“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Very few things can solidify memories in my daughters’ minds like a birthday party. They remember all of it, even the most minute of details; who was there, what did they do, what did the cake look like, who got a bloody nose, etc. The locations that host their birthday parties become focal points they recognize in their internal mental maps of our town for years. Whenever we drive by these places, they always unleash a flurry of details, virtually reliving the entire party for anyone within earshot. Like velociraptors, “They remembah”.
Something I’ve come to understand as a father of little girls is this: Birthday parties are important. In our little family, this is because they allow us to take a break from trying to teach our girls that the world does not revolve around each of them. Instead, for a short time, each of the She-Gables feels she alone has our focus. Don’t get it twisted, though. We shower the She-Gables with praise and affection and presents all the time. But we constantly do battle with even the slightest hint of haughty and ungrateful attitudes. Children who think the world revolves around them become insufferably awful adults (See Willie Wonka). This is why birthday parties are so great. They provide such a wealth of teaching moments while also providing each individual kiddo her own specific time to be celebrated. These events are unique opportunities to be embraced.
I’ve been to a bunch of birthday parties; some great, some complete bombs. There is one thread common to all the great birthday celebrations and missing from all the bad ones. Planning. When throwing a birthday party, the cardinal rule is “Plan the party and then Party the plan.” Here’s the truth: Great, memorable birthday parties are overplanned and the host sheds excess items and pares down as the party goes on. You know what happens when you wing it? Trains wrecks. Train wrecks happen. Always.
Fear not! I happen to have an effective and concise anti-train wreck blueprint for planning a world class birthday party. And I share it with you for free because I love you. The Party Planning Tree has 3 branches from which all details flow. I call them the 3 Cs. This tripod of effectiveness will help you plan every detail as each leg supports the other two. Teamwork, my friends.
Crew. The absolute first step is to decide the guest list as no other detail can be locked down until you have a relative number. This decision alone can be daunting as many factors must be considered. Total number of guests. Gender (Easy there, Champions of Gender Neutrality. I’m not inviting boys to a sleepover for my little girls. Old-fashioned, I know. Just breathe.) Sibling invites. Circles (School, Church, Soccer Team, Random street youths). Decisions must be made.
Cost. The number one thing people say to me when they hear I have 3 daughters is “Save your money”. While this is generally said through laughter, it is good all around advice and it speaks to the undeniable reality that little girls are expensive. (I am told this is a trait they do not outgrow.) In our house, the underlying financial philosophy is that we spend our money in 2 pursuits: (1)the uplifting of our family unit and (2)the benefit of our less fortunate neighbors. For us, celebrating the births of our kiddoes is a wonderful time used to build up our whole family and shouldn’t be framed in stinginess. So live a little, Dad. Daughters remember these things. Budget the total cost of everything that would make this party perfect. Then scale to what you have and the number of guests.
Concept. The final, and most detailed, piece is the theme. I didn’t know this until I had daughters but the theme of the birthday party drives every detail. It dictates the 4 vital sub-branches of the Party Planning Tree: the menu, the venue, the décor, the activities. It is what makes Pinterest so Pinteresty. Themes can be subtle or elaborate but they flow through each detail from the food to the attire. The theme is the railroad tracks of the birthday party. And what happens when a train leaves the tracks?