Thursday, August 21, 2014

Party Planning | Birthday Preparation from an Expert

I have this friend.  She's my best friend, actually.. and she is UH-mazing.  We all have friends like that, right?  I hope you do. For your own sake..
This friend of mine is an event planner, and in turn never leaves a detail behind when it comes to developing an idea for all kinds of events - from weddings to birthday parties, and even as simple as dinner.  Dinner at Ashley's house is always a 4 course event.  I feel like calling it just 'dinner' doesn't do justice. Plus, she's a really good cook. 

ANYway.  Whenever I have an event or party coming up I always seek her out for resources and assistance and she never lets me down.  It honestly frightens me to think about how my parties would turn out if I didn't have her pushing me along to create the very best bang (for my buck).  That being said, my skills have improved after years of friendship, and I've got some confidence in myself for getting things done effectively.   

I've planned many many parties and events with Ashley's talents (and they are 100% her talent, you guys) and each and every time they come out beautifully.  Just a few (pintrestable) events I've been apart of:
Ashley's Wedding (Every detail was remembered- right down to the matchbooks..)
Vintage Tea Party Baby Shower (My most trafficked post- over 12,000 visits to date.  Featured in multiple online collections for most unique baby shower themes)
Styled Events

We have been asked time and time again for assistance with party planning (first birthday assistance seems to be the biggest request), and with the help of the expert, I have come up with some key points to follow along when planning your party event.
Well- really.  There is just one Ashley.  Call her.  
The End.

Choose a Date
     - Saturdays or Sundays are usually better for the guests of a first birthday party.  Lots of family and friends of the adults tend to come to this type of party, so making it convent for them is your best bet.  I have been to a few parties on a random Tuesday, and that most often works out for small events and young children are in attendance
     - Near a holiday? If so you may want to consider having the party earlier or later in the month.  Parker and Jolie's party was in the month of December, but still early enough it didn't conflict with holiday events.   

- Choose a Time
      - Managing nap time for young toddlers is key for a successful (and non-breakdown) event. Choose a time that is best for your little, but also know that there will be some guests that do not attend due to their own schedules, and that's ok.
      - Also- be sure to consider your Guest List.  Do you have a lot of families coming? Are there people with children in sports at that time?  Spring and Summer can be tough for weekend events due to the sports schedules.  Earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon can be a good place to start for a time.

Choose a Theme
The theme is your most important piece of the puzzle.  It is what brings to event together as one.   It can be as simple as a color theme (black and white), or take a more specific approach.  In these first few years of birthday party planning, you (the parent) have the control and say so.    
       - A favorite character.  
       - Color Scheme
       - Play on "One" for a first birthday i.e.; Winter ONEderland; Alice in ONEderland
       - Nursery Theme

- The Guest List
       - Large or small; your choice most definitely effects the budget.  Be mindful of the guests and how many they bring with them.. cousins with 5 kids, most likely will bring their 5 kids:) 

Invitations and Printables
These are the most fun to plan and design.  This can be done a variety of ways - DIY is very common and pretty easy to do so these days, but finding someone to help create them for you can relieve some stress when planning every other detail of the event coming up. 
       - ETSY.  The greatest online database on this planet.  I am not computer creative, and so my go-to is the Etsy marketplace for outsourcing this sort of thing.

       -Sarah (CKFIreboots on Etsy or email her HERE) is our favorite for printables and invites. Ashley and I keep her busy, busy, busy!

       - Try to send out invitations at least one month in advance and even sooner if the event is around a holiday.  The greatest convenience to your guests is to be able to plan around your date, and in turn make it easier for them to actually attend.  Getting an invite in the mail just a couple weeks in advance can make it difficult - especially for families. 
       - THE Printable Staples to make the party details special

               - Food labels - such a special touch to the food table
               - Drink labels
               - Quotes - printed and displayed in picture frames to go along with the theme of the party
               - Banner 

How to stay organized

       - Pinterest.  What did we all do before Pinterest?? We love to create a private board for inspiration. This is your place to find ideas for décor, menu, take homes for the guests - literally anything you can possibly need or think of, you will find it on Pinterest.

       - Ashley is the KING of organization.  If I could share one of the many email chains between Ashley and myself when planning a party or event together, you would be overwhelmed with the details. Ashley generally creates an email draft with every detail possible (link lists, menu ideas, theme, dates, vendor selections) and continuously add to and delete it as things for the party come together.  But the end of it all, the email is rainbow colored due to the change in ink color after each reply.   

Choose a Menu
Here in America our social events are almost always surrounded by food- so this part in planning could essentially be the most important.  
       - Time of day dictates your menu selection.  Planning around nap time (morning or afternoon) can be a big part of deciding what to serve. 
             - Brunch
             - Lunch
             - Heavy afternoon snacks
             - Dessert only option

        - Consider your audience. If there are a lot of children, be sure to have kid friendly options. If there are a lot of men in your family or friend pool, be sure to have heavier items available regardless of the time of day you are hosting them.  

Think Décor

       - Do a quick Pinterest search of your decided theme. Be creative. Don't just recreate a party you see on there. Make it your own and pinterestable.

Chalkboard signs by Sugarbub Designs | @sugarbubdesigns

       - DIY.  Another decision factor that depends on budget for the event.  Ask yourself: is it worth the time and effort to make on your own, or would it be worth spending the money on the same thing for someone else to make it?  DIY invites and printables aren't an option for me personally - but can be an easy one for some.  Luckily these are relatively inexpensive, but things like banners, tassels and such can add up quickly and easily become out of control. This is a great way to cut budget costs and save where needed.  
       - Photos of your littles - the guest of honor!  

              - Professional pictures are always fun to have, but candid photos are just as great.
              - In the example of a birthday party event, share (monthly) photos over the first year, and find a cute way to show these off (banner or a bulletin board)
       - What in your home (or family/friends' home) can you repurpose for the party?  I always outsource this to my mother in law for little things like votive candles or picture frames.  Serving dishes, too!

       - If you have to purchase some decor, shop wisely.  Always hit up the sales and discount stores like HomeGoods and TJ Maxx, etc.  Hobby Lobby ALWAYS has a coupon and most often has a sale of some sort.

Take Homes

       - What is your guest going to take home with them to remember the party?
       - Make it simple, useful
       - If a lot of children are attending your party,  goodie bags are a fun way to go.  
       - Skip the "junk" and try fewer items rather than a lot of cheap trinket ones.  Puzzles, coloring books with crayons, mini figurines, etc.  Offer something that will actually be useful after they leave.

Food items to take home like trail mix or personalized sugar cookies are a good touch if tangible items aren't the way to go for your theme.

- Photographer or Photo Booth

Pictures!  make memories of this event you've planned.  You want to capture this fun time and milestone (as well as all your hard work in planning!)  
       - friend or family member
       - professional photographer.  This can be very pricey - but there are some affordable ones out there.  Having someone else take your pictures and capture the event professionally can be so special for looking back to.  They tend to understand the event itself and examine the surroundings.  Not just 54 pictures of opening presents.
       - Photo Booth.  Super trending, but a really inexpensive way to add detail to your party.  Have a bucket or suitcase full of cheap costume props (hats, sunglasses, boas, wands) and let your guests have fun with it! 
Photographer References

There you have it.  The basics {and a great place to start} for planning your (first birthday) party.  It can be a lot of fun, but a lot of stress if you find yourself unorganized.  

For Ashley's (amazing) assistance in your planning needs feel free to email her HERE.

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