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3 Tips for How to Have a Stress-free Birthday Party

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 stress free birthday partypardon: 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??)stress free birthday party

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 takes11-1024x682 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?


  1. I love stress-free ideas!! For our son’s 2nd birthday, this is the idea that we’re going to aim at, for sure. And even for his 1st, it was pretty stress-free…he loved dogs so we had a dog themed party…at a park…where we served hot dogs and cupcakes with bone sprinkles. And for the little kid favors/decorations, I got stuffed dogs from the dollar store and we hung them up around the pavilion (so the decorations left with the kids at the end!). I am so glad I kept it simple because I was really able to enjoy visiting with others. But I’m going to follow your “keep it small” tip for his 2nd birthday ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. This is the 1st year Brady will have an “elaborate” birthday party, he turns 10. In the past pre pinterest, we would go to a park with a few decorations from PartyCity and family would bring a dish of some kind(pot luck). Nobody cared for the fru fru, we all had a good time and watched the kids play. This changed when Julie was born. I didn’t realize I was suppose to throw these Martha Stuart-y birthdays. Well I told myself no way not every year because really it’s to impress the adults not the kids. If my friends want to do it every year….God speed. I will attempt to do it only on milestone birthdays… hopefully my kids will appreciate by then ;o)

    • Shelley, I heard about Brady’s party! Sounds like it’ll be a blast! ๐Ÿ™‚ With some fun memories from your childhood, too! How awesome! And I think Julie had quite the bash last year! I was drooling. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. My tip: don’t bother! LOL

    Just kidding, but seriously, we don’t do parties at all until the kids are old enough to remember them, so with my three I’ve only yet thrown one party (the oldest’s fifth). Before that, the party is really for the parents and their friends – which is TOTALLY FINE, if you want to do that. In which case your tips are great.

    We do “events” instead – take them to a carnival or the science center, often just the birthday kid b/c individual attention from Mom and Dad is a really big deal. Not as easy when your birthday kids are all the same day, though.

    • That’s a great idea, Dawn! I love the “events” idea! That might be really smart to try as they get older – that way they can each have individual time with each of us, rather than one big party where their individuality gets lost in the crowd. :o/ Thanks!!! ๐Ÿ™‚


  1. […] with food, it is not necessary to eliminate any glimpse of sweetener completely. That being said, my children are still just two (yes, triplets, for those of you joining me for the first time!) and I rarely give them anything […]

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