So you have to plan your child’s birthday party. It can be overwhelming just to think about it. Where are you having it? What theme should you choose? Where should you get the cake? The list of questions to answer and the amount of things to do seem endless—and if you’ve never put together a birthday party before, you may not know all of the details that need to be decided or all of the things that need to be done. To help you with this daunting (but fun!) process, check out our comprehensive kids’ birthday party checklist to help you get you through your first birthday party planning experience.
Choose a date. This one’s simple. You can’t plan a party until you know when you’re having it! Start thinking about the date and time at least three months in advance, especially if you’re hoping to have the party at a popular venue or if you’re inviting out-of-town family. Make sure to choose a date and then a backup date or two—just in case. Some venues book as many as six months ahead of time, so the sooner you can confirm a date, the better.
Make a guest list. How many kids and adults will you be inviting? This number may determine venues you can and cannot choose due to the size of your party.
Decide on a venue. Once you know your date and number of guests, it’s time to figure out a venue! Using Kidz Central Station’s Best Kids’ Birthday Party Finder, you can quickly and easily search for the best party for your child using the criteria most important to you: neighborhood, type of party, number of kids, themes available, budget, and more! If you’ve decided to host the party at your home, you can search the site for entertainers who will come to you.
Find entertainment. If you’ve decided on a venue that provides entertainment, (i.e. The Art Farm in the City or 92Y) you’re all set unless you plan on bringing in outside performers for face painting, special treats, etc. If you’re hosting the party at your apartment or a party room, you may want to find an entertainer to engage the kids in music, art, or another activity for a portion of the party (i.e. Music with James). If you do plan on hiring entertainment, choose immediately after booking a venue to ensure your entertainer of choice is free on your party date.
Send out invitations. While some venues provide invitations as part of their party packages, many other do not. These days it’s easy to send out email invitations and track responses using sites like Paperless Post and Evite. If more traditional snail mail invites are more your style, you can personalize invitations with photos of your child on sites like Minted and Tiny Prints, order unique invitations from sites like Amazon or Etsy, or head to your local party store to check out the selection.
Choose decorations/theme. Now comes the fun part. What are your child’s interests? Sesame Street? Frozen? Pirates? Princesses? Some venues, like Creative Dream Parties, can customize your party to include your child’s favorite TV/movie character or interest. It’s important to ask your venue if they can accommodate special themes, or if you will have to bring your own special decorations.
Pick a cake. For many, the birthday cake is really important (and a source of stress). Factors such as taste, type, themes available, delivery options, and price can make it hard to choose the perfect cake. Grocery stores tend to have the most reasonably priced cakes, but may not be able to accommodate certain themes or have a huge variety of cake options. On the other hand, many boutique cake bakeries create extraordinary cakes to fit any theme or taste, but the cost may break your budget. Whatever route you choose, many bakeries need a fair amount of lead-time for your order, so decide on your cake early in the planning process.
Decide on food/paper goods. If you’re planning to serve a meal or light bites, you can decide this step a week or two out from your party. Many venues provide food for the kids—often pizza, water, and paper goods—and many others make you bring in your own. And, most places DO NOT include food and paper goods for adults, so you’ll have to decide on how much you want to cater to parents. Catering from a local grocery store or restaurant, or platters from Costco (or a similar store) are popular options, but if all else fails, call your local pizza joint and have a few extra pies delivered.
Don’t forget the favors! You can go crazy with party favors or make them simple—it all depends on your preference and budget. Party favors can be as simple as a little baggy filled with bubbles, crayons, candy, and other little treats, or can be as elaborate as personalized snack cups, placemats, or books. The kids will be happy with whatever you decide, so don’t stress about it.
Book or designate a photographer. Hiring a professional photographer is a great way to ensure that all of the important party moments are captured—especially for a first birthday. Photographers can be costly, however, so if a professional isn’t in the budget, designate someone at your party—a family member or friend—to be in charge of the picture taking. It’s impossible for the party host to also be in charge of pictures, so take the pressure off yourself and give the responsibility to someone else.
Think about tipping. Although certainly not mandatory, tipping those who took part in making your party a success—be it the coaches at a gym party, a musical entertainer, the people who set up the food—is always a nice gesture. Decide if and what you want to tip ahead of time so that you don’t find yourself scrambling at the end of the party to decide on an appropriate amount or find the right change.
Can you think of anything we’ve missed on our birthday party checklist? Let us know if there are any other musts when planning a child’s birthday party!