How to Plan a Birthday Party
Planning a Birthday Party
If you're all stressed out about planning a birthday party, relax, it's not that difficult. Avoid needless worry by following the advice and easy steps in this article. I have planned many birthday parties over the years for my children and grandchildren and have lots of experience. Our family loves to get together and celebrate a birthday!
8 Easy Steps
1. When & Where
2. Party Theme
3. Guest List
6. Birthday Cake
My Best Advice: Plan Ahead and Make Lists
I will start off with the two most important tips for planning a stress-free party.
- Plan Ahead: You will never regret planning ahead. I have put together a few easy steps that I use when planning a party. Planning means just what it says. You're sure to cause stress if you are putting something together at the last minute, so take time to plan ahead.
- Make Lists: I'm a believer in lists, and always make out several during the process. A list keeps me focused and I don't forget things.
Speaking of forgetting, don't forget to take lots of pictures! Now, don't worry, just relax and read on!
1. When & Where
The date, time, and place are the first and most important things to decide. It is the starting point of your planning. You have to know when and where to invite your guest! And, you will need this information for your invitations. Try to start planning at least 1 month in advance.
- Date: This is always the hardest part of the planning for me. It's so hard to get everyone available on the same day and time. You will need to get together with the others involved and make sure the date agrees with everyone. Some work early or late, some are off on certain days. See what I mean? It's especially hard now that I have a grandchild who is working and going to college, and has limited time. We also have to consider if the boyfriends and girlfriends are available. Sometimes someone just gets left out, but we try to decide when everyone can be there, even if the date is before or after the birthday. Email and text messages make planning easier, too.
- Time: When deciding the time, consider what food you want to serve. Do you want your party to be at a certain mealtime or an afternoon party with just cake and ice cream? Again, you'll need to consider when everyone is available.
- Place: Part of the first step is also deciding where to have your party. Our family rotates between houses and sometimes we have the birthday parties for the kids at local businesses. Examples of activities we've chosen for parties are: Putt-Putt Golf, Ice Skating, Roller Skating, Bowling, Horseback Riding, Tubing at the Snow-Plex, and Swimming at the pool. We've also had a couple of Tea Parties at local tea rooms for the girls. Most of the time, however, we have our parties at someone's home.
Hint: While you're doing this, go ahead and make a tentative guest list to use in Step 3 while you're at it.
Now that you've decided on the date, time, and place, you are ready to decide on the theme.
The Key Is to Plan Ahead!
The most important thing to remember is to plan ahead! You will have less stress if you start planning your party at least one month in advance.
2. Party Theme
The reason I suggest deciding the theme early on is it could be a key factor in choosing your invitations. Also, you will want to tell your guest what the theme will be.
If this is a birthday celebration is for a child, they've probably already let you know what they want for their theme. If not, you can discuss it with other family members and come to a decision. Depending on the age of the honoree, you may not even have a theme. My son is 43 years old now, and he still wants a themed cake for his birthday!
These days there are decorations, tableware, and favors available for almost anything you can think of, and for any age. Have fun with this, or stay low key.
3. Guest List
The guest list is an important step because it will give you an idea of how many people might be coming to your party and you can plan the food amounts accordingly. And, of course, you'll need a list for sending invitations so you don't forget anyone.
Now that you know the date, time, place, theme and guest list . . . it's time to get your invitations ready. Below are a couple of tips.
- Invitation choices: Send your invitations so they will be received at least two weeks in advance. (No later than one week.) These days, we can use text messages or email to invite guest, but I still love the old fashioned paper invitations! The little card can be stuck on the fridge as a reminder. Or send a reminder text a couple of days before the party date. Everyone is so busy these days, they tend to forget things. Add an RSVP if you need to know a headcount beforehand.
- Tell your guest the theme: I always tell the guest what the theme is, and sometimes suggest that they wear clothes that would be appropriate. For example, for a western theme, suggest that guest wear their western shirts. If you don't have a theme, you might suggest casual or dressy clothes. If the theme happens to be something the birthday child really loves, this gives the guest a good idea for a gift. (For example, a Barbie party would suggest giving a Barbie related gift.)
Below are a few pointers about choosing your party menu.
