When my daughter turned one we had to host over thirty people at our church because we didn’t have enough space in our house. Had to is a strong word. I didn’t have to invite extended family and our entire small group. But come on, my baby was turning one. Everyone came because they wanted to be included in her special moment.
After, however, I said never again. It was so much work, and a lot of money—and I will tell you that I didn’t even go all out on food or decorations or even get her a gift—for a celebration that was fun, but she’ll never remember. I am not a natural hostess that lives for that type of thing. And I do not have the gifts to plan a huge event and enjoy it.
I don’t even know how we’re going to plan her wedding. But she’s currently years away from having to think about that, and maybe she’ll want to elope or something.
But when she turned two, not only did I have my newborn son on my hands, I also didn’t want to blow it out of the water again. I definitely wanted to celebrate, to acknowledge her, but I couldn’t go and spend the amount I did last time.
So, before I share what I did for my little girl’s special day, I’ll share a few points on how to simplify birthday parties if you also feel overwhelmed by all the Pinterest boards and expectations.
What to do
- Keep the guest list small. We still had about 17 people at our house including kids, and that wasn’t everyone we invited. Still, this year we limited it to family, and at least it meant we could have it at our house. If you don’t want to move the party out of your living quarters, keep the guest list to what you can handle in your home, especially if weather dictates where you can go.
- Have the party in the afternoon. Go for a time around 2 or 3. It’s late enough that people will eat lunch beforehand and early enough that you’ll end before people need to eat dinner. Not that you don’t love people enough to feed them food, but to include a meal means a lot more work and money. For a little kid’s party this is harder, because a lot of them nap in the afternoon. We set the party for 2:30pm and had to wake Alice. In retrospect I would have set the party back to 3pm to give her a little more sleep.
- Put on some nice background music and limit decorations to one little area of the house. If people bring presents that will make another area of your house look like it’s ready for a party, but if you limit your decorating to, say, the cake table and then throw up a few streamers over the dining room table—again, you’ve spent less time and less money. And the music will help any dead space.
- If the weather permits, throw out a lawn game or two you already own or can borrow if you think the adults will want something to do. Bubbles are an easy entertainment for kids if you don’t have a playset or appropriate toys, but chances are that they’ll play with the birthday kid’s presents. If it’s a kid’s party.
- Go simple and store-bought if you have to. I love this saying: “you don’t have to make it, you just have to make it happen.” Sure, people love homemade, but they’re there to celebrate with you, not just sample your homemade wares. What about all the allergies? If you want to make or buy something someone else can also enjoy, you’re welcome to. A simple fruit salad is also good, too, and is the healthiest alternative to birthday cake.
- Outsource! If people want to bring something, let them! Just don’t be tacky and expect them to bring things. My mom always loves helping to plan and prepare food, so I usually let her. Also, she’s an amazing cook. So really, everyone wins.
Again, if you love planning parties and throwing extravaganzas are your thing, this list isn’t for you. But if you’re like me and you need a way to simplify a birthday party (or any party) before you vow to never plan anything ever again, then I hope these tips helped calm your brain like they did mine.
And now, what did we do for our daughter’s last birthday?
A donut party!
I purchased the donuts from a local (and delicious) bakery. My mom made homemade glaze and brought several types of sprinkles for people to decorate their own donut.
I decorated the donut bar and above the dining room table, and that was it. We had a decorative grate on our wall that showcases pictures and mementos, so we cleared that and covered it with pictures of our girl as well as some of her handiwork.
And that was it! People came for a couple hours to hang out, watch our daughter open presents, and eat donuts. And everyone thought it was brilliant.
My only regret is that there weren’t enough leftovers.