Number 1: The Date.
Give yourself some time to plan and for your guests to respond. Birthday parties are joyous occasions. They should not be planned on the fly. As a guest, I love enough notice where I can try to figure out how to rework our schedule so my kid can attend a party of a friend, especially if we already have something on the calendar for that date.
Figure about a month notice is good. Two weeks is not. Don’t forget to consider the sport in season that kids may be playing, as well as the time of year. I have three kids with December birthdays, and if I don’t plan a party before Thanksgiving, we will be lucky to have three kids show up (besides my own, I mean).
Number 2: The Guests.
Hmmm. Who to invite? Is your child really good friends with the 19 kids in his or her class? Maybe your son’s baseball team is actually 11 of his favorite friends. Maybe your daughter’s dance class is really 10 of her bffs. Are there enough cousins to make up your own soccer team? Or maybe your child’s besties are the neighborhood kids. Perhaps a thoughtful combination of all of these lists is where your guest list will land.
Number 3: The Cost.
We all know that Saturdays and Sundays are prime, premium party days. But who says you can’t have fun on a Thursday afternoon? If you are watching your budget consider “off-peak” times for party scheduling. Parties that include food and drink with an activity are always a lot of fun, and aren’t budget-busting, especially if you can find a discount, whether it’s because you are a member, or find coupons online or in the mail.
Number 4: The Place.
No kid wants a solemn, quiet party, so you need to think about where your child and friends can go to let loose and have a blast. Something you want to think about: If your venue is outdoors is there a Plan B in case of rain?
If your choice for party place is indoors, then that’s one less thing to worry about. You know what’s better than having a party “not at my house” where I don’t have to clean and think about the food and entertaining kids? Nothing!
Number 5: Location.
Location. OK, so this is totally different than “The Place.” We are busy people in busy times. No one wants to be in the car for 45 minutes each way to get to and from a party. A drive 30 minutes or less each way is key.
Number 6: RSVPs.
It’s nice to include a cell phone (for texting) number or email address for RSVPs. No parent wants to make that “my child can’t make the party call.” I know if my child can’t make a party, I always feel “less awful” texting or emailing that response. And I do it immediately because there is nothing worse than a parent who doesn’t RSVP – unless you consider the parent who doesn’t RSVP but then shows up with his or her child for the party.
If my kid can make the party, it’s nice to be able to shoot a text about that, too. The problem with making a phone call is I might actually get someone. And I like to talk. A lot. So going back to number 5 (“busy people in busy times”), I just prefer to text or email our RSVP, and get on with my life.
Number 7: Gifts.
To bring or not to bring? Well unless the birthday boy or girl wants to make donations, which he or she will most likely list on the invitation, bring that gift. Are birthday parties like wedding? Where you need to “cover” the cost of yourself? I like to think not.
I like to think that birthday parties are a celebration of life and good friends and good times. Love those places that just collect that swag in a big bag and keep it safe and way until the end of the party. One less thing to worry about.
Number 8: Parents.
There is always that question of “whether this is a drop off or stay party.” With three kids and hostessing a party, my preference is for parents to “hang out” for the duration of the party. Bonus points when parents are fed and occupied, and I don’t have to pay extra for that. I call that “win/win.”