I know, another year has gone by, and yes, it is time to plan your child’s birthday party. So where do you start? If you are like most people, coming up with a new idea for birthday party gets harder each year. It seems the older they get, the harder it is to find that party that will both excite them and match your budget.
The basic planning always starts with, who will be my guests? Will it be a family party, just your child’s friends and their parents, or just the child’s friends? Typically you will experience the early years being very family focused and a few friends to your child’s friends only as your children reach their teen years.
There are many birthday idea websites out there that categorize parties by themes, activities, and even by gender. A local site we think is really good, www.funnewjersey.com . Once you have selected the theme or activity type, it is time to start searching for the venue. Selecting a venue can be a daunting task.
Things to consider when selecting a venue:
1. Proximity of your guests to the location. Will you have each guest’s parent drive them? Or will you setup a car pool for driving? Or will you rent or hire a minivan or shuttle bus to transport your guests?
2. Is the venue the best location for the activity you have selected or does it have many activities and your specific activity is not their main focus? For example, if Theatrical plays were all the same then Broadway would not exist. Be sure to give your child the best experience even if is it more expensive or distant. Unfortunately, their birthday only happens once a year and they will always remember their birthday party.
3. Is your event the only event going on at the location, or will you be sharing the location with others? Will you have a reserved area for just your guests?
4. Will there be food included in the event? Can they accommodate unique dietary requirements for things like: vegetarians, peanut allergies, gluten-free and more? Will the venue provide a server or party host for your event?
5. Are there specific requirements for participating in the activity, and will all of your guests meet the requirements? For example, it is common to experience both height and age requirements to ensure participants will be safe when participating. If you go to an amusement park, you might need to map out your ride tour avoiding rides that might have height requirements that don’t match your guest’s sizes.
6. Can the venue accommodate my group size? You might have a very small event or a very large event, be sure that your venue will be able to host your group and still provide the amount of customer service that you require.
Once you have selected the venue you will need to start with inviting your guests. Will you use evites, printed invitations or does the venue provide another form or invitation? Don’t forget to check with your venue to find out if they need any type of permission slip or waiver to participate. If there is one required, include it in your invitation mailing. Be sure to give a reasonable time for your guests to respond and give yourself enough time to let the venue know how many guests you will have.
Party favors are also something you will need to select early, if you intend to create any type of customization to the favors. Many moms use Oriental Trading and Rhode Island Novelty to buy favors that are theme specific. With a little glue and glitter or colored markers, you can customize the items to specific guests. Don’t forget that most venues also offer favors, but most do not customize them. Sometimes you can purchase them from the venue ahead of time and customize them yourself.
About 10 days prior to the event date, be sure to order your cake or cupcakes for the special day. Certain times of the year bakeries are very busy. Another really cool addition to the cake can be the ability to have a photo imprinted onto the top of the birthday cake. It might be a great way to weave the theme into the party food.
The week of the event is typically a fairly busy time. You need to have your guest count, favors completed, date for cake pickup, and last minute errands completed to ensure the event goes smoothly. Be sure that you have provided your venue with your headcount and, in some cases, final payment is taken prior to the event. Ask the venue for the names of their staff that will be guiding your guests during the activity time and the food service time. Knowing the staff will allow you to determine how much money you will need to set aside as a tip for the staff.
The day of the event can be crazy, as emotions are flowing both from excitement and anxiety. Remember to give yourself enough time to get everyone together and to the venue on time. Before you leave the house make sure you have:
· Pad and Paper (you will use it)
· Guest list
· Waiver form(s) for participant(s)
Upon arrival to the venue, register your group with the venue. Be sure to update the venue if your guest headcount has changed since you last spoke with them. They may need to add additional place settings at a table, additional staff and possibly require additional equipment or supplies setup for your event.
At this point it is usually time for you to greet guests and allow the venue to do their part. If you want to, you can assist the venue in collecting any permission slips or waivers from our guests as they arrive. One important thing that you should focus on is collecting the birthday person’s gifts. It is very easy to have the gifts left behind as children are swept away with the excitement of the party. Within a few minutes of your arrival, the venue’s staff should be in charge of the children and keeping them entertained. My belief is that this is where venues separate themselves from their competition, does their staff connect well with your guests and are they immersing your guests in an enjoyable time? If you picked the right location, they will have the kids cheering and laughing from start to finish.
The kids will be playing for about 30 minutes to 60 minutes at most venues before returning them to a party area. This is probably the most important time during the event that you need to be involved. I think it is always a good idea to ask before any food is served if you might have missed anyone with any food requirements or allergies. Be sure to get a picture of the beautiful cake before it gets cut. Get a few pictures of the birthday person before the candles are blown out. When the kids get older it is often less likely that you will have a formal gift opening at the venue, but if your child does open any gifts, be sure to have a pad and pen available to write down what gift and who gave it to them. This will enable your child to customize their thank you notes to their guests.
Once your time is done and you are about to leave, check to be sure that your guests have not left any of their belongings behind. Be sure all of your guests have a ride home and that everyone had a great time. Don’t forget to give some feedback to the venue about your event.
Once you get home and open the gifts, there is only one thing left; the thank you notes. The rule in my house is that you have the first 24 hours to enjoy the gifts, but the thank you notes need to be completed in the following 24 hours. Don’t worry if the party wasn’t perfect, but make a note of what went wrong and fix it next time. The best part is you will have plenty of attempts to get it right. Good Luck!!
Written by Robert Peppard, Owner Fireball Mountain outdoor laser tag park