How to Control Growingly Elaborate Birthday Parties

Parents are faced with the dilemma of putting together a great party without wanting to spend their life savings.

Ok. I’ll admit it. This week when I sat down to write Life in The Mom Lane I was fresh out of good ideas. As I’ve done on the past I put the call out to some of my mom friends and, much to my surprise, was bombarded with opinions on a rather unexpected topic.

Yes, everyone wants to talk about the holidays but, at the same time, there was something else on a lot of minds. It seems that, these days, the pressure to host the perfect birthday party can be overwhelming to say the very least.

Gone are the days when, as one of my friends pointed out, “a birthday party was cake after dinner, some streamers over the table and you could invite two friends over to play.”

Today parties are becoming more and more elaborate and the expectations for everything from the cake to the entertainment are soaring off the charts. I’ve seen a few birthday cakes that are, frankly, more elaborate then my wedding cake was and, lately, a party isn’t even considered complete unless the goody bags rival the swag bags that celebrities take home from the Oscars. 

As for the standard party entertainment, stories of limousines and DJ’s for elementary school age kids aren’t even shocking to hear anymore. The competition for the best party can be fierce and it seems that, with each passing year, expectations grow larger.

Toss in the “new rules” that now surround the traditional Sweet Sixteen celebration and, frankly, saving for college doesn’t seem so bad.

So, is this the way things have to be or is there still hope for hosting a simpler event? Well, as us moms tell our children, you always have choices and, sometimes, it’s just about making the correct ones.

Let’s face the facts. Children didn’t suddenly come to expect bigger and better birthday parties. Somewhere along the line parents started raising the bar and, from there, the situation was simply unstoppable.

The first solution that many of my friends suggested was a simple one. Party or present. Yes, believe it or not, it is ok to actually suggest that, if your child wants an elaborate party, it has to be considered the birthday gift. It doesn’t make you a bad parent to lay down the ground rules and make them chose which is more important.

Next is limiting the guest list. Yes, most schools insist that, if invitations are given out in the classroom, they must include each and every student. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t hand mail invitations to a couple of close friends and keep the party small scale. Small doesn’t mean you are snubbing the other students. It simply means that you are protecting your budget.

Finally, you have to remember that convenience pays. Yes, it’s awfully nice to have the party far away from home where there is somebody else to clean up the mess but, when planning an event where every penny counts, it sometimes pays to be a little creative. 

One friend relayed a story about a “pirate party” where her husband dressed up and led the kids on a treasure hunt in the backyard. Took a little planning but, in the long run, the kids had a blast and the “character” worked for free.

In the long run I truly do believe that kids can appreciate a simple celebration as much as an elaborate affair. Perhaps it’s time for us all to get back to basics and make life just a tiny bit easier.

webmom November 28, 2012 at 01:40 PM
I've always felt that young children absolutely love more simple parties because it's those parties that they can actually participate in, rather than just watch a show or presenter. Older kids can now watch MTV and those elaborate shows that show rich kids and their parties...so yes, they want them too. But I've always had this suspicion that it really wasn't the kids that wanted those big parties, it was more the parents, either showing off or falling into the 'Jones' mentality.


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