Double the Friends, Double the Fun, DOUBLE the Spending?!?

What is the biggest, best birthday bash you have ever thrown for your child? Tell us about it in the comments!

Here’s a piece of advice for you, my dear friends and readers – don’t even bother with an actual party for your child, at least one that takes place at a location outside of your home and involves more than the grocery store cake and some candles, until age four. The reason has nothing to do with how much you love your child (trust me) and actually not even as much to do with the fact the before the age of four your child won’t remember any of their parties anyway.

Given that my planning personality needed to have birthday parties that were fun and themed ever since Emma’s first year celebration, and now that I have had to plan something different and interesting eight times at this point, I have started to run out of cheap but special ideas and themes. When you started planning the location birthdays when your child is turning two, then by the age of eight you have pretty much been to every single location your town has to offer, and the ones you have not been to yet (Chuck E. Cheese’s) are the ones you avoid like the plague (which is what you will catch if you ever have to go there).

Let’s now jump back to mid-September of this year, when I am on the phone with one of my BFF’s, Lisa, who also happens to be the mother of one of Emma’s BFF’s, Lucy. We are discussing our daughters’ upcoming birthdays, which happen to fall fairly close together on the calendar. Both of us are struggling to come up with ideas that we have not already done or that would not break the bank. The last four words of that sentence will prove to be … that’s right … famous last words.

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Emma and Lucy had expressed interest in having a movie theater birthday party, which sounds easy enough, and given that Lucy’s birthday comes first on the calendar, I was naturally willing to have Lisa make the movie theater inquiries. As it turns out, you can definitely have an awesome movie theater birthday party, IF and only IF, you don’t mind waiting until basically about a week before your party to tell your guests what time they will actually need to arrive at said party, since that is when the movie times are announced and there is no way to have any idea more than one week prior to said movie theater party date what showing you will receive. This is no celebrity wedding here, folks, where you send out the invite and they call a special secret phone number to get the location and time; this is just a simple Saturday birthday party at a local cinema for some eight-year-olds. Lisa and I debated how you would even go about wording the invitations, or would we even send invitations at all or just rely on old-fashioned smoke signals and hope for the best. And oh, by the way, all of this comes at a very steep price, so in the end you are handing over gobs of cash to feel extremely unsure and uncomfortable about your child’s birthday party. So we said, “Thanks but no thanks,” and we moved right along.

After tossing around some other ideas that amounted to nothing, I casually threw out the possibility of the pumpkin patch. Emma had been to a Christmas-themed birthday party there while in preschool, when they had winter sleigh rides to see Santa and thought it was fabulous. Once again, Lisa did the calling, as I don’t really “like” people, especially when I have to talk to them on the phone. The good news about our friendship is that having run the car raffle together, we both know our strengths and weaknesses and accept them from each other. She called me back very quickly, sounding quite excited, and said that this was a GENIUS idea. It was totally available the day that we wanted to have the party, and if we did a joint party for the girls, we could include all of their classmates, plus several other friends; and by splitting the cost it would be the “best, least expensive” party ever! Note those last words, again. In fact, given that it was going to be so inexpensive for the location fee, we came up with the fantastic idea to include pony rides … because honestly, what makes a joint birthday party with your BFF even better? … PONIES!

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And then the planners in us were off and running! The girls were excited and immediately got to work on the guest list. They came up with the idea very quickly that they wanted to collect items for the Humane Society of Charlotte, rather than have gifts, because they had so many friends in common and they did not want to ask them to bring two presents to the party. Cue the pulling of the heartstrings in Lisa and me. We love our sweet girls so much! By the time we were finished, we had more than 40 children invited to this party, so we realized that we were going to need some serious manpower to handle this many girls running loose in open fields, at the petting zoo, among pumpkins, etc. Fast forward to hiring three high school cheerleaders moonlighting as babysitters for the afternoon of the party and we were feeling much better about parents dropping off their babies with us.

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Like everything else that we seem to do together, Lisa and I might have gone a little overboard; but we just kept thinking about the fact that we were going to be splitting it all by two. And because we did it all one expense and party line item at a time, it never seemed TOO crazy, you know? So yeah, we had custom-designed invitations and custom-designed cakes …

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… plus arts and crafts so the girls can be creative, which of course required purchasing additional decorative pens and stickers to make the activity even more fun. And then we realized that we needed a way to keep these children in groups so that we would be able to keep track of them with our group leaders and move them from station to station easily. Enter the purchasing of the bandanas. Each group would have their own color. The bandanas made for one more great party favor, and they were only a dollar a piece, which sounds cheap … until you multiply it by the safe number of 50 and then add it to all of the other “minor” expenses.

And then, when actually devising our military-like schedule for the party, it hit us that we did not have as much time as we originally thought for all of our activities.

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We became afraid that we might not have enough time for all the girls to get their pony ride, which was of course, totally unacceptable. One phone call (by Lisa, of course) to the pony rental lady later and we were hooked up with a fourth pony. Phew. What was another $75.00, especially when you (say it with me now) think about the fact that we are splitting it all two ways?

In the end, we jokingly said that we managed to throw the David Beckham birthday party, minus the mansion, the catering staff, the bouncy castle and real live ponies … oh wait, no, we had the real live ponies. And bandanas. And a tractor-pulled, rickety-wagon hayride. And we ate at picnic tables under a shelter. There was nary a clown or juggler in sight, yet our final bill resembled that of a small wedding.

Where did we go wrong? I am not actually sure that we did, really; because if we had cut corners and done less, it would not have been the party that we threw … and the party that we threw was the one that created the memories and the moments that our girls will always remember when they think about turning eight.

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And I am so pleased that they will have that memory to cherish and keep hold of all the way through their ninth birthday parties which will take place in my garage, on the floor, with Domino’s delivery and some Betty Crocker tubs of frosting. And that’s all.