Birthday parties are one of the most special occasions for your child. From an early age you want them to have a great day with their friends and family.
However, it’s not all just about the day itself, the planning behind a successful birthday party can be quite substantial, read our step by step guide to ensure you don’t forget anything and avoid last minute panics!
WHAT ARE YOU PREPARED TO SPEND?
Birthday parties can cost as much as you are willing to spend, so it is a good idea to have a budget in place so that you don’t get carried away and spend all your money on one element of the party!
A budget can help you identify guidelines such as how many people to invite as well as whether to have entertainment brought in or do it yourself.
Parties of all budgets can still be enjoyable; it’s all about planning and managing your money!
WHEN'S THE BEST DAY?
If you’re child’s birthday lands on a weekend, then great, it is always fun to host the party on the actual day of their birthday. However, if you still want it on a weekend and their birthday is in the week, decide whether you’d prefer it the weekend before or after.
Before you confirm your date or make any bookings, be sure to talk to your friends and parents of your child’s friends to ensure that no one else is planning a party around the same date to avoid conflicts or having to try and rearrange. Weekends tend to get booked up in advance so make a decision and get the invites out!
If you do find yourself in a conflicting date situation, be sure to talk to the other parents as you could come to some arrangement where you invite guests at different times of the day to ensure everyone can attend.
When it comes to timings, if your child is under 3 it’s usually best to have them earlier in the mornings, so that the families can leave around lunchtime and put the babies down for their afternoon nap. Once they’re a bit older, you can start a bit later and run more into the afternoon.
THEMES, ACTIVITIES & PERFORMERS
Themes can help make parties more magical, as well as ensure all the children remember your party! It can be something as simple as setting a fancy dress theme, or it could be part of the whole day where the activities, food and decorations are all part of the same theme.
Be sure to run theme ideas past your child to help get them excited about it as they can talk to their friends about it and help give the friends’ parents ideas on how to fit the theme.
Once you’ve chosen a theme, think about how it can be carried through the day; from decorations to food, games and the party bag.
You may find that an entertainer or performer can enhance your theme, if that is the case be sure to research and book at least two months in advance as you will want to find one local to you and they can get booked up quite quickly!
When booking any third party to be part of the day ensure they have public liability insurance as well as having a full CRB check. It’s always important to discuss what would happen if on the day they were unwell or could not make the event – would you be refunded or could they send someone else? This way all your bases are covered and there are no nasty surprises on the day. Before you book anyone, try and see if you can see them in action or arrange a trial at your home to ensure that they live up to expectations!
Themes can be great fun, the younger the child the softer the theme can be, however as they get older, themed activities are increasingly popular so try think outside the box; go-karting, pottery, dancing are all popular themes for older children.
When booking the entertainer, be sure not to book them from the start of the party. We’d suggest for them to start 15/ 30 minutes after the start time on the invitations to avoid anyone running late missing the beginning. Also find out if they would need any set up time to check that this is possible within the venue booking agreement.
WHERE TO HOLD YOUR PARTY?
If you don’t want to host the party in your home, or simply don’t have the space to do so, have a look at the list below to see if any of these would suit:
• theme parks
• a marquèe in your garden
• leisure centres/indoor play areas
• the local park
• function rooms at local golf courses (for example)
• village halls
• bowling alleys
• ice rinks
Venue hire could well be the biggest expenditure of your party, so always have that as a consideration. However, with cost comes ease, most often venues will help you with the decoration before the party as well as handle all the clearing up afterwards.
The location of the venue needs to be considered; is there appropriate parking? Or does it have good transportation links? You could always suggest on your invites that parents share lifts as well to help make the journey easier.
When booking the venue be sure to get all the details, as well as what time you would be able to enter the venue to set up, you will need time to prepare the decorations etc and shouldn’t be expected to use your booked time do to this as it eats into the children’s fun time.
Invitations serve many roles in the party process; not only are they essential to help get the message out there about your party and get the dates into peoples’ diaries. They are also a fun and exciting way to give guests a sneak peak at what your theme is going to be!
We offer our customers a great range of invitation options covering the following themes; monsters, fairies, pirates, princesses as well as a vintage ice cream and baking party!
There is something for everyone! Not only that, we can provide personalisation services if you want your invite to be extra special!
Once you’ve got your invitations sorted be sure to send them out in advance to avoid disappointment! Birthday parties can soon fill the calendar what with school friends and outside school club friends! It may sound obvious, but it is important to fully list out the names of all those invited. If there is more than one child in that household you may be happy for them all to come, but parents may not assume this so always best to state all names.
The invitation is also the best tool to communicate any requirements for the party, such as fancy dress, or a change or clothes if the children are likely to get messy. This way the parents can plan well in advance and should avoid you getting bombarded with questions!
It’s essential to have an RSVP address and date on the invite. Planning numbers is vital to a successful party and you can’t do that if you don’t get RSVP’s. Adding a date gives the impression that invitees should respond rather than just thinking that you would assume they are attending.
HOW MANY SHOULD I INVITE, AND SHOULD THE PARENTS COME?
This is strongly related to your budget, as obviously the more people you invite, the bigger the space required and more mouths to feed. For younger children you may find it more important to have lots of family and close friends, however, as the children get older and more independent it will be more important to them to have their friends – so consider this when planning numbers.
