Planning a party? This extremely helpful and well laid out post may just change your life. Ok, probably not but it will hopefully save you time, money and potential embarrassment. The following golden nuggets of information have been gleamed over the last 175 years that I’ve been entertaining for. If I was compiling it in 1843 when I started out it would have been very different. No sushi around then but more of that later. Most of the tips can be applied to any type of party but they are aimed more for one with an entertainer.
What Party To Choose?
This is the most important question so think about it for more than 3 seconds. There is so much choice now you can become overwhelmed very quickly and end up a nervous wreck rocking under a table. Just me then? Apart from an entertainer you can have sports, make up, dancing, science, animal, pizza making, soft play, bowling, drumming, arts and crafts parties and so much more. You may want your child to have the party they choose but this won’t always work.
Your 4 year old might love 20 foot anacondas and Komodo Dragons but will their friends? The last thing you want is the children running away crying or being eaten. Similarly don’t do what we did for one of Katie’s parties. She wanted a gymnastics party then realised that most of the people she was inviting didn’t do gymnastics. It quickly changed to a cinema party and everyone was happy. If your child hates noise, being the centre of attention and big crowds then a class party with a screamingly loud entertainer might not be the best choice. That’s not me by the way, I’m just a non-screamingly loud silly Banana Head.
Booking An Entertainer
If you are considering booking an entertainer this is the best advice I can give you. Do it first before booking a venue. Once you’ve found the entertainer you want you can choose from lots of venues. If you book the venue first you’re then stuck with the entertainers that are free on the date you’ve booked the hall. Not only might your preferred entertainer be booked, you might end up having to book the only one free, Mr Cabbage Chops who just sits reading the newspaper for two hours, he’s rubbish.
Decent and popular entertainers are often booked up a few months in advance so the earlier the better. It might be someone you’ve seen before, someone who’s been recommended or someone you found online. Which ever one it is, you should feel comfortable asking them anything. Well, to do with the parties anyway. If you ask them weird questions about Kate Bush things might get very awkward, very quickly.
If you’re searching online for an entertainer, apart from a general search on Google etc, good places to look are netmums and local Facebook groups where you can ask for recommendations. Show your child the ones you have in mind, see what they think. If they burst out crying and scream, “Dear God no mother, what were you thinking?” maybe look at someone else. Ignore this advice if the picture is of me. My oversized nose and generally big facial features can be a little bit shocking at first sight. I can distract them however by singing silly versions of most songs so it’s normally fine.
Where To Have It?
This can depend on lots of factors. As far as I’m concerned, I always want the birthday boy / girl to feel comfortable at their party. If this means they’d prefer a small, low key gathering then home is probably best. If you have beautiful and expensive cream carpets, are inviting 30 children and you know their parents have a penchant for red wine then maybe a hall’s best! At home you’ve got everything to hand and it can be less stressful. Saying that, in a hall you won’t be breaking anything or ruining your carpets. There really isn’t one that’s better than the other, it just depends of what’s best for you and your needs.
Space is also important. If the room you have at your house isn’t big enough for 30 children, don’t have it at home! Trust me, it will be chaos. Interesting choice of locations at my parties have included a small bedroom for 25 children, a hallway where I performed by the front door, a tiny lounge for 30 seven year old boys which was a real squeeze and a school gymnasium almost the size of a football pitch complete with lots of curtains to hide in. It’s a bit like the porridge in Goldilocks, you don’t want the space too big or small, just right is perfect.
What Time To Have the Party?
For some types of party you may not have a choice. For example, Katie’s swimming party was only available in the evening. Where you do have a choice I always suggest roughly 11-1 or 3-5. Firstly, it means the children get to eat at similar times to when they would normally, (around 12pm and 4pm). If the party is from 1-3 the children will eat at 2pm. They would have had lunch before the party so may not eat much at 2. This could mean a whole lot of food thrown away or leftover jam and ham sandwiches for weeks afterwards.
Lots of venues and entertainers including myself have two parties each day, again roughly 11-1 and 3-5. I wouldn’t be able to do a 1-3 party as this is when I’m in between my morning and afternoon one. Venues may be in the same situation for the same reasons. The most extreme party request I had was a five year old’s party from 7.30-9.30pm! I tried to explain why I didn’t think it was the best time but they were insistent. I politely declined so don’t know how that turned out. Complete carnage I would imagine.
