Friday, March 2, 2012

Ask the Experts #3

(don't know what's going on over the next two weeks?  Read the intro here, read about our experts here and join the party here!)

I don't know about you, but I could definitely use some help when it comes to party planning.   I've asked several of my blogging friends:
What tips, tricks and advice do have for making your parties successful and (potentially) less stressful?
And now I'm going to share their answers with YOU!  You better pay attention too, because these guys are good.  

I'm really excited Delia could share her ideas with us.  Delia Creates is one of my must reads, full of fantastic sewing tutorials, simple and tasteful DIY decor, yummy recipe ideas that look like works of art, gorgeous and delicate photography and just plain good ideas.  Delia just finished planning and executing her son's 7th birthday party, so you can stop over there for lots of ideas!

Four tips from a non-professional, still learning a lot, mommy event planner. :)
1. Start early. Planning, decorating, and implementing a party will ALWAYS take longer and more effort than you plan. And if by some miracle it doesn't, then you'll have all your ducks in a row enough to bask in the gloriousness of that moment!
2. When it comes to kids' parties, consider the ages of the children involved when planning games. For my son's 6th birthday, we made sure that all of the games were non-competitive. No winners, no losers, no hurt feelings or drama. Before around age six, some kids can have a hard time with the concept of winning and losing. Now this is just my opinion, but I've learned that it's a battle not to pick for a party. It's not a lesson to be avoided by any means, but it's a lesson best learned at home with parents and siblings over board games, not at a party that is supposed to be fun. At my son's recent 7th birthday party there were still a couple of guests that struggled with this. Luckily only half of our games had a competitive component to it and there were no prizes involved when there was.
Having a hard time thinking of non-competitive games?
Do a craft or cook something together for an activity.
You can make a traditionally competitive activity, like an Easter Egg hunt, less competitive. Don't focus so much on who found the most eggs. Look collaboratively. Repeat the activity a few times, allowing everyone to have a turn hiding them for everyone else to find. Put a twist on it. Have one person look while the rest of the guests give hot and cold clues. Stuff like that.
Games like Button, Button Who's got the Button and Don't Eat Pete are a hit with kids and everyone can get a turn or several turns since they are quick to play.
If you do decide to do a competitive game, give the "losers" a designated place to go with a rewarding consolation prize. So if you play musical chairs, the kids that don't find a seat can go to a designated and decorated section of the room and get a little treat to eat while they watch the remaining guests play the game. It takes the sting out of losing and keeps the tone fun. We didn't do this recently, but you can bet I will next time.
3. When making invitations, think outside the paper square. A memorable invitation is often a unique one. For my son's recent birthday party we gave out origami fish. All the party information was listed on little paper bubbles we strung up out of it's mouth.
For a diaper shower I threw for a friend, I wrapped up the invitation in some white muslin 
and a little safety pin like a cloth diaper.
I've received a really cute holiday banner as an invitiation. We loved displaying it as part of our holiday decor.
I have also done invites with crafty river rock magnets. The recipient gets a fun magnet for their fridge to hang the invite with, and when the party or event is over the gift remains.
First impressions set the tone for the party, and that invitation is the first impression, so make it good.
4. You know I have to include a photography tip!
Take pictures of details beforehand. You want to be able to enjoy the party, so try to get the pictures of the decor, the food and the details you spent so much time on, before the guests arrive. If you took my first bit of advice and started early, then you should have a few minutes to do this. Then during the party you can snap a few shots here and there; you know, mostly the action shots like blowing out the candles and guest interactions, and still be apart of the festivities. You won't have to stress that you didn't get a picture of the cake before it was cut into, or the carefully placed streamers before someone ripped a few down. could designate someone to be the photographer who doesn't mind not being completely apart of the action. A teenage sibling/cousin would be great for this I would think. You could offer to pay him if he does a good job too. :)

(She's brilliant, yes?  I've GOT to learn to prepare ahead and leave time for better photos... but activity and game ideas are something I've got to work on, too.  Delia has more really versatile ideas in her Lego Party post.)

