Thanks to having 5 kids, birthday parties are a regular occurrence in our family. 4 times a year we do a family birthday party – spring, summer, fall and winter while combining 2 fall birthday celebrations into one.
Lists and Planning
Lists and planning are key to making these parties happen. All 4 birthday parties fall at busy times in our schedule – the end of school, beginning of school, and Christmas time. Usually, I start working on the parties about 2 months ahead of time, even if it’s simply setting the date and time and deciding on the menu. For me, these are the most important parts of party planning. Having a set date gives me a deadline. Having a menu means I can shop sales and make food ahead of time.
Party Preparation the Week Before the Party
Most of the party preparation happens the week prior to the party. I take my lists and schedule tasks for each day to spread the preparation over a week’s time unless my schedule dictates otherwise. I try to leave the Friday before the party free for last minute errands, food prep, and getting the house ready. Saturday is for final cleaning, set up, and picking up items like the cake and ice.
Last Minute Party Preparation When You Have Almost No Time
Last week, I had to plan a family birthday party at the last minute. The date had been set since the beginning of September with invitations emailed. However, I had a crazy September between back to school stuff and lots of Girl Scout training and preparation. Last week, my youngest son had a series of melt-downs in preschool which meant extra pick ups, trying to write while he was home, talking to the teacher and principal about my son, and taking him to get checked for illness.
Getting ready for a family birthday party on Saturday was the last thing on my mind with the stress and worry about my son’s situation at preschool.
Fortunately, I had some fall backs for Plan B. My sister was already taking care of the birthday cake which freed me from ordering a cake or making it myself. I dug into our party supplies and found lots of Halloween napkins and plates to use, plus some leftover plastic wear. I didn’t have to go to the store, and cleaning up after the party would be much easier.
The best part of Plan B was ordering a deli tray at a local store Friday morning. While I would love to make the food or serve healthier versions of lunch meat, ordering the deli tray freed up my time. I ordered chicken salad as a gluten-free option, roasted red peppers, and orzo salad as a side as another time savings.
Finally, all of my kids jumped in to help. In fact, my 9 year old son woke up the morning of the party at 5:30 am and started re-arranging the furniture on the first floor, even though the party wasn’t happening until 3:0o pm that afternoon. Boy did I love him! Other kids helped with setting up the party goods, wiping down counters, making salad, preparing the appetizer tray, not to mention cleaning up the basement and vacuuming the basement and first floor.
The party was a success. It wasn’t about the food. Or the cleaning up.
It was about inviting people into our home to celebrate and making the best of what we had.