Monday, March 25, 2013

Birthday Parties: Who are We Impressing?

Last week, I announced the start of a new series here at Serenity Now, Birthday Parties 101. The series is a how-to on birthday party planning...from start to finish. (You can read more about it here.) We're going to look at ways you can plan a memorable party for your child, without spending a ton of money. But before we get into all the fun and creative stuff, I think it's important to look at our motivations behind why we plan celebrations for our kids. Let's encourage each other this week, shall we? Birthday parties should be fun, not stress or guilt-inducing!

I'll be the first to admit that it can be very very easy to get swept away with party planning. I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to entertaining and party ideas. Part of my job for the BOTB series at Centsational Girl is to browse other blogs and websites and find inspiring ideas to share with others. I'm constantly seeing beautiful projects that I would love to replicate. I've found myself eyeing supplies and goodies in stores and thinking, "Oh wouldn't it be just too cool to try this for the party?" and before I know it, I've spent more than I intended.


For a creative person, it's invigorating to see all of the fabulous ideas out there on the 'net. At first. After the 47th party idea you've bookmarked, it can sometimes begin to be a little overwhelming. You begin to wonder if the cupcake tower you planned will be cute enough and will Johnny be crushed because you didn't hire that elephant to give rides at your circus party? It becomes more of an issue of measuring up than creating a fun environment for the kids.

And that's where we have to pause and examine our motivations. 

Who am I throwing the birthday party for? 

Is it for my child?

Is it for the other moms?

Is it for my blog?

Birthday parties are an opportunity to celebrate the wonderful gift of life. A day to make my child feel special. Ultimately, it's up to me to decide whether she needs a mini roller coaster in the backyard to see how much I love her. 

Am I having the mini backyard roller coaster built because I know it will impress the other moms, look better than what I did last year, and guarantee me some high traffic blog days? Or am I having the mini backyard roller coaster built because I know it will blow her mind and I can do it without going into debt or stretching our budget too far?

It's so important for readers (both bloggers and non-bloggers) to remember that many of those gorgeous Pinterest images you see are styled and photographed specifically for a blog post or website. Sometimes a blogger is paid to use specific products, or they receive them from a company hoping for a shout-out. Often, we only see a small part of the picture. You may see a super-cute project in front of a lovely backdrop...but you don't see the mess on the other side of the room. 

Case in point, my kitchen sideboard:

Yet it clearly doesn't look like that here:

My point is, we don't always see the full reality online! Don't beat yourself up if you don't have the extra cash to recreate a stylish party set-up you've seen, whether it was on a blog, a party site, or Pinned on Pinterest. If you truly love the idea you spotted, but it doesn't fit your budget as-is, then think of ways you can change it up to fit your needs!

I try to ask myself whether or not I like the idea because I think it will impress the other moms or blog readers, or if it will really add to the enjoyment of the day for my child. That litmus test usually tells me whether or not I'm going overboard.

                                                                                          Source: Amanda on Pinterest

There's nothing wrong with planning a big party for your child if you can afford to, just like there's nothing wrong with doing a quiet dinner at home with family. It really all comes down to our inner-motivations. Do we hope to outdo ourselves and wow everyone, or do we want to celebrate our children and offer a fun time for guests? Birthday parties should be a time to cherish, not to stress and feel guilt over!

Do you struggle with feeling like you have to measure up come party time? How do you combat those feelings?

I'm still working out some details for the series...a fab blog friend made some great suggestions last week...I may expand it to include some features, a few guest posts, and an end-of-series link party. Hope you'll stop back by to stay updated!

If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, I hope you'll click your "Pin It" button to add this post to Pinterest, or a +1 for Google+. And I always appreciate kind comments. 


  1. It is fun to get inspiration for parties from Pinterest but in the end it comes down to personal priorities. And a lot of times those amazing ideas fall by the wayside and my efforts are a little less pin-worthy. That's ok with me, in the end hospitality is more important than atmosphere. I truly believe people enjoy feeling welcomed far more than they enjoy being dazzled by decor. I wrote about my expectation versus reality for my daughter's 6th birthday:

  2. Well said Amanda! I find myself needing to step back and remember to ask the kids what they want for their party, instead of just going all out with details they may not even notice, or like. This will be the first year my son has a party with his friends from school. His birthday is in the summer, so it's always just been family and our closest friends with kids his age. I'm so glad you are doing this series while I'm planning. I know it's going to be a big help to keep everything in perspective. Thanks!

  3. I know what you mean. My brother works at a kids entertainment center where he is constantly hosting parties and he is always asking me "Why do you moms always try to out do each other?" I think kids party planning has gotten a little out of control. My belief is ask the kids, have them choose from options you can afford. That's what I do with my three and it has always worked out well. Also I do as much DIY as I can so I can have $ for extras!

  4. Thanks for the statements, especially the first one! I really needed that today, although I do not do birthdays I do "parties" and need inspiration...


  5. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of real life in your blogs. Most blogs are so polished and perfect it just makes us "normal people" feel defeated when it comes to our own real homes and lives and the constant struggle with messes and life.

  6. Thank you for this post, Amanda! For me, it's really about being able to enjoy the party myself and not feel completely frazzled. Unfortunately, I almost always get into "make things as cute as possible" mode and wind up too exhausted to enjoy the party. No more! For the most part, I think kids and adults all enjoy spending time with friends and having fun more than adorable decorations and themed food. I have my almost-five year old's party coming up and I'm going to remind myself of this every day! Looking forward to this series!

  7. I have plenty of friends who spend well over $1000 for a toddler birthday party, but my rule is it has to be at home, easy for me, and less than $200 ($300 tops if I'm serving champagne to *my* friends). Plus I strongly dislike having my kids receive a ton of presents they don't need, so I usually request no gifts, and the kids still have a great time.

    We even threw a party 3 days after moving in, totally under construction, just ordered pizza, beer, and a cake from the grocery:)


    ps- happy to see you "fighting back" against all these crazy super-styled kid parties!

  8. It's definitely easy to spend too much. Truly, I enjoy the planning process so much that it's more for me than anyone. I love seeing everything come together. But, I also know that it's one day and I need to get it together.

    Loving this series.

  9. I think it's sad that once a trend catches fire every party is the same, every project is the same, sometimes I have to make sure it's a different blog I am reading because everyone is making the same things and all the ChevronIkatCottageRustoleumCupcakesSubwayArtWashi starts to look the same. I am certainly guilty of that but I am at the point where I purposely do NOT look for ideas online until the broad strokes, so to speak, of the party are decided upon. Then I might see something and go, oh that would be cute as a last minute thing.

  10. Amen Amanda!

    Luckily ( or not), I SO ENJOY planning huge birthday parties for my kids! Problem is they're the ones out-growing parties already (I have a 12 year old)!

    My friends always ask me how much work I put into my decorating and planning, I am really honest and I say, A LOT. BUT, I do everything little by little at a time ( hence I cannot do any bday parties outside my home), and with that I finish and am satisfied that I gave it my best.

    I love birthday paties and I wish I was not "too old" for one, but I'm glad I have the time, "talent" and means to do it, and so I do! :-)

  11. What a fun series! I totally need this because I am the worst about going a little overboard with birthday parties. I think I mostly do it though because I know my boys will only be little {and let me plan fun themed parties} for a short time! I want to take advantage of that time as much as possible:)


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