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Birthday Party Planning Checklist

You guys…. I don’t know about you, but birthday party planning has exploded since Pinterest became the how-to-be-a-perfect-mom search engine. The parties I’ve attended (and there have been MANY) over the years have ranged from everything as simple as inviting kids over to play and have cake to literally an all-out zoo parked in the backyard with the invitations as elaborate as the party itself. You know exactly what I’m talking about….

But, seriously. No judgment here…I kinda liked the zoo and awesome invitations. As a planner, I definitely experienced the “wow” factor. But, for those of us who just need some basics, I’ve got the perfect checklist for you! In fact, if you want the more detailed version of the checklist, click here.

If you’re planning a party for your little person, involve them in the process. And what this means is…they need to understand the event budget (as much as they can…but, let’s face it…these kids know that an iPhone 11 costs over $1,000 and an Xbox is $350ish), help with the theme, and of course they need to tell you who they want to invite.

6-8 weeks out

  • Determine budget and theme. If you don’t talk about the budget, your child will dream up the most audacious party. Trust me, I remember when my oldest was five…he was REALLY into the movie, Cars. When I asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday, his suggestion was to take his best friends to Disney World to visit Lightning McQueen…and wouldn’t it be “super cool” to have Lightning come to our hotel for cake and ice cream too?? Wow. I quickly adjusted to how about we have a Lightning McQueen “themed” birthday party? I know I likely squashed his dreams, but hey…momma’s gotta budget.

  • Select your date. This sounds easier said than done. The sooner you can determine where you want to host the party, secure the date ASAP. Popular venues book months in advance. Have a back-up date handy in the event your ideal date is already booked.

  • Book the venue and entertainment. Figure out where and what you’d like to have for entertainment, and get that secured. Also, be sure to pay your deposits. If it’s an online booking tool you’re using, make sure you receive confirmation that your payment was processed. 

  • Assemble the guest list. Talk to your child about who they’d like to invite, and then add your own list as well.

4 weeks out

  • Distribute invitations. I’m a big fan of e-invitations instead of a hard copy. Evites these days have google calendar or ical functionality too…so, the invitation can easily be added to your digital calendar on your phone. Also, you can set up evites to automatically remind guests a few days out from your party. If you choose to send hard copy invitations, be sure to get those in the mail. As we all know, calendars fill up quickly!

2-3 weeks out

  • Order the cake or sweet treats and determine the menu. Be sure to order food in advance…or, you’ll be stuck with Target cupcakes (not that there’s ANYTHING wrong with this…been there – done that!) and cheese sticks. If the bakery you like to order from is a busy one…you gotta order early. Be sure to pay any deposits, or that could come back to bite you as well.

  • Make or purchase goody bags and decorations for the party. I know you’re probably thinking 2-3 weeks out is way too far in advance, but you all know how crazy life gets. Trust me, the sooner you can get things done…the better you’ll feel.

Week of the party

  • Confirm entertainment, food & venue. That’s right…you need to call all of these folks just to make sure they’re good to go. Confirm pick up and drop off times, etc.

  • Send a reminder email or text to guests. If you’re not doing the automatic reminder on evite, then be sure to remind your guests about the party.

Day of the party

  • Have fun! Remember to say thank you to your guests…and have your child say thank you to the guests AND parents. You know it’s a lot to juggle birthday parties in the midst of soccer games, gymnastics…and all the things we have to do. A thank you goes a long way.

There you have it…the party planning checklist! Enjoy!

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