What Food To Serve
Again, there is so much choice these days. Whilst it used to just be sandwiches, crisps, jelly and ice cream, party cuisine has moved on and evolved. Don’t get me wrong, they are still popular and Penny’s party this morning had just that, (with choc-ices instead of jelly and ice cream). I believe the key word is SIMPLE. The less work for you, the less stress. Food boxes are very popular and come complete with everything including a drink. It will work out more expensive than doing it yourself but there’s no work involved. Pizza is also very popular, either picked up or delivered. Most places offer deals when spending certain amounts so it can work out very reasonable and you can also feed the parents if you want. Oh, and me, especially if it’s Dominos or Papa Johns but only Margarita please, I’m very fussy and don’t like vegetables.
Think about what all the children might like when you’re deciding what to do. The biggest disaster was at a five year old’s party who loved sushi. The parents had sushi for all the children and that was it, nothing else. There must have been at least half a dozen children who ended up in tears and only two other children even tried it. In the end the dad had to go to McDonalds and by the time they finished eating the party was over. The only upside to this was the mum offered me as much sushi as I wanted as it was going in the bin and I ate proudly in the car afterwards.
This is often the number one reason parties don’t go as well as they could do. Well actually number two. The number one reason is having parties with 20 foot anacondas and Komodo Dragons, they never end well. The following are popular at parties but in the wrong place / time can spell disaster.
Balloons: Have some outside the venue / on the road so the guests can find you easily. This is especially helpful for those with no sense of direction. Have some on the walls as decorations, they look lovely. Don’t scatter them all over the floor, this will cause chaos and end in disaster. The only exception to this is when you’re having a “charging round the room with balloons party.”
Food: Serve it during the break and it’s a welcome treat. Serve it during the show (where you have an entertainer) and it gets messy in more than one way. Actually, when I say serve it I mean when the parents start bringing over crisps, cookies etc and give them to the children. All it takes is one parent to start and others will follow. One child goes over to get something, others will follow. This then results in food being spilt, crushed, crumbled. Children being less engaged as they’re up and about. In various ways it’s not good so try and avoid it.
Bouncy Castles: If you’re having an entertainer for the whole party you really don’t need anything else. Well, as long as the entertainer isn’t a load of pants! If you are having one just make sure it’s deflated when the entertainer is performing. Most bouncy castles inflate and deflate in a couple of mins now so this isn’t normally a problem.
Overly Chatty and Loud Parents: Lock them in a cupboard with the 20 foot anaconda and Komodo Dragon and let them out at home time. Failing this have a semi circle of chairs behind where the children are sitting. This should encourage them to sit and watch the show. You could also have refreshments for them at the other end of the hall. The louder the parents are the harder it is for the children to hear the entertainer which in turn can affect their engagement. At most of my parties the parents watch as they love my Kate Bush and Scooby Doo impressions. Please note that may be a complete lie but I live in hope.
Final Quick Tips
The Cost Of The Party: Don’t feel the need to compete with other parents or spend so much you can’t eat properly for a month. It’s only a diamond that should cost more than your wages, not your child’s party. They’ll have a great time no matter what you spend. You can always run the party yourself if need be and I’ll give tips on that soon. Just make sure you have plenty of wine for afterwards, you’ll need it.
Invitations: Send out invitations out early, especially if the party is going to be near holiday times. Give a rsvp date and say that if they reply after that, you can’t guarantee their child will get any food or a going home present. Say goodbye to chasing people til the day of the party. Say hello to no stress and super organised party time.
Checklist: If the party isn’t going to be at home, make a list of things to take. Apart from the major things like food and drink, it could include matches / lighter for the candles, a knife to cut the cake, black bags for rubbish and carrying presents, kitchen roll, wipes, camera.
Half Price Party: Joint parties are great as apart from sharing the costs you also share the work. It doesn’t affect the enjoyment for anyone so everyone’s happy and you’ve got more money to spend on the in app purchases your children bought when using your tablet.
Parking: Not only is it really important to ensure there is a parking space for the entertainer, try and make sure there are some spaces for the guests. If the venue has no parking at all the guests might turn up stupidly late by the time they find somewhere to park and the party could be over.
I hope these have been useful and somehow enriched your life in a small way. If not, at least you’ve learnt not to have Komodo Dragons and Anacondas at children’s parties.
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