By Paula Biggs
To kids, the birthday is all-important. It’s the one day of the year that is truly theirs! Today’s parents are starting to go beyond the pedestrian party hats, cake and ice cream, and are getting a little more imaginative with at-home birthday celebrations. They are creating totally unique and customized parties that are just as special as their kids. These eye-popping parties take a little extra planning, but can be achieved by the Martha Stewart inclined and less-than-crafty alike.
So, how do you go about building an uber-creative inspired birthday party? Here are a few tips to get you started.
SET A BUDGET. Then stick to it. You can do an incredible party for eight for under $100 if you’re willing to put in the work. The more items you buy ready-made the more the price will go up, but there are many DIY party ideas easily pulled off by a beginner.
To keep in my budget, I scour thrift stores for party props then paint or alter them to fit my party. A can of spray paint can transform almost anything! Another way to make a smaller budget go further is to schedule your party at a time when you are not expected to serve a meal, just cake.
CHOOSE A THEME AND COLOR PALETTE. Anything can be a point of inspiration. I’ve designed parties around favorite sports, bedding sets and even a favorite t-shirt. If your child is old enough to have an opinion, ask them what they would like for their party theme and start from there. If they do not have an opinion, look for inspiration in room décor, favorite toys or something they enjoy doing.
When choosing a color palette, stick to two to three colors to make your party look cohesive. Then consider the local availability of party items in those colors. Almost anything is available on the Internet, but shipping costs may eat your budget.
FIND YOU STATIONERY. You can get crafty and design everything yourself, or you can seek professional DIY help. For around $35 you can find professionally designed printable party packages that include invitations, birthday banners, favor tags and other decorating items that will make your party look impressive.
The benefit to using printable packages is that you will have a suite of matching items that make decorating easy. Another attractive feature is the ability to customize pieces with your child’s name for an inexpensive custom look. Plus, you cut your costs by doing it yourself with no limit to how many items you can print at home.
SET A MENU. At a creative birthday party, your food can actually be part of the décor. Serve items in individual containers—like carrots in a small cup of ranch dressing, milkshakes in shot glasses or tiny servings of food you usually eat in larger portions. Desserts are colorful additions to displays as well with ranges of shades of candy, frosting, cake pops and other sweets.
When you plan the food, keep in mind your audience, the colors of the food, how they look together and how you can uniquely serve it. At my “Goldilocks” party, we served marzipan acorns on top of tiny dollhouse chairs, but something as simple as a parfait in a shot glass can also make a great impact!
CAKE. Your cake or cupcakes will be a focal point for the party—after all, blowing out the candles and making a birthday wish is a big deal! There are many local bakeries that can create fabulous cakes and amazing cupcake artistry according to your theme. However, if you’d prefer something simpler, homemade frosted cakes can look fabulous on your dessert table. Use a little cake bunting strung on bamboo skewers to decorate the cake like we did in the “three bears” party for a great hand-crafted look.
If your party is large, cupcakes are the way to go since they don’t have to be sliced and don’t usually require dishes. For decorations, cupcakes are the perfect vehicle for cupcake toppers or fancy fondant work. You can find many sources for these on the Internet. And if you want the “wow” factor of an impressive-looking cake, but don’t want to buy one big enough to feed everyone at the party, a cupcake/cake combination is a very popular way to cut costs. The soccer birthday by event designer Swanky Chic Fete did just this.
CRAFT OR BUY DECORATIONS. When planning for decorations, start with inexpensive items that fill a lot of visual space. Tissue poms, paper fans, tassel garlands and crepe paper chandeliers all accomplish this. You can find many tutorials online to guide you through construction. If you’d rather purchase these items, there are many online retailers that can provide them, just remember your budget!
Creative parties are also about the details—cute personalized favor tags, labels, water bottle wrappers and centerpieces in your theme make the party feel special. A printable package will provide much of this for you to make yourself, but for ready-made handmade birthday fare seek the services of party shops that create themes for you.
FAVORS. The rule of thumb when it comes to giving party favors is to give something consumable or of good quality. Cheap plastic toys usually hit our trash can the same day as the party. Custom decorated sugar cookies make perfect favors. They are super cute, make your guest feel special, and don’t have to hang around long after the party.
If you choose to give a quality item, pick something that matches your theme. We gave star-shaped necklaces that said “wish” at the Make a Wish party and hand-painted personalized bowls at the “three bears” party. The favor doesn’t have to be expensive, just well thought through.
SAVE THOSE MEMORIES. One area I always recommend making room in the budget for is a photographer. You want to enjoy the party and have all those details and smiling faces captured well. A professional photographer doesn’t have to refill drinks or chat with your neighbor at the party, so they can take pictures of all the things you might miss.
ON LOCATION. As your kids grow up … The younger set love the color and novelty of these creative parties, but as kids get older, they may ask for experience-based parties. Not to worry —there is still plenty of opportunity to make a bowling or bounce-house party unique with customized invitations and special favor tags—even if everything else is up to the venue where the party is held.
TALENTED PARTY-PLANNING PARENTS!
Our readers include many talented and creative parents who can throw a fabulous birthday party! Take a look at these crafty party ideas and visit SpaceCoastLivingFAMILY.com for a complete listing of all of our submissions including pictures, party details and resources. Thank you to all the parents who participated.
LOOK OF A LADYBUG
Mom Amy used inspiration from a cake she saw on Pinterest to create a lovely ladybug birthday party for her daughter, Emma. We particularly loved the little ladybug tomato treats and chocolate ladybug pops!
A JEDI – HE WAS
The force was definitely with this party! From Jedi training to making their own Light Sabers, these kids had at terrific time. They even got to have their photo taken with a Hans Solo standee that Dad made. Great job Jennifer!
SILLY HAT TEA PARTY
Daughter Lily was the brains behind this party idea and Mom just took it from there. Twelve of Lily’s closest friends enjoyed an afternoon of finger sandwiches, cookie decorating and hat making.
A WHALE OF A TIME
Guests of little Cooper had the opportunity to have their photo taken in a homemade photo booth complete with party appropriate props which were later used in the “thank you” cards that were mailed. The children disembarked this party ship with hand-sewn crayon rolls that had each child’s name embroidered on the inside.
Mom Krystle decided to start with a color scheme when planning Hannah’s party. Family and friends indulged in some barbecue while reminiscing over photo books of moments from Hannah’s first year. Mom put extra love into making butterfly cupcakes and decorating the butterfly shaped sugar cookies that guests took home as favors!
AN AMAZING RACE
Lina and her friends divided into teams and the race was on! Once the winning team was determined, the kids finished off the night with pizza and cake at Pizza Gallery & Grill. Very innovative idea, Mom!