning. Birthday party planning stress begins.
My circle of mom friends often talk about the stress of party planning. As a group we know that Jane will be off the grid for a while since she needs to plan Johnny’s party. We give each other sad sympathetic looks as we pass each other at PTA meetings and grocery store aisles.
Since everyone chronicles everything on social media we feel the need to compete – yes, I said it, we compete. We don’t always know we are but we are nonetheless. The bar just keeps getting set higher and higher. If Suzie had a bouncy house at her party then June will need a bouncy house and a magician. It’s truly gotten out of control. Let’s not forget these same moms still need to work, plan meals, help with homework, volunteer at the school, housekeep and so on which is why most party planning happens at 2 am in the morning. By the time the day of the party arrives mothers are frazzled and irritated. Instead of enjoying the celebration they just want it to be over so they can rest.
If this sounds familiar in any way let me share some tips for minimizing the stress that seemed to work for me.
Tip #1 - Find a theme and stick with that theme!
Ask your child what theme they’d like early. Tell them this is the theme you’ll be sticking with…period. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had customers buy cake toppers with one character only to contact me 3 days before their party to see if I can express ship a new topper with a different theme. It’s added stress and expense. I know we really want to make our little one’s dreams come true but trust me this will have no bearing on how much they enjoy their birthday nor will it change the full course of their life. At the very most it will be mild, short lived disappointment and our kids are strong enough to handle that level of disappointment.
Tip #2 – Invite a select group of friends and family.
You don’t have to invite the entire 2nd grade at your child’s school. You don’t have to invite the entire baseball team. Ask your kids to write down the names of their 10 closest friends. By keeping your party smaller you can host it in more places including your own home. Additional tip… tell parents it’s a drop off party. It will save on cost and enable you to fully concentrate on the kids instead of feeling the need to expand the menu to accommodate the 20 adults that tagged along. Trust me most parents will be happy to hear the news. If you feel like you need more adult supervision than available with family members then pick one or two parents and ask if they'd be able to stay.
Tip #3 – Plan the timeline of your party.
How many of us have attended a kid’s birthday party that seemed to go on forever? Don’t throw that party! Have a plan and stick with it. I suggest a 2-3 hour window. The first hour should be your planned activities. During the last hour or two if needed you serve food, open presents and serve cake. The party should feel like there is an end. The end is usually the cake and presents. Which brings me to my next point…presents. There seems to be a new trend where parents have their kids open presents after the guests have left the party. I find it strange. My kids were always disappointed that they didn’t get the chance to see Johnny’s face when he opened the gift they brought for them. If you plan your party so it has a constant flow you will have time for opening gifts and I think it enhances the fun of gift giving which is certainly a lesson our kids need to learn. It’s fun to give.
Tip #4 - Don’t over decorate!
Stop making homemade banners and blowing up 100 helium balloons. I’m guilty of this stress. It took years for me to realize my kids didn’t really care about the excess. Grab some dollar store table cloths, plates and napkins that will work with the color scheme. If you really want the pop of some balloons get a small bundle of them while you’re there. It will save a lot of money and stress in finding elaborate themed items.
Tip #5 – It’s all about the cake.
Everyone that goes to a party immediately strolls over to take a look at the cake. I used to really stress over the cake for my kids. I’ve had numerous arguments with bakeries that didn’t deliver a decent looking design. That’s one of the reasons I started my business. When my son was 5 and had just finished chemotherapy I went to the store the morning of the party to pick up my cake and it was not at all what I had ordered. This birthday felt like a huge deal since we didn’t know if he’d even make it to his birthday so I cried and yelled and cried some more. I vowed that evening to never rely on a bakery again. No matter the theme we can create an edible cake topper that makes making the cake a piece of cake. Don’t want to bake? Great! Buy a store bought cake and just add the topper. It’s so easy and kids love seeing pictures on cakes whether it’s a picture of them, a character they love or a game they like to play.
I hope these tips help reduce the stress of party planning for you. Your kids would rather have a scaled back party with a happy mom in attendance. Have a great party!
Veronica Littlejohn, mom of 3
Owner, Cakes for Cures