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Steps to Planning the Perfect Party - Part I

As promised, I am back  - I am going to go through the process of planning the perfect birthday party.  While doing this you will get another sneak peek into the Carnival Party that I am currently planning.

So, you are charged with planning a b-day party for a kid... You may be asking yourself, "Where do I start?"  My first piece of advice is to start planning early. You don't want to be rushed.  If you end up rushing, you will end up spending more money.  So, let's look at the first 5 steps in planning the perfect party.

1.  Set your budget.
Before you can even think of throwing a party, you have to consider your finances.  You want the party to be fun, not a burden.  You don't want to look back on the party and regret it because you spent too much.  
Let's Keep It Real  - Whatever your budget is, try to have another 10 - 15% available. There will undoubtedly be something you need to purchase at the last minute that was not on the list.

2.  Pick a theme.
Pick a theme that is age appropriate and fun.  Ask yourself a few questions when trying to narrow down your ideas to the best theme:
a.  Do you want to invite boys and girls?
b.  What are your child's interests?
c.  Is your child high energy or calm and reserved?
d.  What activities are popular with your child's friends?
Let's Keep It Real - I do not like themes that include TV characters, cartoon characters, or movie characters.  The character that you should be putting all of the focus on is the guest of honor.

**Some of the ideas we thought about before going with the Carnival Party theme were an Art Party, Dessert Party, and a Cupcake Competition Party.  All of them are good ideas that we may come back to in the future**

3.  Find a venue.
If you have enough room in your home, home parties are great.  With a little creativity you can transform a basement, garage, or play room into an awesome (free) party destination.  On the contrary - if you do not have the space in your house, be realistic with yourself.  Don't invite 20 kids over to your home if they are going to be standing shoulder to shoulder with no room to be kids.  Depending on the season, outdoor parties are my favorite, there are countless options for outdoor parties.  But let's say you do not have room in your home:
a.  Check to see if your subdivision or apartment complex has a a mixed use room for rent.
b.  Check your local park district or community center.  Make sure to check neighboring towns for better prices and amenities.
c.  Ask around A LOT - you never know - there may be a church, friend's house, or even a public park that may work out for your event.
Let's Keep It Real - I am not a fan of venues that charge a per child rate.  I think that forces you to limit who you can invite to the party and in my opinion, you end up paying a lot more for a lot less.  

**For the Carnival Party, we went with the local community center.  The price was not ideal, but the location is very convenient and it was available.

4. Decide on your guest list.
It's now time to make the guest list.  Yes, I am going to need you to write down the names of the kids your child wants to invite.  If you spend most of the time on the computer, build a spreadsheet.  Go back to your theme and make sure to keep in mind the kids that will enjoy your theme.  If you are having a tea party, do you want to invite the little boy that pulls all the girls' hair?  No, I don't think so.  Start with family and close friends, then add on classmates, teammates, and neighbors.  If you list kids in groups, you are less likely to forget someone.  
Let's Keep It Real - There is nothing worse than  forgetting to invite a friend to a party, especially when they will end up hearing about how great your party was. Take time when planning the guest list.

**For the Carnival Party, we printed 50 invitations.  I like big, loud, super fun parties, so for me the more the merrier. I am anticipating that 25 - 30 children will actually show up to the party.

5.  Invitations.
This is where the fun really starts.  The invitation is your guest's first glimpse into the level of party you will be throwing.  If you plan to throw a fabulous party, make sure the invitation is equally as fabulous.  Spend a little time online getting ideas for your invitations.  If you do not have the ability or supplies to make your own invitations, this is the time to ask for help.  Check out www.etsy.com - enter your theme in the search window and it is likely that you will come up with someone who can make invitations for your party. Be creative and think outside the box. You do not have to spend a lot on the invitations for them to stand out from the rest.
Let's Keep It Real - In my mind, evites, email, and word of mouth do not count as a proper party invitations.  I am not stuffy or ultra traditional, I just feel like nothing beats your guest having an invitation they can hold in their hand, hang on their refrigerator, and look at every day as they wait anxiously for the date to arrive.

**For the Carnival Party, I ordered the invitations from www.etsy.com/shop/cgcdesignz - as you can see, they are pretty awesome. I had them printed as 4x6 photos for .08 cents each and instead of envelopes, for an extra touch, I slipped each one into a popcorn bag and wrote the guest's name on the front.  (You will see a close up of the invitation at a later date)

We are going to stop now at step 5, but we will pick up on the next steps in a few days.  By the time we are done, you will be a party planning pro! If you have any questions or comments about steps 1-5 or if you'd like to share any additional ideas, please leave a comment.

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