Thursday, October 22, 2015

Planning Birthday Parties

I love planning and hosting parties - birthday parties, dinner parties, brunches, and holiday parties.  My parties have some elements of those party pictures you've seen on Pinterest and Instagram, but are never going to be perfect with coordinating and handmade bunting, place cards, and paper straws.  I love the look of those things, but they aren't my top priority for throwing parties. My goal is to make people feel comfortable and welcome, and to serve good food.

We have had three birthday parties for E, with one coming up this weekend.  Planning each of these parties starts with the same thing - I create a document (I used to use Microsoft One Note on my old computer, now I use a Google Doc so I can work on it at home and at work), and have headings for: Theme, Guests, Food, Cake, Decorations, Activities, and Favours.  Then I brainstorm all my ideas, and check Pinterest for some "pin-spiration".  After each party, I have tried to change what didn't work, and build on what did.  I don't have any designs on throwing the "perfect" party and I'll always have new ideas for what will make it fun.

As the party approaches I schedule when each thing has to happen so that I'm not scrambling to get everything done the night before or the day of.  If I think about it in advance then I know what needs to be done when.

For E's first birthday party, we had a Cookie Monster theme.  I was on mat leave while I planned this one, so I was able to spend a bit more time on the party.  I handmade the invitations and colour coordinated the food.  We even had a Cookie Monster costume for E to wear.

Poor thing, not sure how he really felt about this.  It was really hot so we didn't make him wear it for long.

My mom decorated the cake.

Pin the cookie on Cookie Monster (not an easy game for one year olds, they liked the "balloon pit" much better)

Cookies and milk, and cookie monster plates

For his 2nd birthday we tried having the party outside at High Park.  With the number of people we wanted to invite, we knew our little townhouse couldn't handle it without feeling uncomfortable. It was a lot of work to get everything to the park and set up. Since E still napped at that time, Dave stayed home with him while I went ahead to the park to set everything up by myself.  We had a football theme with a football shaped cake with green cupcakes to serve as frosting.  We had all of our sports equipment with us and also let the kids play at the Jamie Bell playground.  I took zero pictures.

We moved into our new house 5 days before we hosted E's 3rd birthday so we tried to keep it pretty simple.  The general theme was cars.  Since we had lots of leftover cardboard boxes from moving, we had the kids design and create cars out of the boxes.  They did not end up looking like what I imagined, but I think the kids had fun painting and gluing.  I also made a cake with the Cars characters on it.

This year I thought about having another big party, but I knew that E really doesn't care if there are 15 kids here or 5, so we invited 5.  The theme is balloons, nothing flashy obviously, but playing the "keep the balloon off the ground" is one of E's favourite games, and again so simple.  We have a few balloon based games planned, and I've decided on layer cake with icing balloons with licorice strings.

Things I like to do for parties:

Give out cookies and small books for the party favours.   Everyone loves cookies and books have a longer (literal) shelf life than other little trinkets that you often get at parties.  In years past I've ordered custom cookies but this year I'm going to make my own.

Make dips to snack on.  My favourites are loaded baked potato dip, monster cookie dough dip, and guacamole.

Last year and this year the party is planned for over the supper hour so we can serve an actual meal and doesn't interfere with anyone who still naps.

Make and decorate the cake myself.

Be prepared with games to play but also go with the flow on the day of the party and realize we may not get to the games.

Have E open his gifts while people are here.

Next week I'll share details of E's 4th birthday party coming up this weekend.


  1. I like the cake you are making. And those dips look interesting. I want to try the loaded potato and the cookie dough ones. Have fun at the party!

  2. I love your idea of books as party favours! So much better than the little trinkets that cost the same amount of money once you're through...

  3. What awesome tips. Love your idea for part favours!!