As you can imagine, I have planned a fair few parties in my time as a parent, not just parties for my children but also more ‘grown up’ parties, so I thought it would be a good idea to share my top party planning tips to help your party planning go as smoothly as possible.
Before you do anything else make a guest list, this will determine the budget you will want to set; the venue; whether you will be doing the food yourself; or make you realise that you need to either cull a few people, or go all out. If you are planning a child’s party, will you want them to invite the whole class/year in which case location of the party is very important, or are they just going to invite a few of their best friends?
Once you have decided how many people to invite you really need to set a budget, party costs can get scarily out of hand quickly the more you get sucked into the experience, trust me I know. If you are planning a child’s birthday party you really don’t need to spend a lot at all, one of the best parties I have had for my children was a football party in a field, they loved it! Cost involved was food and a ball each to take home. Another child wanted traditional party games…think pass the parcel, musical bumps, musical statues, musical chairs, pin the tail on the donkey etc. If however you are hosting an extra special ‘big’ birthday party you may want to push the boat out.
If your garden is big enough and it is summer then you’ve no need to look anywhere else to hold your child’s birthday party, the upsides are there are no hire costs involved and no carting plates and plates of party food to the village hall, sports centre or play area.
If you have a really huge garden and are planning an 18th, 21st, 40th, 50th, anything in-between or even a wedding anniversary celebration then you may want to consider hiring a marquee. However, the costs can escalate hugely so you may want to consider sourcing a suitable venue elsewhere instead. Venuefinder is a good place to start as knowing where to begin can be a minefield.
Once you’ve got the numbers, cost and location sorted think about whether you are going to have a theme. Even a grown up party works with a theme, do you want everyone to get really dressed up? Or perhaps you would like a fancy dress party? Even if you are having a party away from home the venue should help you get the decor right for the occasion. If you are having a child’s party then what is their favourite hobby/television character? In the past we have had a space party, even using black sacks to decorate the kitchen to create the right party atmosphere. For M’s 5th birthday he wanted a pirate party, so that’s what I gave him, including inflatable flamingos and palm trees! For one adult party we turned a marquee into a moody nightclub.
If you want caterers to do the food at your party don’t forget to check they can do that date, there is nothing more annoying than having everything else in place to then be hugely disappointed when the caterers you’ve set your heart on are already booked up. Personal recommendation is the best way to find them if you haven’t used caterers before. If you are going to be doing the food yourself plan early, if you are feeding a lot of people, a cold buffet is the simplest way to go as the food can be prepared in advance.
My tip for children’s party food is keep it simple, children love a good old cocktail sausage, sausage roll, chicken nuggets, ham and cheese sandwiches, cucumber sticks, crisps and fairy cakes. I tend to under cater slightly too, that or be prepared to live off of the leftovers for days. Actually we love that really.
Send out invitations in plenty of time, you will always get a certain percentage of people that can’t make it and this way you can either refer to your B list of guests or adjust the catering requirements. There are lots of online sites to make your invitations or you can even send them via email to save on postage.
To get ahead and avoid a stressful party day do as much of the preparation as possible days before, if you have party bags to fill don’t leave to the last minute, balloons to blow up; buy a small pump. However much advance preparation I do I always seem to end up staying up half the night before a birthday party thanks to …the cake! I think I am a glutton for punishment, buy one, don’t do what I do. Music…ask your friends and family what their favourites are to help get the party going…but, if you are having a DJ remember they do really know which tracks get people on the dance floor so try and trust their judgement.
If you are having your party at a venue other than home and it is being catered then you have no excuse but to enjoy the occasion, remember to pace yourself when it comes to the champagne. The other big bonus about using a party venue is waking up the next day and not having a single glass to wash up, or worse.
For children’s parties, go with the flow, sometimes they can be very unpredictable but chances are your child will be very happy at the end of it (even if there are a few inevitable tears at first “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to…”).
This is sponsored content but all words are my own