I am no stranger to planning events. It was part of what I did at my previous job (my current job is raising triplets and blogging – beg your pardon: my full-time job and a half). From lighting to set design, hospitality to food and beverage coordination, registration to marketing, travel to contract negotiating…I oversaw it all. I loved it. Each event was a culmination of countless hours of work, creativity, planning, sweat
and tears. I saw each event – my baby – birthed and marveled at what could be done.
So how can a simple birthday party bring me to my knees in exhaustion? And make me tremble at the thought of only 364 days till the next?
The History of Birthday Parties
Once upon a time, birthday parties were unheard of. In days gone by, Laura Ingalls was even chided for being disappointed about a new dictionary as a gift. Ok, this is a TV reference and if you know the episode, you’ll know my analogy breaks down. But just stay with me. You know what I mean. Today, we have birthday parties that rival a coronation…for toddlers. Who care nothing for the hoopla. (Hoopla. It’s kinda fun to say.)
And somewhere down the line, this pressure has formed that causes us mothers to plan extravagant celebrations – outdoing ourselves each year. (Now, I can sense the jealousy rising as you realize that I only plan one party for three children. It is true. Calm down. Next year I’ll plan three parties, if that makes you happy. …I won’t really, though.) By the time our children graduate from college, our guests will be attending non-stop coronations and royalty-like events – bars set so high, we will laugh at our grandchildrens’ parties (never mind they hired all of Barnum & Bailey to perform at the local arena…psssh, we did that for her mother’s 12th birthday. Pssh.).
So how did we get on this path to exhausting parties and planning? I have a theory. You might suggest it starts with “P” and ends with “interest.” It doesn’t. In fact, you should follow me there because I pin lots of great stuff – stuff you can’t live without.
Did you ever go to that party back in elementary school where the kid rented out the whole darn Chuck E. Cheese? Or the skating rink? Or the movie theatre? And then for your birthday you got to have two friends sleepover and watched a rented VHS tape and popped microwave popcorn? Me, too. And this was before the days of Pinterest!
I think it was those parties that in turn caused our generation to spend untold, increasing amounts of money on party after party. (Disclosure: I actually really liked my tiny parties…didn’t you??)
Now, before you get upset, I did one of “those” parties last year for the babies’ first birthday (Part 1 and Part 2). And loved it. I totally don’t regret it. But it took me years to recover. (Ok, days. But still.)
I knew that I would not be raising the bar each year, with each birthday party that passed.
So I set out on a quest to discover how to have a stress-free birthday party.
Planning a Stress-free Birthday Party
1. Nix the hand-crafted decor. It’s gorgeous. It’s awe-inspiring. It makes me crazy. Did you know that a hundred balloons on a string takes six grown people a quarter of a day to blow up and string and, in the humid summer air, can still somehow pop and sound just like gunfire? Ask me how I know.
Instead, ask guests to bring the decor. The babies are so into hats and shoes (Emma chews on David’s shoes when he comes home from work…yes, I know that’s weird. We’re working on it. One thing at a time…). So we encouraged everyone to wear their favorite hat and shoes. Let the people be the decor. Besides, you don’t feel badly throwing them out at the end of the party. Kidding. I’m juuuust kidding.
2. Keep it small. Last year we had about 600 people at their first birthday party. Or maybe it was closer to 60. I don’t know. Either way, it was big. I didn’t get to catch up with anyone. I was too busy making sure the pepperoni didn’t melt and the
gunfire balloons didn’t pop. And a host of other things.
This year we had 15 people. Including the babies. It was glorious. I sat. And talked. And enjoyed the afternoon. Oh, and I ate food. Which brings me to:
3. Don’t feed the guests. Ok, so don’t take this one uber-literally. But, seriously. We’ve created a monster here: we have taught people to starve themselves before arriving at our beach-themed party so they can fill up on our handmade mini crab cakes, sushi, handcrafted and gluten-free goldfish crackers, organic star-shaped fruit skewers. Etc. Cra-zy. And why? Who says we have to take out a loan to feed people food? Nah.
This year, I made cupcakes. That’s it. And everybody ate, drank and was merry. And it took me an hour from start to finish.
Not a Party Hater
Now, I plan to break all my rules and throw a birthday bash next year when the babies turn three. (There’s three of them turning three…get it?) And probably when they turn five, 10, 13, 16 and 18. Maybe. But not because I feel compelled to – because I’d be a better mom in doing so – but because I want to. Of course, I’ll need to convince the hubby each time…maybe if I promise never to string up 100 balloons again?
Oh, and you can see pictures from their second party here: cupcakes, hats, shoes, and stress-free!
What other tips could you share for a stress-free birthday party?