Once the children are at school, it is not uncommon to invite the whole class, however, that is not to say you have to do this but should be a consideration. On the upside from that, inviting any more than 30 children is not advised as then this could become an issue regarding managing them all as well as health and safety.
Be sure not to be on your own when hosting the party if you are not inviting the parents, as you may need someone to watch the rest of the children whilst you deal with any accidents or issues with individual children on the day.
HOW LONG SHOULD IT LAST?
For the little ones, under 3’s; two hours is probably the advised maximum duration for a the party. They will need their naps and more regular feeding than older children.
For 3-5 year olds three hours is again probably the advised maximum, as they can get over excited and burn out! However, for older children of 5 plus, longer parties are fine, anything up to half a day would be fine for them so long as you can manage their entertainment and keep them busy without you falling asleep.
WHAT'S ON THE MENU?
You should plan to serve your food in the middle of the party as it gives the children a chance to time to sit down and refuel before anyone gets too tired or grumpy! You should also encourage them to take toilet breaks during this time, as with all the excitement the little ones can soon forget that they need to go!
To make the food look inviting be sure to create a nice environment for the children to eat at. Use table cloths and balloons to ‘make an area.’ But be sure the table is slightly out the way, to allow you to set it up whilst the children are still enjoying the party.
If you want the children to sit down, check you have enough chairs to do so, to avoid anyone getting upset if they don’t get a seat! Why not make a the birthday child’s chair a feature, with balloons tied to it or a drape fabric over it to help make them feel extra special.
If you want to avoid a big mess, especially with younger children, give the food out in lunch –style boxes, rather than having a ‘buffet. This also ensures that some children don’t eat all of one food item leaving others out.
We understand that parents take what their children eat seriously, and you should consider this as well. It is a party so parents should expect their child to eat a certain amount of sweets, however, be sure to have a mixed range of food on offer that doesn’t all have a high sugar content. Here are some ideas:
• Finger sandwiches (cheese or jam are most popular but add meat variety if you wish)
• Crisps (have two / three flavors including plain)
• Cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks
• Mini yoghurt pots
It’s always good to keep most of the sweets and chocolate for the party bags – this way the parents can choose what they eat when they are back at home.
Try to speak to the parents beforehand to double check that there are no allergies that you need to consider. Or, if they want to supply their own food for their child, get them to drop this off at the start so you can put this out with the other food so the child doesn’t feel any different from the rest.
Fruit squash also tends to be more popular than fizzy drinks, so have this alongside water.
Finally, if you are having adults as well at your party, be sure to cater to them as well with some more grown up nibbles and finger food on hand to keep them going.
If the food aspect seems a bit daunting, be sure to check out what your local supermarkets can offer in the way of catering, as sandwich platters or other party packs could be arranged.
THE SHOW STOPPER
No party is complete without a birthday cake! Blowing out the candles comes part in parcel with any birthday celebration so be sure to set aside some time to sing happy birthday and get the classic ‘blowing out of the candles’ photo!
If you don’t know anyone who can do the cake for you then you can go to professional bakers, but larger supermarkets mostly offer a cake service that might be more affordable. Cupcakes are becoming increasingly popular and can be a more fun addition to the party bag than a plain slice of cake where you can’t see what the decoration is anymore!
If you’re budget doesn’t permit a big cake or professional cupcakes, why not bake your own with your child! We have a range of baking kits that can be fun to make as well as offer a hand made element to the guests on the day! View our ‘baking shop’ category on the website!
THE TAKE AWAY
Party bags can seem an unnecessary cost, however if you plan your party bag they can be a real treat for the children at the end of the day. Instead of buying a selection of small items that will either get lost or thrown away, consider buying one ‘nice’ item per bag that the children will really enjoy.
This could be something such as a colouring in set teamed with one of our tubes of colouring pencils. Alongside that you can then throw in some extra sweets that are always a hit, along with the prized birthday cake!
Visit our ‘gifts’ section on our website which not only has present ideas for the birthday child, but also some cute party bag ideas such as mini jigsaws and wooden colouring fridge magnets.
Another option is to plan an activity on the day which involves decorating or creating an item that is then put in the children’s’ party bags to take home and tell their parents about! – It’s all just in the planning!
THE CHERRY ON THE TOP
Additional entertainers or features on the day of the party can not only enhance a theme but also help make it even more memorable. If your budget allows, items such as candy floss machines or popcorn makers would go down a treat with the children. You could always hire professional singers or sportsmen to perform on the day to really get the children excited! If you do manage to secure a booking like that, try and keep it a surprise as the look on your child’s face would be priceless!
THE FOLLOW UP - REMEMBER TO SAY THANK YOU
Once the excitement has died down and the party itself is over, be sure to get thank you letters written and sent out to your guests.
It may well be the last thing on your mind but saying thank you for attending or for any gifts goes a long way and also helps teach your child the value of others and good manners!
You can click on the links below for a selection of party supplies and gifts for your birthday party.
Why not save time and pick one of our essential party kits with everything you need to throw a simply stylish birthday party!
Next week on the blog, I'll be sharing a simple checklist to help the day itself run smoothly.