Monday, July 22, 2013

{Miss Party Mom's} 7 Tips for Creating A Custom Party Theme

I had a question in my inbox  last month about how I go about choosing a party theme for either of my 2 kids. It really got me thinking that to someone other than a party planner, choosing the "right" party theme might be a daunting task...

I'm going to outline a few things for you that I personally do when I'm in the decision making process for a party theme for one of my kids, (or currently- myself!) as well as some of the steps that help me to organize myself leading up to the party...

1) Choosing a Theme: The most important thing I do is "study" my child's likes and interests about 6 months before their birthday. Even though I KNOW this time frame seems crazy- starting this far in advance will cut down on so much stress the month before. If your child is at an age where they talk, start throwing out ideas like I've been this last week with my 4.5 year old son... "What would you think of an art party?" I do this for a couple of weeks and then really start honing in on one idea I think he likes, and I see if it sticks for a bit.

While I try and give options- I also try and keep in mind the things I have already decoration-wise OR things I wouldn't mind owning that I would acquire through the chosen theme. For instance- I REALLY love color (have you seen my house?) so I knew I wasn't going to mind having a ton of colorful decor items for Birdie's 1st Rainbows and Birds theme. I have repurposed a bunch of it into our actual home decor.

Giving this 6-month time frame does allow for a couple of mind changes in the beginning stages of planning (if you'll allow them and haven't put too much $ in already). Once we have nailed down the theme though, I talk to my son about the fact that we've decided, we're excited and we won't be able to change anymore because Momma is going to be picking small things up every time she sees something that fits the theme... (which for me, is like every place I go...)

*For 1st and 2nd Birthdays I just choose a theme I feel emulates my child. For me, Cormac just looked like he'd make a perfect little Ringmaster! For Birdie's I did a little play on words with the "Happy Bird-Day!" graphics I used, and went from there adding in the rainbow color palette. Let's be honest, you only get to choose a few party themes and Halloween costumes before they grow minds of their own... make them count and make them something YOU love too (esp. that 1st birthday- we all know that party is for the parents anyway). If you're really looking to have something your baby will love you can throw in an idea like the "Baby Ball Pit" I did for Birdie's party and hope they don't nap through the entire party anyway...

2) Guest List: The second thing I do is make a general list of attendees so I will have a basic headcount of guests. (Are we inviting just family? Close Friends? The pre-school?) This will give me insight in to how much of everything I will need as well as an idea for the budget.

3) Collecting Items: The third thing I do is get out a huge cardboard box (I use boxes so I can break them down when I no longer need them due to space issues, but if you have the space- a clear plastic bin would be more helpful). I look in my Party Cave (what normal people call party supplies) and pull out everything I can potentially use for this theme- and if it's something I'm not willing to move locations of until the day before the party- I leave a post it note in the box "Tin Circus Elephant from Cormac's shelf." This will give you a good idea of what you still need to buy to jazz up the table(s) decorations-wise, as well as paper goods (cups, plates, napkins) and more.

4) What "Size" (aka budget) Party? Once you've collected the stuff you already have (Btw- I borrow my kids' toys all the time!) it is definitely time to set the budget. This is the thing I am the worst at. As you should know by now (if you've been reading for any amount of time), parties are expensive. The day before and day of the party will always have pop-up expenses too (ice? condiments? tape?) so be sure to prepare for these and budget accordingly.

Let's say you're planning a small party with a budget of $200. In this case I would say, focus on a dessert or ice cream bar in a non-eating time frame (between 2-3 p.m.) and decorations for the dessert table. This way you can make that dessert/ ice cream bar the best it can be. Don't try and do food too and have everything be watered down- just stick to one thing and do it well.

If your budget is $500 I would focus on a good amount of decor (definitely custom printables) and inexpensive eats like hamburgers and hot dogs, themed  cake/cupcakes, favors for the kids and a couple of party games.

If your party budget is $800 I would have all of the above with a full dessert bar as well. I would also look into adding in a form of entertainment like a bounce house or activity station revolving around the party theme.

Photo from
If your party budget is $1000 I'd really hope you're just hiring a party planner (unless that is you've been looking forward to planning this event since your child was born like I'd been... in that case, we're kindred spirits.)

*Once you have your budget- working solely in cash is very helpful. I carry an envelope with cash and receipts so that I can constantly keep track of what I have left... which again, I'm terrible at- but don't use me as your example!

5) Shopping: When making my shopping list I will keep in mind my headcount when purchasing everything. If I see the perfect plates for my theme but they're $6 for a pack of 12- I'll buy one pack to support my theme (and for photos) and then mix them in with a bunch of solid party colored plates. If I have 3 great ideas for party favors... I have no problem doing all 3 and placing a sign at the party that says, "Please take one favor each!" This gives you the ability to be creative, to showcase all three ideas and give your guests choices!

6) Invites and Printables: If you're using an online printing company like Vistaprint or Overnightprints, I would recommend submitting your invite files 6 weeks in advance so you don't need to pay for any expedited shipping charges which can REALLY add up. This would mean having your invite ordered 8 weeks in advance from your printables designer. Usually you will find that whoever designs your invite will also have a matching party collection to go with it. Some printables designers like Party On! Designs even offer assembled packages... but if you are crafty and have the tools you can print everything on your home computer and put it all together yourself. I really love personalized invitations and feel they start the party off with the right feel. I am not big on Evites- I usually don't even click on them because they blend with the 100's of other emails I also don't click on. If it's in your budget- send an invite, it makes people feel special and truly invited. I drive around my neighborhood dropping them off to save on postage.

All of your printables should be assembled the weeks before the party (not the night before- trust me, I speak from experience when I say... not a good idea)

7) Ask for Help: Don't be afraid to ask friends, family and YOUR SPOUSE to your help set up the party the day of- if you can secure 2 hours of time from a handful of people you will be great. If you're doing a bigger sized party it's almost impossible to do everything with 1 or 2 people- esp. if it's an outdoor party and all setup is the day of... I have learned that my party setups are so intense I cannot even start a party until 3 p.m. because I want to ensure I have time to do everything. I have my kids with their Nana for pre-party setup so that they're not around for any of the stress... but instead they just walk into... NEVERLAND!

Lastly- I found this very helpful Party Planning Timeline on Kara's Party Ideas. While we might have some differences in our timelines (deciding on a theme a month before?! Heart attack) I still think it has some amazing details to remember. Print it out and along with my tips- you should be ready to start planning your next party... (6 months out- trust me!)

xo Party or Die xo


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