Welcome back to PART 3 of the Party Planning post series!
Who doesn’t love a nicely organized party when things go smoothly, and the party is simple yet tasteful? I know I do, and even though I don’t always reach the “simple party” goal, I do strive to make the event personal and memorable. If you are a work in progress in the party planning department, just like me, I hope you find the posts in this Party Planning series helpful and inspiring!
Just to refresh, in the first part, I talked about your RESOURCES and how to utilize them. In part 2 I encouraged you to figure out your PRIORITIES and set your EXPECTATIONS.
Today, I’ll be talking about the fun part of the party planning—all the DETAILS!
Now that you have your budget set, your time for party prepping allocated, help recruited, estimates gathered, and last but not least, your birthday person’s desires and hopes understood, you can get to the fun part—looking for ideas on Pinterest! (happy dance)
Here are a few categories that can help you stay focused:
A theme offers direction and focus. It provides you with visual ideas, such as colors, characters, themed foods, types of activities. Having a theme provides certain boundaries and constraints, which may sound limiting at first, but in the end, it helps you to stay focused on one topic and not go all over the place. A theme also gives you the freedom to interpret it and present it with your own spin, making the party unique.
Now, if you don’t want to have a theme, I suggest you simply pick a color or two and have that be your theme. It’ll still guide you the same way as the character theme, but it also will give you a bit more flexibility and space for imagination for things like activities and food.
For example, for my daughter’s 1st Birthday, I didn’t have a theme. But after getting her fancy birthday dress and a cute little outfit (as a backup in case of accidents), the theme kind of established itself: Pink-and-White Polka Dots and Ruffles.
I didn’t announce it as a party theme, but I did try to tie it together with these simple elements. Her cake was decorated with pink frosting in the shape of ruffles, the invitations were made from patterned pink polka dot cardstock paper. The decorations included pink and white polka dot balloons and the same Happy Birthday banners. We served simple finger foods and played a few very basic 1st Birthday party games. The party was every bit as fun and engaging as it would have been if we had a specific theme.
In many cases, people choose to go paperless and send evites or just emails, which is perfectly fine. If you want to add a bit of personality and set the mood for the party, try looking for themed invitations in the stationary aisles at Target/Walmart or your local party store. If you want something slightly different or if you can’t find the themed invitations at the stores, go straight to Etsy. There you’ll find a magnitude of invitations on any given theme, lovingly and skillfully made by talented artists. Note: Be prepared to pay a little extra for handmade invitations and shipping. If you want a unique, one of a kind touch to your invites, then make your own! Search Pinterest or Google for some inspiration. Save several ideas, then pick your absolute favorites (no more than 3) and then decide which ONE bests suits your skill level, time, and available funds.
In your invitation, don’t forget to mention date/time/location (specify if parents can drop off/pick up or if it’s a parent-and-me party), what you will be serving (lunch, dinner, just desserts, light refreshments), entertainment (bring socks for a bounce house, swim suit and towel for sprinkler, old tee-shirt for painting, etc.) and your contact info to R.S.V.P.
Party decorations can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. But one thing for certain—you need them to elevate your gathering from a sad looking food table to an exciting BASH!
Now, if you have some funds to work with, you can invest into a few decorations reflecting the theme (decals, character cu- outs, posters, fresh flower arrangements, etc.). If you budget is tight, look on Pinterest for decorating ideas you can make yourself!
For example, you can ask your kids help you paint ninjas on a poster, and that could be a great background for your food table or door décor! Or spend the day making colorful paper chains together.
Another idea–tissue paper flowers! They are relatively inexpensive, but they make such a splash of color to any room and make your party room look exciting and fun!
Streamers, paper tassels, paperchains, cut out shapes strung together (like hearts or butterflies or flowers or cars) make the room look festive and inviting to have some good old-fashioned fun, yet it won’t break your bank! Keep in mind, that if you are planning to make your own decorations in order to cut costs, allocate appropriate amount of time! These decorations may be cheaper, but they will cost you time instead!
Food is an important part of any party! However, don’t feel stressed that you have to feed an army!!! You have flexibility and freedom to determine what exactly it will be. You’re the boss!
Pizza. Almost everyone loves a good classic cheese pizza! Add some veggies and fruit, chips and dip, and you are set!
Finger Food. By limiting yourself to this category, you are also giving yourself a break. If you think about it, that’s exactly what people tend to do at a party—they snack! Usually it’s all about mingling and moving around the room with a plate in your hand, while having chit chats here and there. Have a few cold snacks, like veggie/fruit cups, nuts, and chips. But also add a few warm appetizers that only require 10-15 minutes to cook in the oven.
