Party Planning Panic – the dreaded 3P’s – I’m convinced it’s a real condition. A condition just about all of us have been struck down by at some point, and I’m definitely no exception. However, after planning a multitude of different party celebrations for family, friends and clients, I think I’m onto a bit of a winning formula for taking the “panic” out of the equation and putting more fun back into the whole process – it is a celebration after all.
For this post, I’ll be focusing on children’s birthdays but you can apply these tips to any party …and I suggest these in this order:
Pick a theme: A theme doesn’t have to be something you adhere to strictly, but picking a theme first certainly does help you focus your efforts. It comes in handy for picking colours, creating invitations, decorating, the cake, the outfits… all of it. For children’s parties, you can draw theme inspiration from just about anything. Especially for the first birthday till around the third, after which the kids have all the say.
For my daughter’s first birthday, the theme was “Bugs, Bees and Creepy-crawlies” because of her love of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. She demanded it be read multiple times every night from the age of around 9 months onwards. For my son’s first birthday coming up soon, we’re having an nautical themed birthday because he is a complete water baby.
Save the date: Whether it’s just a message, email, or an online calendar, I like to block in the day with the essential inner circle of family and friends at least 2 month in advance – the little one’s uncles, aunts, grandparents and close friends. It serves the purpose of giving them advance notice as well as bringing in early offers of help with the day. Which takes us swiftly to the next tip.
Delegate & Outsource: I have what I fondly call the “Party Planning Co-op”. It’s an informal group of close family and friends with similar aged kids and whenever there is a party coming up, each of us brings along a dish or helps with one element of the preparation and set up. A variety of party dishes are all delegated out: fruit platter, sandwiches, cupcakes, veggies and dip, sausage rolls. With a party co-op, not only do you have a reliable bunch you can count on when your turn comes around, but it saves each party host so much time. A party co-op works out so well for everyone involved.
If you’re time poor, there’s amazing party talent right on your doorstep in the Inner West with many are local mums who are amazing cake makers, party decorators, stylists, caterers, photographers, entertainers and more. So the key is to have an idea of what you want to outsource and then start recruiting your network of party contacts. After a party or two, you’ll have a great group of people you delegate some party elements to time and time again.
Location, Location, Location:
Outdoors: If you’re thinking outdoors, then have a back-up plan. I know it seems obvious, but so many overlook this step and are crippled by the 3P’s on an overcast or rainy morning of the party. Don’t put yourself through the stress of watching cloud movements closer than the Bureau of Meteorology. If you have an outdoor location, then in the invite it’s a good idea to specify your rainy weather plans “If there is or it’s looking likely to rain at the time of the event, please SMS this number to confirm whether party is cancelled or at an alternative location”.
At Home: If you have a child’s birthday at your home, then be prepared for mess. Set the party table up so that it can be accessed away from any precious spots in your home, create enough fun distractions (ball pit, face painting, magic show, party games), have plenty of wet wipes and bins scattered around the home for those sticky cake and lolly fingers.
Hire a venue: I find this option to be the best option, albeit marginally more expensive and requiring some advanced planning. If you pick a venue wisely, you won’t be racing to the park early in the morning to reserve a spot, you won’t have to worry as much about the weather, and your home won’t get destroyed by an army of sugar-fuelled munchkins. Scattered throughout the Inner West are some great spots that are super kid friendly.
Community halls are not about bells-and-whistles, but they are great for kids parties and start at around $30 an hour for hire. They often include room/hall hire with tables and chairs, a kitchen prep area, some outdoor play space and maybe even on-site parking. Your council website will have a list of venues available for hire with a discounted rate if you’re from the local area.
And here’s something you may not know – some preschools and childcare centres allow the use of their premises on weekends for a nominal fee and as you can imagine they are perrrrrfect for kids. All ready kid-proofed, fenced play areas, and all the facilities catering to little people needs. Just check with your local centre and see what they say. You may have to sign a form and leave a deposit in case of any damage/breakages, pay a public liability insurance fee (often around $20 a day) and pay a small hire fee, but it’s so worth it.
Paper based invites, RSVPs and thank you cards are great. I love receiving them and sending them, I really do. But for kids parties, I find there is just too much going on. And these days, there are sites that create some super cute e-invites which are just as adorable as paper based. Time pressures aside, it is a much more green option considering the carbon footprint of the mail system.
I recommend setting up a closed (invite only) Facebook or other online event page. You can send the link to friends who are not on Facebook. It can act as the one-stop spot for all your party logistics – invites, RSVPs, updates, and post-party pictures you want to share and have shared with you.
Instagram is also great for sharing party pictures and I recommend an instagram hashtag for all my wedding clients. It’s displayed at the entry to the party so that any photos guests take with their own phones and upload using that specific hashtag can be collated for the host to see after the event. Eg “#MillylovesMax2015”. It’s the modern day version of putting a disposable camera on each table and great way to see different moments of the day captured from different perspectives.
Checklists are your friend
As the day gets closer, create a checklist of the food you’re making and tasks you’re delegating, RSVPs, outstanding items, what you need to buy on the day (eg a bag of ice), the party games, favours, decorations, suppliers you need to confirm with etc. Just keep adding whatever comes to mind, because not jotting it down is another major contributor to the 3P’s.
I used to have a multitude of cute notebooks and to-do lists (stationery is my happy place), but when I needed one I could never find one. Not one! Especially the one that had the specific checklist I scribbled something important in.
Going back to my previous point, use the technology that is readily available to you – use your phone and keep it all in once place. There will be a default task application on most phones, however I would recommend getting something like Wunderlist. It’s a great little app for all kinds of lists and I’m a little addicted. A great feature is that you can share lists too (my husband cringes every time he hears the little “ding” of a delegated list coming his way). Perfect for party planning… and life in general!
The biggest tip of them all is to ENJOY the day. No one minds if the cake isn’t just right, if the kids are on a sugar high, if the weather isn’t perfect… so kick back and take party in all the joy and chaos that is a child’s birthday.