Tips for Choosing a Menu
- Consider the time of day: The food is one of the most important planning steps and something you'll need to consider when deciding the time of your party (as mentioned above) . . . or vice versa. My best tip for any menu is to plan it well ahead, write it down, and make a grocery list of all ingredients you'll need. Shop early for anything you can get ahead of time. Prepare and freeze anything you can. Don't be afraid to ask for help from other family members. Our family always pitches in and everyone brings an assigned food. It really makes the day more fun.
- Decide on the food: After you decide what type of food you want to serve, sit down and make a list of dishes or refreshments that fit. Choose your menu from that list. For example, if you're having a Baseball theme at lunchtime, you might want to serve hot dogs with all the trimmings, and popcorn, peanuts, and cracker jacks! For Western, you would need Chili, of course. If you time it for the afternoon, you could just serve potato chips, nuts, mints, ice cream, and birthday cake. In the evening, you might want to serve heavy hors d'oeuvre. You get the idea.
My favorite party menu includes ham biscuits, chicken salad on croissant rolls, cheese ball and crackers, veggie tray and/or fruit tray with dip. And, in our family, it isn't a birthday party unless you have party mints and peanuts to eat with your ice cream and cake, no matter what else you serve.
Relax, give it some thought, and you'll do fine.
6. Birthday Cake
You can't have a birthday party without a cake! If you're going to make the birthday cake yourself, get prepared ahead of time. You may need to pick up (or order) a topper or decorations for the cake.
If you're planning to order it from a local bakery or grocery store, be sure and order early. I worked in a bakery for 24 years, and I know that you can't always get what you want if you wait until the last minute. So, take heed, and get it done early.
Remember These Birthday Cake Tips:
- Order Early
- Don't forget the candles!
- Take a picture of the cake before you cut it.
7. Party Decorations
Decorating is a personal preference. Some people might want to go all out, and others keep it simple. The type of party, the age, and the desires of the birthday person are the deciding factors.
Decorating Ideas for Your Party
I've never invested a lot of money on decorations, but tend to use the same birthday banner over and over. If the grand-kids want a theme, I generally get the napkins and dessert plates in that theme and then add a matching solid color for the larger plates. But, there have been times when I decorated to the max!
For those of you who love to decorate, there is a wide selection of decorations in almost any theme you can think of, and any budget. You can also use things you already own. For example, if your child loves Star Wars, and has a lot of those toys and figures, set them about in the room as decorations. Posters make great decorations also and can be used later in your child's room or in the den.
5 Things You Can Use for Decorations:
- Themed party plates, napkins, etc.
- Birthday banner
- Toys or collectibles
- Birthday cake
These are also a personal choice of the birthday person and yourself. The age of the guest and the theme would dictate the type of games or activities included.
Tips for Fun Activities
- If this is for a child, you will probably want a few simple games. For example: Pin the Tail on the Donkey and Hot Potato are classics that every kid loves.
- If this is a Western theme, you should plan sack races and a game of horseshoes.
- If this is for an adult, you might not want any activities. Of course, a Casino theme will certainly involve card games, so it will depend on your choices.
Recently, our family has started playing Charades, using an iPhone app, at almost all of our parties. We've had lots of fun and laughs playing this game! It includes different themes from which to choose, like Halloween, Christmas, and Birthday.
Plan Age-Appropriate Activities
These funny glasses will make a fun photoshoot activity for any age!
The birthday boy (Cleverly Disguised as an Adult) in this picture is my son-in-law, surrounded by all of his girls: wife, daughter, mother, sister, and two nieces.
You can also purchase a photo stand-in at a reasonable price. If it's a large party, you might consider renting a photo booth to have at your party. Your guest will love it!
A List Will Keep You Focused
I always make 2 To-Do Lists so I won't forget anything:
1. Things I need to do
2. Things I need to buy
A Little Extra Help
Below are two videos that gives some quick tips on planning your party. Some ideas are the same as you've read here, but everyone has their own personal thoughts and this video is well worth sharing with you.
Video: How To Plan a Party Like an Expert
Video: How To Plan a Party Regardless of Budget
To summarize, I've given you 8 easy steps for planning your party, including time & place, theme, guest list, invitations, menu, birthday cake, decorations, and activities. The most important advice being: start early and make lists. All of this together will help you to experience much less stress when the party date arrives. Best wishes for a fun party.
Questions & Answers
© 2009 Faye Rutledge