Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Where to Host a Birthday Party (Tips and Ideas)

Welcome back to my {Budget} Birthday Party Planning 101 series! Last week, we talked about choosing a theme. Today, we're going to look at venues; where to host the party. I hope you'll join me and share your own experiences in the comments section!
Tips on Choosing a Birthday Party Venue, from Serenity Now blog

Party venues can be a tricky business because when you're planning a party on a budget, renting out the local day spa for 24 of Janey's dearest friends and spending $30 a pop for pedicures just isn't wallet-friendly for most of us. But hosting a spa party at home certainly can be. And sometimes we just have to weigh our time and stress levels versus what we are willing to spend. It's all about being creative!

With the exception of your party theme, make sure you think about your venue first! Sometimes they go hand-in-hand: luau at a pool, bowling at the bowling alley, golfing at the mini-golf place, etc.
ice skating party: source

luau pool party: source

bowling alley birthday: source

Hosting at home is usually the least expensive way to go. If your child's birthday falls during the warmer months, you can utilize your back yard, particularly if your home is on the small side, like mine. But hosting at home can also be stressful, particularly during the holidays.

1. Is your home too small to accommodate a large group?

Consider hosting a smaller party! A radical statement, I know.

I'm not sure when or how birthday parties evolved into productions with whole families invited and meals and favors and 45 kids present. I've seen many a birthday child (or guest!) have a melt-down because the whole scene was just too chaotic. If you can afford to host a bunch of neighborhood families and your child will be comfortable with a big crowd, or if you have a large family, then go for it. Especially for a 1st birthday...such a milestone!

I used to think that if we didn't have a big party with a cook-out and outdoor pinata (in January?) and lots of kids and games and balloons, then we had failed as parents. But my children are just as content with the 5 to 10 guests than if I had invited 25. Now that the girls are older, moms drop the friends off, and we have a blast for a couple of hours. Very low-key. A small party is okay! Repeat, a small party is okay!

2. If your home is too small to comfortably host a large group (or any group!), look into partying somewhere else:

A close relative's home, a park, bouncy house place, indoor sports facility, playground, dance studio, farm, ice skating rink, bowling alley, art studio, kids' chef academy, favorite restaurant or dessert place, etc.

Yes, many of these spots cost money, but sometimes it is worth the extra cost to save your sanity! With Natalie's December birthday, her ballet studio party and American Girl Store bistro lunch party were a life-saver for me. I didn't have to stress about decorating my home for a holiday and a party. The facilities planned events, food, etc. It was worth it to me to be able to enjoy my girl's birthday as well as the holiday season without turning into a scary mommy.

3. Check out the location before you book a party!

Websites don't always display the best photos. That "petting zoo" may be a three legged goat and some cranky geese. Things may look different in reality, and it may not work as well as you would think for your child or situation.

4. Ask questions

-How much is the deposit? Is it credited to your party total?

-What's their policy on outside decorations? Some venues don't allow them, and some are unable to accommodate the kind or amount of party decor you want to use. Local park pavilions and playgrounds don't often have walls to hang banners or posters on. You'll have to get creative.

-Is there a limit or minimum number of guests?

-Are there any "extras" (invitations, thank you notes, favors)

-Do they provide food or drink? If not, what are you allowed to bring in?

-What kind of activities will be planned?

-How long will you have use of the facility? Is there extra time to set up and clean up?

Once you've made the decision to host at home or book a local hot-spot, you can move forward. Next week, we'll chat about invitations!

Any favorite destinations for kids' parties, or do you love hosting at home?

*You can read from the beginning of the series here.

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  1. I love home parties but because we can never trust the weather in September and October we end up using indoor play areas etc... which at least means no clean-up.

  2. Great tips! In my day job, I've found that some venues don't allow outside food, but will allow outside desserts or cake for parties. This is helpful for birthdays. Also, I'd mention that even if a location doesn't allow outside food, don't count it out. I've often told a location my budget (even if it's way lower than what they have listed in their menus) and ask them what they can do with it. Sometimes, this goes really well and you end up with a unique menu or snacks or apps that you wouldn't have considered.

  3. Home! Definitely home!! It's a bit of extra work, but very much worth it in my opinion. And honestly, the kids don't care if things aren't perfectly decorated--they just want to play with their friends!

  4. I'm a HOME person for sure, I can set-up weeks in advance and worry about the looong clean up later. :-)

  5. Great ideas, Amanda! I prefer doing parties at home & we've done all kinds of fun things: Princess/Dress up, Bounce house, Play party (the year the b-day girl got a play structure), Carnival games (3 legged race, etc, with prizes), Dora Theme (pin the backpack on Dora), sleepover where we did the girls' nails.

    My daughter just turned 11 and this yr we were out of town on the weekend we would have had her party so I planned it for after school on an early release day and invited the # of kids I could fit in my car (6) and brought them all home to ride bikes, play and eat cake. SOOO easy and low key. I find it getting easier as she gets older.


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