It happens all the time. You’re busy, which I totally get because I am, too. So, if you’ve waited too long to plan your child’s birthday party, but you still want a custom look, here’s what you need to do to make it happen: 8 steps to pull off a last-minute birthday party.
1 – Decide on Your Party Budget
Yes, this should be your first step. Not super fun, but seriously. Knowing your budget will help you make every purchasing decision. For instance, I have a custom party plan client planning a neon party right now. Since we know her budget, it was pretty easy to say that while it would be awesome to hang black art paper on her walls and paint on designs with florescent paint that actually glows (it doesn’t all glow), that just wasn’t in the budget. So, decision made, and time not wasted on dreams that were too big.
P.S. My FREE eBook: Party Planning Cheat Sheets, has a budget worksheet that may help you out.
2 – Pick Your Theme
You’re not getting anywhere without this decision. But may I suggest this is not the time to try to pull off a Marie Antoinette party? (Check out this one from Kiss My Cakes.) So fab, but there is no reason to bite off more than you can chew.
My fav theme at the moment is this twins’ party from Lil Hoot. It’s all about her daughters’ favorite things and I think this would work for boys or girls or any age. The message is: now is the time to keep it simple.
And before you choose your theme, check out “Shop at Home” below.
3 – Be Nice to Your Vendors
… and they’ll be nice to you. I am sure that you, personally, are all sweetness and light all the time, as of course am I. But I do hear stories. Don’t be the crazy customer.
First the hard truth: if you waited too long to plan your party, even if you have the best excuse ever, it’s not your vendor’s problem. If you must have something that is custom, order as soon as possible.
Let’s pretend you reach out to a printables designer. She’s happy to help you, but says there will be a rush fee. No one wants to pay extra for anything, but if the designer is going to put other work aside and let you leapfrog to the front, then that’s the price you pay. Time to just smile and pay the rush fee.
Next: this is the time to be decisive. Make it easy for the printables designer to help you. Send her personalization information correctly the first time, approve the first proof, and don’t ask for a bunch of customization — you don’t have time anyway, remember?
4 – Shop at Home
I’m guessing you don’t have time to make the rounds of the craft and thrift stores for inspiration? And online ordering may be questionable. I can’t tell you how many times an estimated delivery date has not come true for me. That’s no biggie if you are ordering three months in advance. But if it has to be there by date X, you’re just asking for the shipping gods to play with you.
So, to avoid rush shipping, and save yourself umpteen errands, start by shopping at home. Your first thought should be, “OK. My theme is WHATEVER. What do I have in those colors? What do I have that’s related? For my Wizard of Oz party, it was a pop-up book of the Wizard of Oz. For my New Year’s Eve Bash on a Budget, it was clocks. For my Pink Pig Party, it was almost everything. You get the idea.
Everything you find in your house is one less thing you have to source someone else. (And if shopping at home fails, shop your friends and family. This table from my Valentine’s Sweetheart Party came from my neighbor’s back yard.)
5 – Have Your Party at Home
It may seem that a location will solve all your last minute problems, but if you are really hoping to decorate and craft and make it a custom event, being at home is the way to go. You’ll be able to set up your dessert, dining and favor tables as time permits. With a location, you’ll be rushing in a few hours ahead of the party and dashing to set up. But if you really want to have that off-site party, follow the tips here.
6 – Fall Back on Your Decorating Basics
I have a few go-tos that work for any party. Now is not the time to reinvent the wheel. Now IS the time to rely on what you know you can do in your sleep. Here are my fall back tricks.
- Three layer cake, white buttercream frosting, fondant topper. Done.
- Fabric backdrop with Happy Birthday banner; fabric tie garland across front of dessert table. (Such an easy DIY: here’s how.)
- On the dining table, runner with chargers and white plates. (The runner can be as simple as wrapping paper or fabric folded to the right size.) Or go wild and use three runners vertically.
- Water bottle with a simple wrap — you could make the wrap from scrapbooking paper. You don’t have to offer multiple drink options, but Jones or Izze soda can be a great, colorful addition.
- White serving pieces go with any theme. If you don’t have what you need, a quick trip to WalMart or World Market should take care of it.
7 – Keep the Desserts Simple
And by simple, I mean purchase. Don’t stress yourself out by trying a new recipe. And, you may not have enough time to order custom cookies or cake pops or custom chocolate or all the other cute desserts I love. But here are some quick and easy treats you probably could manage.
- Have your grocery store bakery frost brownie bites in your party colors.
- Buy pretzel rods, candy melts and sugar sprinkles. Melt, stir, dip, and sprinkle. Easy.
- Store bought cupcakes with buttercream frosting.
- Candy. It’s the ultimate no-cook solution. Head over to Party City and choose a selection of candy in your colors.
- Sugar cookies. Buy the mix, add food coloring to match your party. Simple = classic.
- Buy jumbo marshmallows, colored candy melts, jimmies, and lollipop sticks. Melt the melts, dip in the lollipop stick, insert it in the marshmallow. Hold the marshmallow and dip it part way in the candy melt, then dip just the top in the jimmies.
There also is nothing wrong with keeping it old school and just doing cake and ice cream. And while you’re at the grocery store, pick up a little floral arrangement to help fill your dessert table.
8 -Kids Come First
I wish I could tell you what to do for your party activities, but that depends on your theme and the age of your guests. Here’s my advice: focus more on your guests having fun than how everything looks. Ask them for their ideas. That’s what will make your party memorable to your kids. (Sorry. I guess I write about “your kids” in the plural as if everyone has twins.)
I hope that helps get you started and helps you avoid some party planning pitfalls. Do you have any more tips? Please share in comments!