Birthday Party Lessons Learned

We had Ella’s birthday party yesterday.  Her birthday isn’t until May 12th, but with Mother’s Day and us vacationing in Hawaii, this was the best weekend to do it.   We went to Adventureplex. If you’re in the South Bay area, well worth going.  Think of a giant McDonald’s playland structure except nice with padded floors and beams, not plastic, and fully enclosed in netting.  You go, let the kids go, sit back,  and don’t see them again for two hours.  Plus there’s a nice area for kids under three.

We used to have the girls’ parties at our house.  No more, my friends.  We had Sammy’s third birthday party somewhere else, and from now on they will be getting done somewhere else until the girls want to plan their own or have just a couple friends over for a sleep over.  Here’s why.

1. No Prep Work

I make a phone call or e-mail, get some paperwork to fill out, pay a deposit, and that’s it. No buying paper goods, no ordering a cake, no figuring out the food, no lugging drinks, no calling for entertainment and figuring out what I’m going to do to keep these kids busy for a couple hours.

2. No Cleaning

In and of itself  is reason enough.  I don’t have to clean beforehand and I don’t have to clean up after. Just show up and leave, leave the cleaning to someone else.

3. No Decisions About the Decorations

Kids parties need a theme.  I don’t know who makes these rules, but that’s a pretty hard and fast rule. When they’re at our house, I have to go, with the birthday child to the party store and pick out a theme.  There are too many choices.  Princesses? Which one? All of them, just Tianna, just Cinderella, maybe the fairies, or just Tinkerbell, and why don’t they have just Belle?  Because someone always wants just Belle and then I have a temper tantrum.  Then I have to get the plates, matching napkins, cups, and whatever else they have that goes with the theme.

Not so when I go elsewhere.  Sure, I have to decide on a theme, but it’s like Princesses or Fairies.  Then they get the appropriate decorations.  Much easier.

4. No Stragglers

These parties are efficient. Two hours. That’s it. They get you in, let the kids play, serve the food, serve the cake, hand you a goodie bag and you’re done.  At your home, people feel welcome to stay for, well, forever. Even if you put a time frame down, they still stay late.  They never leave. And then my kids are tired and cranky, and I’m tired and cranky, and there’s a mess to clean up, and I have to be nice.

5. The Cost

Here’s the thing.  When it gets down to it, it really is an even exchange cost wise when you factor in all the supplies you have to buy to have it at your own house.  All the decorations and food and goodie bags and cake add up quickly. If you hire any entertainment or rent a bounce house or something, you’re pretty much at the same price.  Might as well have it somewhere else.

6. The Weather

Ella and Sammy have  May and June birthdays.  You’d think we’d have great weather both those times in Los Angeles.  Nope. It’s too hot or it’s too cold to be outside and then you have irritable guests when you decide they have to suck it up and go out because there’s just not enough room inside. Have it somewhere else that’s big enough to contain the whole group and climate controlled.

7. The Goodie Bags

Am I the only one that hates trying to figure out what to put in these things? I’m just no good at it. Some people give out these great, personalized items, but that’s just too much work for me to figure out.  I wind up with lame whistles and balls and junk.  The stuff the party places  give out is junk too, but at least no one thinks I bought it, and no one’s mad at me for handing out a whistle.

8. The Food

Can I just say how much I love not having to cook or chop up fruit for a birthday party?  I love it. I just order what kind of pizza I want, maybe some extras depending on the location, and that’s it. Taken care of. I even managed for Ella’s party not to order an excessive amount of extra food.  There may have been one occasion where I came home with 6 extra pizzas, 2 trays of wraps, a tray of fruit,  2 different salads, and half a cake.  And that was after I sent home food with the guests.  The people at Sean’s work were very happy the next day.  Now I’ve got it down and this time  I only came home with 6 pieces of pizza and 3 small pieces of cake.  Plus a whole salad. I only ordered one, so note to self, no one eats the salad.

9. The Just Show Up Factor

Know what I did yesterday before the party?  I worked out, went to Panera Bread for lunch, put Penny down for a nap, played on our new iPad (more on that later), showed my mom the new clothes I bought the other day.  Then I went to the party.  That’s it. No running around trying to get things set up and get the food ready and set out and running to pick up the cake and blowing up balloons.  I just showed up.

And that is why I will no longer have parties at our house.  It’s just not worth it.

Do you do birthday parties at your house?  Do you enjoy it? Did I leave anything off my list?

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About Jessica Anne

11 Responses to “Birthday Party Lessons Learned”

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  1. Moomser
    Twitter: moomser

    My kids are small enough that we still have parties at home (as the guests are still mostly adults), but I will definitely heed your advice for the future!!
    Moomser´s last post ..Ten things I want to teach my son

  2. Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli
    Twitter: kristinglas

    Friend, we are going to have to agree to disagree on this.
    We’ve done the math many times with many options and an off site bday party, here, is twice the price.
    But I don’t do themes. We don’t really have themes here.

    • Jessica Anne says:

      If you’re saving on the theme decorations, you might be doing it less expensively. Or if you have a lot of kids coming. We were shocked when we did the math and figured out how much we were spending doing it at home and that we could do it elsewhere less expensively.

  3. Suzan
    Twitter: Weaaring_A_Tiara

    My children have the same birthday 2 years apart. They are not twins. (My husband is a twin and he did not like sharing a birthday) So, we always had birthday weekend, with one party at home and one party out, rotating whose was in and whose was out each year. The home parties did get easier as the kids got older.

    Suzan’s “Life is Better in a Tiara”

    • Jessica Anne says:

      That’s a great idea! My sister-in-law has twin boys, I’ll have to remember that for when they decide they don’t want to share a party anymore. I’m really looking forward to the older kid parties, they seem like less work and more fun.

  4. Amanda says:

    This was a really great read and very helpful. The only birthday parties I have thrown was when my oldest daughter turned one and then two – and this was really a party for the adults and not the kid. My oldest keeps getting invited to her classmates’ parties and I have a feeling that this subject will be brought up when it’s time for her next birthday. I also had a feeling that bounce-house type places are the way to go. Now I have plans to convince my husband of this fact too. (And I think it would be especially in places like Seattle. My middle daughter’s birthday is in early July and there is STILL no guarantee that the weather here will be nice.)
    Amanda´s last post ..Different Styles

    • Jessica Anne says:

      Glad you found it helpful. :) Once there are other children involved, the work for a home party seems to increase exponentially. My husband was a hard sell, too, but when he realized it wasn’t more expensive and I wasn’t a crazy person trying to get everything ready, he relented.

  5. Y-Vonn says:

    Hi Jessica – Jason’s birthday party has been mostly at home when we used to live in a bigger house with a large front yard (you could put 2-1/2 bounce houses on the lawn and 6 adult party tables and still have room to roll around on the grass. Then he turned 5 and wanted it at (pre) school and this year as 6, it’s at a public park….still with a theme….still party favors….no theme specific paper goods though….and more party guests than ever (25 boys + 10 girls). Our menu stays the same – birthday noodles (my mom’s recipe), fresh fruit salad, non-alcoholic champagne or sangria punch. Birthday cake by another grandma.

    • Jessica Anne says:

      35 kids! Oh my gosh! You are a brave woman :). Having a set menu is a great idea. I can never remember what we had other than the cake. The kids will have a blast I’m sure, wish we could make it.


  1. […] Plus, I didn’t have to clean up, one of the many reasons I don’t have parties at my house. […]