Practical Party Planning

I had been thinking about my daughters’ first birthday party for a while, but only in an abstract way.  I knew I wanted to have it at our house, with all of our immediate family.  I didn’t think much about the details, which is a problem quirk of mine.  As I browsed Pinterest, I would see all of the amazing party ideas out there, knowing that I would not make any of them.  I felt a pang of guilt that my kids will never have a crafty birthday party with unique food items, clever little signs, sayings and props, with hand crafted invitations.  I could probably find time for it if I really wanted to, but I’m not creative or good at crafts, and it would add a lot of stress to my life.

I set up an event on Facebook about three weeks before the party, so my family would have something in writing.  I sent the paper invitation a week in advance.  I decided on a theme about three or four days before the party.  It was going to be kind of a superhero/super baby party.  I considered it ‘loosely themed’, because there were only three details of the party that had anything to do with superheroes – the cake, and the capes & bracelets I bought for the kids attending.  I considered this a win.

In the end, the party was great, and not stressful at all.  I was able to spend time talking to everyone.  Mallory loved her cupcake(s), and I loved opening all her girly gifts.

Here’s how I planned her party:

1. Make sure the people you really want to attend, can actually attend.  I asked my family to weigh in on dates.  I knew that some of my family was going on vacation the weekend of her actual birthday, so I got feedback on the weeks before and after.  While I admit this can be a little bit of a pain to try and work around everyone else’s schedules, it paid off, because I was able to have my whole family attend.

2. Order Pizza.  Make some side dishes.  If family offers to bring something, graciously accept.  I have become a pretty decent cook, but that doesn’t mean I have time or can deal with the stress of cooking for a large number of people.  We have a pizza place nearby that offers a deal if you order four or more pizzas, so the cost ends up being very reasonable.  Gluten free and vegan needs can be taken care of by purchasing an Amy’s frozen pizza at the grocery store.  I bought chips, and made hummus and cajun black bean dip.  My sister and I picked blueberries the day before.  A couple people brought side dishes, and we had plenty of food.

3. Order the cake.  I have very little artistic ability, so I could make a cake, but what about the decorating?  For my son’s first birthday, I made brownies, but then I was scrambling at the last minute because I didn’t know how to make them look pretty.  I had my mom write on them with that colored cake writing stuff.  These days, it’s easy to have a cake made by someone else.  Practically every grocery store makes birthday cakes.  I am lucky enough to have a neighbor who makes amazing cakes, so I didn’t even have to pick it up.  She brought it over to my house before the party.  It looked amazing, tasted amazing and caused me no stress.  And on top of that, she brought me a cake plate and stand, so I could present it nicely.  Perfect.   On a side note, if you live near Hudson and want to check out Emma’s cakes, you can do so here.  She uses fondant to decorate,which gives it a really fancy look.

A Super Mallory Cake with coordinating cupcakes!

A Super Mallory Cake with coordinating cupcakes!

4. Don’t buy any food or drinks for the party that you and your family won’t eat after.  I have a 2 liter bottle of soda in my pantry that is probably a year old.  No one in our family likes it, so it just sits there.  Same situation with food that just isn’t worth wasting calories on.  Parties can be a fun time to try out new snacks, but I don’t like to have leftovers that are going to go to waste.  Everything I bought for the party were things we already eat or drink, if not all the time, at least occasionally.

5. Keep decorations to a minimum.  I know some people are going to disagree with this one, but I don’t like spending money on things that are only going to be used for a couple hours on one day.  If you are a crafty person and enjoy the decorating, then I get it.  That stuff is cute.  But I am using store bought decorations, so I just limit it to a few table decorations and a hanging banner that says Happy Birthday.  I didn’t even buy plates and cups that said Happy Birthday.  I just bought the plain ones so they could transfer seamlessly to other events.

6. Send a 4×6 photo as a Thank You Card (in an envelope, of course).  What do people do with thank you cards?  Probably keep them for a little while and then throw them in the trash.  It’s unfortunate, but true.  I plan on sending out Mallory’s 1 year photos with a little note on the back.  Most people want a photo of her anyway, so this is a great way to kill two birds with one stone.  And, if they throw away a picture of my daughter, well they will just have to live with that guilt.

Mallory enjoying her cake while I opened her gifts.

Mallory enjoying her cake while I opened her gifts.

I think that having parties should be fun.  Some people may enjoy making all the food or all the decorations, but that’s just not for me.  I don’t want to dread my kids’ parties.  In the future, if they want themes and decorations, they will get them.  If they want to make crafts or some of the food, I will help them.  But, right now I’m trying to keep it simple, and practical.

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