If pregnancies and births could be scheduled like appointments on the calendar, my kids wouldn’t have been born during the months of June and August. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, our family juggles planning the kids’ birthday parties in the midst of more than 10 family birthdays, vacations, holidays, and family reunions. It’s difficult, but I need to find a way to pull together a fantastic party with very little time.
It seems that as the years go by, our time is limited even more. For example, this weekend, we spent all day Saturday at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore for their annual Brew at the Zoo fundraiser. I don’t think the Husband thought at all about how busy our upcoming schedule is while he sampled local brews and picnicked with the kids.
The kids definitely didn’t care about how many hours it would take to pull off their birthday parties, while they wandered around, looking for every possible animal there.
On Memorial Day, we had our neighbors over to enjoy some time in our newly redone backyard. It was so much fun being able to hang out at our new bar while the husband cooked vegetables and burgers. No one cared that the afternoon was gray and threatened to storm at any moment…or that I’ve got a stack of projects to get started and three parties to plan!
But it was never far from the back of my mind. You see, I have a tendency to want to go overboard with the crafting and homemade baking for the parties we host. This often leads to extra stress and disappointment when things don’t turn out the way I envision.
With only a few weeks until L’s birthday party, I decided that this would be the year I wouldn’t be racing around finishing up and photographing parties as guests arrive. This year, I’m learning from my past mistakes, and using a new system to help make party planning easier for both me and the family.
10 Steps to Make Party Planning Easier:
- Start early, but not too early. Aim to start planning your event about six to eight weeks in advance. Generally, invitations should be sent to out of town guests at least four weeks in advance; six weeks is best. Starting to plan a party more than six to eight weeks in advance, however, can lead to the rut of wanting to do too much.
- Have a brainstorming session (or two). Sit down once to come up with your budget, party theme/colors, time of day, number of guests, menu planning, decor, and set-up. Before finalizing any decor or food plans, go shopping to get an idea of what’s available and what inspires you, but don’t buy anything yet. Add whatever ideas you came up with to your brainstorming notes.
- Make a checklist of projects. Go through your brainstorming notes and pick your favorites, making a checklist of all the projects that need to be done. Estimate how much time and money each project will take to complete. If you’re hosting the party at your house, don’t forget to include checklist items for cleaning.
- Prioritize your party plan. Choose just one area to spend your time and energy on. Again, choose just one area to DIY. Do you want to make awesome decor, or do you want to create delicious food? Unless you have a large group of people helping to put it all together, don’t try to do both.
- Eliminate the projects that aren’t in line with what you chose to prioritize. Replace those projects with something store-bought or simplified. Remember, you can have the most incredible idea ever, but if you don’t have the time to execute that in addition to everything else, it’s likely to be more stressful than impressive. Find a place to keep notes of your ideas, and modify it for another occasion.
- Make use of what works for you. Aim to fill at least 50% to 75% of your checklist with your tried-and-true recipes/projects. If you’ve made something before, you’ll know how much time, effort, and cost will be needed to get it done. Chris, from Celebrations at Home shared how she keeps track of these with her party journal. It’s a great way to keep track of not just what works and what doesn’t, but also to keep track of special memories.
- Be flexible, if it means simplifying your event. When you’re out shopping, take a look at what stores have that might be a good replacement for something you had planned. For example, I was out at Target the other day and happened to find a snack that will fit in perfectly with L’s party theme, and will take little-to-no time to prepare. I snatched up a couple bags and merrily replaced a homemade snack option with what I purchased.
- Get started early on projects that can be made in advance. Have a craft that you want to make and use for the party? Aim to have all crafts done 10 days in advance of the party. That way the rest of the time can be spent on cleaning and food preparation.
- Have a backup plan. All my kids were born in the summer, which means I try to plan almost all of their parties outside. But sometimes they get rained out, and that’s just fine. I’ve always got a plan in mind for how to set up our party if it has to get moved indoors. Outdoor activities are easily replaced with indoor party games, board games, or even free play with your kids’ toys.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. The most important thing is that you and your guests have a wonderful time. Don’t try to overwhelm yourself with too much. People won’t always remember what the decorations looked like or what food was served, but they will remember if you’re too stressed to spend time with them.
When you think about it, this system is pretty simple. The most important things to remember are to have the self-control to limit projects and stick with the plan. As long as I can do that, these 10 simple steps will make our family much more prepared for our summer parties whether we have 3, 5, or 10 birthdays to celebrate.
When does your family have the most birthdays during the year?
How do you make party planning easier?
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