If you don't read googiemomma... what's wrong with you?!?  Just kidding... (but no, seriously?!?) This mama can sew.  Shannon can build.  She can redo a room in style.  She can compete.  She can make you laugh out loud (while your husband stares at you from the couch wondering what the heck your problem is).  And she can do it all with 5 kids.  And they're cute.  Amazing.  Plus she's fun to talk to.

the two main things that stick out to me when i think about party planning:
first, for any party there's never any need to spend a fortune on decor. it's amazing what you can do with some scrapbooking paper chosen to match your theme/colors, stickers, paper punches, tissue paper, string--all cheap supplies-- + a little ingenuity and elbow grease (and the help of pinterest, of course!)
i've done baby showers galore--tea party themed, baby bird themed, basic baby boy/baby girl ones--and i can guarantee i've never spent more than $25 on decor.
ditto for favors--i can't believe what people pay for goofy little things that will probably just get trashed in the long run! honestly, i don't need an "about to hatch!" egg timer or a "measure love" tape measure. i'm pretty happy with a pile of chocolate wrapped in tulle. i can eat it and chuck it.
second--this one is especially for kid's parties--don't overthink it. plan some games and fun if you want to, but in general kids are really good at making fun on their own. you can herd them all into the corner for what you expect to be a rousing game of 'pin the tail on the donkey'. in reality you'll probably end up with a bunch of kids either a) fighting over who's going first b) refusing to wear the blindfold c) lifting the blindfold to see where they're going d) accusing the one lifting the blindfold of cheating e) refusing to play at all and sitting in the corner picking their nose (that one's usually my kid). really--they would have all been happy just running around like lunatics outside with no schedule or timeline.

(You see why I laugh when I read her, right?  I think her kid and my niece would get along... for SOME reason... I also love that she brought up parties on a budget - considering what I spent on my kids' parties to date!)

I found Art With Ashley during the first round of So You Think You Can Sew over at Mommy By Day, Crafter By Night.  I loved her style immediately, and was quickly taken with her fun sewing projects.  But this girl has overflowing creativity, people!  Taking a browse around her blog will lead you to find sweet handmade charms, fine art, tailoring tips, more awesome sewing, crochet, and seriously funky jewelry.  Oh, and more.

I am not a huge party planner but I am happy to share some things I do to make life a little easier when planning a gathering. 
#1. Find inspiration. My Nephew will be turing one next month and I am heading up his party. He loves Mickey Mouse Club House so I am using that as my inspiration. I created a folder on my desktop with his name on it. Then when I see an idea I like I just drop the photo in that folder. 
#2. Make a list. I don't know if you are a list maker but I love a good list. My dad taught me the value of a good "to do" list and I make them all the time. Start with things that have to be done and that are the most important and then end with those things that would be "fun" but aren't necessary. It's great if you found all the decorations and made the cake but if you forgot to send out the invites the rest won't be of much use. :)
#3. Delegate. Most people are willing to help if you just ask. Just make sure they are responsible and punctual. Send out a text the day before just to remind them what they said they would do for you. 
#4. Remember No One Likes a Stressed Out Host/Hostess. When the day come just remember the reason you are having the get together. Take time to make the memories. Keep in mind it's not the end of the world if you forgot to do something. Enjoy the day and live in the moment. And don't forget to have someone take some photos!!

(You may find this hard to believe, but I, too, love a good list.  I make them all the time.  I've recently discovered a secret - if I load my list with things like "take shower," (a feat in itself these days) "feed children," and "eat chocolate cake" I feel a lot of accomplishment at the end of the day.  Even if I didn't cross off "clean bathroom."  BUT, as far as parties?  Rest assured I'll be making better lists.  Probably in spreadsheet form.)

Well, if I could sum up the experts' advice thus far, I think it would look a lot like this:

Make a list
Be inspired by others
Make a list
Ask for help
Make a list
Don't stress out
Did I mention, MAKE A LIST?

I'm learning so much...

*Be sure to check the right sidebar for all the fun parties I link to!


Antonella said...

Sorry I am late to the party!! I love all the ideas, I am keeping a list of my own of all the good ideas!! Hugs, antonella :-)

Delia said...

Thank you for featuring me Kimberly!

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