Saturday, August 28, 2010

Learnings from a birthday!

A friend is planning to celebrate her two year old son's birthday at home this time. And we have been discussing the do's and the don'ts when planning a party for the little one at home & handcrafting everything (the last time around she let the hotel people do all the work). If you think its an easy task...take my word for it...Sara's first birthday early this year required the planning and management equivalent to that of a million dollar consulting project! And since it was the first time for me as well...I did some things RIGHT and some WRONG :(  See my earlier post on her birthday, here

Here are my learnings that I intend to keep in mind when I plan her second birthday and for those of you who love planning birthday parties and having them at home!

What went right?

  • I decided the theme months in advance. This helped me in bookmarking ideas for inspiration and jotting down any ideas that I found myself thinking about in the middle of the night!
  • I worked out what I wanted for decor much in advance as well and that gave me enough time to handcraft each over weeks. I made the polka dot wall piece, a paper mobile, a signage for the main door, food tags, a wishing tree, packing for party favors, invitations & thank you cards. With a little one who wanted mum around all the time and a daddy who was away for months...spreading the work sure made it all work
  • The guest list was very limited. We had twenty five guests in all, including family. I have seen people inviting 100 plus guests for the first birthday and a birthday boy or girl who definitely doesn't look very happy! This made Sara very comfortable as she was surrounded by people she knew well. The second birthday will have fewer I am guessing!
  • The party was between five and seven. A time when Sara is wide awake & playful so I didn't have a crying baby to manage as well. Also that gave us enough time after the party to open presents with everyone , finally sit down with my legs up on the table and stuff my mouth till my tummy burst and ofcourse put Sara to sleep at her usual sleeping time
  • All the decor elements were put up the night before her birthday. Even the flower vases were dressed up then
  • The crockery was also laid out the night before. All this gave me enough time in the morning to arrange flowers , blow balloons, and attend to last minute details
  • All the dips, cutting vegetables, marinating meat were also done a day before. That meant we had to only bake, grill or assemble stuff on the big day
  • We made one room off-limit for all and used it to store presents that she was given, keep party favors and other stuff that would leave the house in a complete mess had it been outside

What went wrong?

  • We didn't get great snaps of the party because obviously we were busy attending guests and in between all the chaos trying to take pictures. Its not a great idea to let any friend or relative do that for you as well unless you are really SURE of their skills. A good idea is to hire a good photographer. She will be able to capture all those lovely moments that you might even miss seeing at that time. So thats one thing for sure that I am going to outsource every year.
  • We made just TOO much food. Even though we knew how many people were coming we still had a LOT of leftovers. The excitement of meeting each other, ooh-aahing the baby and trying out all that was served does affect the room space in the tummy. Good idea is to always reduce one's estimate of food needed by a good 20-25%. And yes! offer smaller portions of the cake. They can always take a second helping later if they feel like. 
  • Since I was handling the show all by myself and was putting together stuff till the very end I got exactly a minute and a half to dress up! Not a good idea. Better to lay down and try out everything the previous night just like for decor & crockery
  • We forgot to serve the cocktail sticks & lemonade with the snacks when the guests arrived! Engage a friend NOT a family member ( because they already have a lot on their hand that day) in this and give them the order in which food needs to be served. We finally served it with the rest of the stuff ( If you are wondering where my family was at that grilling nuggets, husband putting together sandwiches, dad blowing balloons & sister cleaning up the mess)
  • The BIGGEST disaster of the day was the CAKE. It was the only other thing that we ordered (quiches being the first one). Instead of the pastel pink polka dots that I had asked for; when I went in the afternoon to get the cake we were handed over a cake with multicolored dots in the worst colors I had ever seen in my life! I obviously had a cardiac arrest and refused to leave till they took me to their bakery unit and replaced each dot! We lost two hours there! Good idea is to check & recheck with the bakery if they have understood what you want ( Just for records they had been emailed a picture as well..ah!)

So there...I hope my learnings will be of some help to you. 
Reminder to self : Read this post before the planning the next birthday!

Images :  Typo, card & yay


Patricia Torres said...

aaawww... even if somethings went wrong.. no one could tell. .I am sure!! You did a far toooooo perfect job.. Prachi!!! thats why you've written such a gorgeous post on it..

Well for me.. the girlies always decide the theme... so till they know what they want... But.. I'm enjoying it for now.. till it lasts.. Sims has already informed me.. that she would like to take her friends to a movie for her 10th bday... I just had to ignore!! :-)

GB said...

always a good idea to hold the party after nap time is done when the babes are little. I love the "keep it small" rule. I blow balloons the night before as well ( apart from the helium ones---I send hubby out 2 hours before the party to pick those up!

Themes I picked worked beautifully till he turned four. After that, he got a mind of his own and would change the theme one month before his party! Now I wait to ask what he wants and plan accordingly!!

Hang up a checklist of activities/foods the night before--check off stuf that's been done...I do this for all friends always head on over to the fridge to see whats in store for the evening. :)

Sharon Colaco D'Souza said...

Oh nooo....I am still in shock abt the cake! How could they? Ups to you for insisting!

Lovely list Prachi! I too learnt most of this by trial and was an especially deep but hilarious learning curve...We come from a diff culture, and we were taken aback by the diff tune of the bday song that was sung in Maharashtra!second, my kiddo is used to the tradition of being handed the gift as soon as the gift walked in...the other kids came in bt clung on to their gifts and my kid was quite upset! I didnt have a clue as to what was happening either:)..imagine our surprise when they practically threw the gifts to her after the previously mentioned very vocal rendition of the bday song:)...well lots more stuff...but we have learnt now and the last party (when she turned 4) was a resounding success!

purplehomes said...

Pats : You are too sweet & kind! I guess you are right what matters is the lovely memories that we have of that day and what Sara will feel when see the pics! And yes..till Sara picks up a theme..i think i am safe:)

GB: Those are some great tips. Balloons..the night before..will do! Checklists on the fridge..another awesome idea! Thanks. Yup! i think the deciding of themes much before the big day only works for the first few years...thankfully i still have some years before I face that challenge :)or am i dreaming?

Sharon: Oh! yes...I wanted to set the bakery on fire :) But they made it up by replacing each little dot and the cake was yum! Your story is TOO cute. I can imagine the smiling faces when they would have got all the gifts together! what fun!

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