Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Birthday Parties For the Rest of Us

If you spend much time on blogs or looking at magazines nowadays, it seems party planning is reaching the status of Olympic sport.
Or more so.
Like way, crazy more so.
Parties, especially kids' birthday parties, have gotten a little over the top.

Oh yes, they are inspiring to look at.  Beautiful.  Clever.  Adorable.  Sometimes even amazing.
And, truth be told, I do dream of throwing a party like that for my kids.
But, as I mentioned in this post, parties are expensive and time consuming.
I don't have a $400 budget for a birthday party.
I don't even have a $150 budget.
Nor do I have gobs of time on my hands.
I'm just a 35 week pregnant Mommy of 3, who is awfully tired every night, and working with a real life party budget, who still wants to throw a great birthday party for her kids.
Is it possible?
Check it out: A Birthday Party For the Rest of Us

When my boys decided they wanted a space party, I perused the internet and some magazines for ideas.
There were lots.
But in the end, I came back to my tried and true party planning methods.

1.  Choose a color palette.
Turquoise and red seemed an obvious choice for a space party.  Lots of space themed things come in those colors.  But more importantly, I have lots of table ware, paper and other decorations in those colors. 
Choose a color palette you already love, then you won't have to buy new things.  
(i used the same color palette for Lilly's party last year--see here)

2.  Yarn and Paper make simple, inexpensive and fun decorations.
We always have yarn around our house.  It is good for a myriad of things.  Like garlands.
Making a garland with paper is faster and easier than sewing one.  Simply cut out flags or hole punch circles, and string on some yarn.  
I already had all of the paper on hand, because I look for paper in my color palette on clearance at Michael's or other crafty stores.  
After the party, I save the pieces for use at another time.  I can mix and match or simply re-use.

This garland I made from coasters by one of my favorite shops.  I found them in the clearance bin at a craft fair.  Since they were in one of my favorite color palettes, I knew I'd use them later.  
A hole punch, some yarn and photocopied 5s and 7s were all it took to make these up.

Aaron found this Nasa logo online, printed and laminated a bunch of them.
Again, a hole punch and some yarn and voila, badges for our guests.

 3.  Goodie Bags don't have to be extravagant
When you are making goodie bags for 20 kids, you can easily spend a small fortune.  I want to give the kids something to take home, but if I spend even $10 on each bag, I have far exceeded my budget.
To decorate the bags, I used plain paper bags for the goodie bags.  I stamped them with a 5 and 7 stamp I already had.  The Saturn stamp I found for $2 in a clearance basket at Paper Source.  I bought it, knowing it would come in handy some day.

Inside the bags, I put 3 small lollipops, because kids love getting candy in the goody bags, but parents don't love them getting candy in the goody bags.
These small lollies seem like a good compromise.
I also included a coloring sheet.   It's really a place mat my mother-in-law- gave the boys and I saved.  Again, knowing it would come in handy one day.  We just copied it, rolled it and tied it with yarn.
The other sheet is a paper airplane with directions to fold and fly it printed on the back.
I can't remember where we got them, but we have a ton.  James loves to make them.  But the other guests, parents included, found them a little challenging.  Oh well, the look cool.

4. Decorate with what you have
I admit this was easy for us. We seem to have a lot of space themed items around our house.
And a lot of them are vintage since we have quite the love affair with vintage.
I just went shopping around the house to find the other decorations for the party.

We put together little vignettes around the yard.  
Aaron made this one.  
The thermos is part of his collection and what says space more than an American flag? 

I also gathered together many of the space books we have on hand  and set them out for decorations and for the kids to read.  They were a big hit.

I used them to decorate the table, as well as some of the kids space themed toys.

5.  Don't go crazy with the food.
I saw lots of space themed food.  Some of it was weird and the kids would never eat it.  Or it was so time consuming you would be up all night making alien shaped, green sandwich cookies.
Just pick a few of the things you know kids will like best, some things the adults will enjoy also, and cut yourself some slack.
 I always make a big batch of my hummus and serve veggies.  Fresh strawberries are a sweet treat and feel more special than a bowl of grapes.  Potato chips and onion dip are a treat too, for kids and grown-ups alike.  And what kid doesn't like cheese crackers?
I serve lemonade and iced tea, along with water.  
I usually pick a couple items to make from scratch and purchase the rest.  Most everything else requires little or no prep.
That's helpful when you are getting ready for a party, right?

6.  Don't stress yourself out with the games.  
The boys wanted to do a shooting gallery with their Nerf guns.  Aaron found a bunch of space themed art, put point valued on them, printed and laminated them.  We hung them on the garage and throughout the party, kids just came up and enjoyed the shooting gallery.
It was easy and required little supervision.

 We had a couple other games planned, but it seemed most kids wanted to climb the tree, run around or ride the swing.  So we went with it.  
My dad, Aaron's dad and Aaron all put in a lot of time pushing kids on that swing.  
It's always a big hit.

7.  Sometimes you forget things
Usually, I like to make little flags or some other kind of decoration for the cupcakes.  But this time, I didn't remember until the morning of.  So the cupcakes got blue sprinkles.  (boys' choice)
I did make the cupcakes and the frosting, because I am kind of a stickler about that.
(fine--I'm a total freak--I hate frosting from a tub and will always make it myself.  so shoot me.)

8.  Don't wait for everything to be perfect or you'll never have a party.
This one used to be really hard for me.
I'd want to make sure that the whole house was "done", all the flower beds planted, each window sparkling and so on and on and on before we'd have a party.
Now a days, that just isn't realistic.  
We're in the middle of a lot of home renovation projects.  So yes, our back wall is still a bunch of colors.  So is our front wall.  (i'm sure our neighbors love us)  And maybe the bedroom windows did not get washed, but no one is really looking in there anyway, right?  
When I have a full staff on hand to help me prep for a party, everything will be perfect.
Until then, everything will be real.

I do love to have parties, for my kids and all other sorts.  
It is actually fun for me.
But it is more fun when I have a system and tried and true tricks that make it work.
Then it's a lot less stress and a lot more fun.
So tell me, what are your party planning tips?
I'm always on the look out for new ideas.
Love from,


Katie @ minivan diva said...

You know I love throwing parties of any kind. I never thought of making a banner that way. Since I don't sew, I'm thrilled to see it. My boys have those paper airplanes too. Looks like everyone had a blast (pun intended). : )

Anonymous said...

Party perfection! I love that you "shop" around your house for decorating items! Vintage home-shopped items + best color pallet ever = one awesome party! Love it!

Netta said...

What a picture-perfect party! Thanks for sharing. We're big fans of a simply picking a theme & then being creative w/what we already have. Great inspiration. Thanks!

JStacie said...

Love the space theme. I have a little boy and a husband who is an armchair astronaut. Love the picnic table. I am looking for something very similar. Do you mind sharing where you got it?