Just Desserts. State it clearly in the invitations that you will only be serving desserts to avoid miscommunication and hungry belly growlings at the party. Make sure to include coffee and tea in your menu as well as some fruit for those who choose to forgo sweets, but still would like to nosh on something.
Sandwiches. Set up a tray of cold cuts, 2-3 types of bread/rolls, condiments, fixings (lettuce, tomato, cheese, bacon), and serve it with some chips and pasta salad. It’s easy and customizable for all tastes.
Cookout. If your party takes place in the warmer months of the year, you can’t go wrong with a picnic. Burgers, hotdogs, and sausages are summertime staples and everyone’s favorite! Add sweet corn, coleslaw/potato salad, fruit tray, and a bag of chips, and you’ve got yourself a perfect summer party set up!
Crockpot. It’s perfect for fall/winter months. Savory chili, stew, meatballs, BBQ pork, Soup….Mmmm, so many options! The best part—you can start your slow cooker early in the morning and forget about it! While it’s doing its thing, you can set up the rest of your party, and all you’ll have to do later is switch it to “warm” and serve! Great additions to this meal can be a loaf of fresh bread or rolls and a side salad.
If you have a theme, you can look on Pinterest for ideas to add themed names to your dishes or add a few simple fun ones. Be careful not to get caught up in the “tongue in cheek” party foods. They may be witty, but will more than one person eat it?? Try to find balance between fun and practical.
Now, I put “cake” as a separate category because if it’s a Birthday party, you HAVE to have a cake (or cupcakes) with candles for the birthday person to blow out! Amiright? Some people prefer cake; some prefer cupcakes; yet others prefer pies. Make sure to talk to your birthday person to find out what he/she would prefer. Then, you decide whether or not it will reflect the theme. It absolutely does not have to be themed! You can add character candles, action figures, themed cupcake toppers to your regular dessert choice, and it’ll be just perfect!
If you are up for a challenge, look up some fun ideas on Pinterest and find The One option for your cake you feel you can tackle and succeed! Make sure to allocate enough time! It’s best to bake a cake a few days before the party to allow all the flavors to mix and the frosting to set.
If you are not a baker, you can source your desserts from the local bakery or grocery store! They often offer big sheet cakes with options to decorate according to your theme. Also, a dozen of simple cupcakes will do just as well if you are not picky or particular about that. Remember, focus on the things that matter most to you or your Birthday person!
Every party needs some sort of game plan. Even if you don’t want to play games per se, create a loose timeline of what happens first, next, and how it’ll end. If you do want to play party games, this is where Pinterest is most helpful. There are millions of party game ideas on there. Make sure you enter specific keywords into the search bar to find exactly what you are looking for.
Party games do not need to be complicated. Kids’ attention span is short, and so the games and their directions need to be simple and concise. Each person’s turn should be short enough so that there isn’t too much waiting. If grown-ups are playing, same goes for them. The simpler and quicker the game, the better! You don’t want your party to drag and people get bored.
Shoot for 3 types of games: quiet crafting (like coloring, playdough, or beading), active to get the wiggles out (like scavenger hunt, team relay race, corn hole), and intellectual (like movie trivia, character bingo, word puzzles) This should give you a good variety of activities that will keep your guests entertained and having fun.
If you absolutely loath party games, keep it very simple with a few activities set in place, just in case.
- For kids, it can be as simple as letting them run outside in the backyard and create their own games. Or fill your basement with toys and dress up and have your little guests use their own imagination.
- Coloring station is always a hit. Even grown-ups will be inclined to sit down and color a page or two from the Adult Coloring Books that have become so popular these days.
- Set up a table with a jigsaw puzzle, so that the guests with quieter personalities can stop by for a quick “recharge” and enjoy a peaceful activity by themselves.
- Put out some Photobooks from your latest vacation or an interesting coffee table book. This is a great ice breaker, which will give your guests new topics to discuss.
Party Favor is a small gift given to guests as a “thank you” for coming to the party and spending time with the birthday person. It can be as extravagant and as simple as you wish. It can be a sugar cookie, all wrapped up and ready for the guest to take home as a sweet treat. It can a small toy or a notebook. It can be a bag filled with many little trinkets. The possibilities are endless, but keep in mind, that favors are NOT what the party is about. In my book, it’s a “nice to have”, not a must.
Well, that was a lot to cover, but to be fair, this is the essence of party planning. This is where you’ll spend most of your time—researching and finding specific ideas for setting the mood and decorating for the party, entertaining the guests, providing food and beverages, and capping it off with the tradition of Cake and Candles. So be proactive, gather ideas on the Internet or from your own imagination, write them down, and make a plan of action. The next step is EXECUTION!
Come back to read about it in my next and last blog post in the series Party Planning 101. I will also be sharing a FREE downloadable Checklist to help you with your party planning. See you there!