Both my kids had birthdays recently, one on either side of Christmas so it is a really hectic time for our family. This past weekend, we had my son’s 2nd birthday party and finally the pressure is off.
I really do love hosting parties. I love to see the kids enjoying themselves and having a reason to get together with my friends. But… I am relieved when it’s finally over. It’s just stressful planning and preparing for upcoming events, especially so close to the holidays and travel.
But this party went extremely well. It flowed so easily, the kids and the adults mixed well, and I honestly was able to really enjoy myself while hosting. Shocking, right?
I’ve been trying to think of the reasons it went so well, because I would love to replicate it for every party from here on out. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
Spread Out the Cleaning
Cleaning is not my forte. There are a lot of areas that become dumping grounds that I targeted throughout the week and everyone knew not to fill them back up because of the party. Some areas needed to be re-cleaned right before the party (like the kitchen), but only a touch up was necessary.
Prep, Prep, Prep
Most of the major prep work had to be done in advance because my stepdaughter had her first communion and a celebratory brunch that morning. This turned out to be a blessing because there wasn’t too much to do on the actual morning of the party – which made me so much more relaxed and mentally prepared for entertaining the guests. I will definitely need to implement this rule for myself in the future.
My girlfriend offered to bake my son’s cake, which was delicious. She also crafted a gorgeous Toy Story themed topper that I can save for a memento that just deeply touched my heart. I tend to be horrible at both asking for and accepting help but this made it all worth it. I also accepted help with cutting bread and laying out snacks, as well as cleaning midway when we transitioned to cake time. It’s so easy for me to want to do it all, but it really helped to allow others to participate (and they didn’t really seem to mind). I think these roles are often done by family, but I don’t have that kind of support.
I know not everyone has this option, and many people don’t need this because they have family nearby. While my husband was attending his daughter’s communion, I had my sitter come for a few hours to help with the kids and last minute prep work like cutting veggies and kitchen cleanup. Just a couple of hours made a HUGE difference. This way, I was able to run out and get the food and the balloons without having to juggle the littles.
Use Simple Decorations
I like to keep it simple with decorations. We have a banner we re-use for every birthday party. We ordered themed balloons, one set of prepackaged table toppers, and cake plates/napkins. That’s it. I’ll dress the tables up with our neutral tablecloths, but for us this is all that is needed to make the house feel festive.
Use Catering Where It Makes Sense
Money or time is the question when it comes to catering. Luckily our local grocery store offers pretty economical catering so I did a mix. We did our own veggie/salad/cheese/fruit trays and I ordered entrée style foods from the store. It was simple to reheat and I was able to provide something a little different than my standard go-tos for parties. This took a lot of the burden off of me and kept the kitchen in decent shape.
Provide Easy & Mess-Free Activities
Our parties are always for the whole family, and the mix was about 50/50 adults to kids ranging from 1-13 years old. It is super hard to entertain that large of a range but we often do a divide and conquer strategy. I am wary of providing supplies that are extremely messy for parties in case I end up with artwork on the walls. I found these great scratch off pages and stylus sticks that that the kids loved and put out coloring books and washable crayons. My husband was in charge of playing a movie for the older kids in the basement.
Make Simple Gift Bags
I am always looking for a mix between inexpensive and useful, yet still age appropriate and fun. As usual, I hit up Amazon for their selection. These were all great hits. I didn’t mind overbuying on the Model Magic because we literally use this all the time for taking to restaurants and on long trips. It’s cheap enough that you can throw it out if it gets yucky and it’s less messy than Play-Doh.
I had such a wonderful time at my son’s 2nd birthday. With every smooth transition, I kept being reminded about how fortunate I am to have my support network and awesome friends. Most people have been coming to our house for years, so everyone reacquainted easily. I will definitely be keeping these lessons in mind for future parties to keep my stress levels down.
What helps you the most with party prep? Do you get the chance to enjoy yourself during parties?
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