After planning five kids’ birthday parties over the last four years, I feel like I finally have a party planning system down. Calvin’s recent first birthday party was the easiest and most enjoyable one I have thrown yet (compared with Charlie’s first birthday party which almost drove me insane) so I thought I would share some tips for how I plan a party.
1. Decide on a theme.
Choosing a party theme or overall vision is the most important decision you’ll make when party planning. A theme can make a party overly complicated or super simple. Or maybe you decide no theme is the best theme, which is totally great too but is sometimes hard for me to nail down cohesive details if I don’t at least have a vision. I’ve found two themes that have been really simple to coordinate both details and food served: a circus/carnival theme and a Mexican fiesta theme.
2. Jot down a list of ideas.
Once you decide on a theme, jot down your list of initial ideas. Not only will you not do them all — you should not do them all. This is just a starting point. My initial list of ideas for Calvin’s first birthday fiesta looked like this: Mexican food, piñatas, cacti details, color, serape blankets, papel a picado, paletas from Si Paletas, margaritas/ Mexican beer for adults, Mexican sodas, churros, maracas w/ gracias tags for favors, succulents. Eventually I scrapped the margs and churros in favor of just beer and homemade cupcakes for the kids (plus a giant cupcake for a smash cake), and our caterer provided soda and water, so we decided against Mexican sodas as well. A field trip to the party district in Downtown LA provided serapes, papel a picado flags, maracas, and a big piñata on the cheap — making it easy to execute the decor ideas without spending a fortune. Anything that we didn’t find or that didn’t end up being included easily got taken off the list.
3. Get online to narrow down ideas, book vendors, shop around for details & more.
Your best friend when party planning is your computer. From getting ideas and inspiration to creating a Pinterest board of party ideas, to shopping around for decor, to sending out online invitations or designing paper invitations — almost all of the planning happens on the computer.
My Intel All in One played a big role in my party planning this time around. From planning to execution I used my computer for everything. I compared catering prices, found table rentals, bought the perfect details, located local party supply shops, sent out invitations, downloaded theme-specific coloring pages, and even bought our outfits online, and thanks to the huge screen and easy-to-use features (like a touch screen!), the All in One made everything more streamlined and efficient. I’m even using it to design my thank you cards and share photos from the party with guests, and then later here on my blog.
4. Keep it simple and spend money on things that make your life easier.
You may be tempted to do include every single idea you have into your party. Don’t. If I have learned one big lesson from party planning it is keep it simple. It will make the details you do choose more noticeable, it will keep you sane, and kids barely notice anyways. This last party was more simple and laid back and because we hired an outside food vendor to cater to our guests (which was way easier than making everything ourselves and cheaper than picking up catered food to go from someplace like Chipotle) we didn’t have to set up, prepare, or clean up anything food related. It was amazing! Totally worth the money to get to enjoy the party ourselves.
5. Make sure there is a little something for everyone.
When having a party you really should try to find a way for kids of all ages (who will be attending) to be entertained, so that parents can enjoy themselves as well. For example, although Calvin’s party was a 1st birthday there were going to be several 4-5 year olds attending (big brother and his playgroup friends). So we had a small bounce house for energetic ones and put out coloring pages and crayons at the kids’ table for the quieter ones or kids who wanted to take a break. But a few days before the party we realized there would be five babies age 6 months – 18 months who needed a little something to do as well. So I hopped on the computer and bought a small tent with balls for the little ones (thanks Amazon Prime shipping!) and put out some blankets with baby toys on the grass as well. Everyone was entertained and had fun.
Also, even though we catered Mexican food, we made sure there was fruit, hot dogs, and snacks for picky littles.
6. Most importantly, have fun!
Enjoy yourself, take photos, and don’t worry about the little things. At the end of the day, we forgot to put the juice boxes out for kids, the cacti balloons were blowing all over the place and had to be put away (and later flew away), and the piñata took forever to break. But the kids had a blast, the parents enjoyed themselves, and no one noticed the imperfections. Not even me.
I hope these tips will help you in your next party planning adventure! What are your favorite tips for planning a party without going insane in the process?
Stay tuned for a full party feature, complete with vendor and source links, coming soon!
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