"A Fancy Time" Birthday Party
I don't know how it is where you live, but in our neck of the woods, the at-home birthday party is practically extinct. It's a shame, because there are few occasions sweeter.
It's become more or less the rule to invite all one's classmates and outsource the celebration to a party facility. For sure, my kids love to attend those parties, and from time to time, we've hosted one. But to me they feel anti-social. The activity level doesn't allow the kids to really connect. The turnstile format doesn't let them practice much in the way of social graces. Instead of getting to play guests and hosts, and focusing on each other, such parties tends to be all about the action.
We jumped off that bandwagon early. The boys' guest lists are a process of discernment. There are clear limits to how many guests they can have: the same number as their age; half for a sleepover. They help plan the theme, menu and activities. Sadly my older boys are pretty much lost to character merchandising. I thought our Littlest Who would insist on Super Mario or Transformers for his fifth birthday theme, but to my delight, he agreed when I suggested a "fancy" party instead.
"I'll leave it to you to interpret," I told the mothers of his guests in a heads-up email.
They outdid themselves, with tutus, neckties and sashes. In fact, our little host was quite out-classed, as he abandoned his "fancy" clothes for a t-shirt and soccer shorts moments before the party started. Oh well, at least they were black and white. We did get him to pose for photos in his velvet top hat.
Our host presented all the ladies with bouquets of "silk" red roses, and spanish lace fans. The gents were given top hats and black sunglasses. Black and white crepe streamers and helium balloons made the house look very fancy indeed, accented by silver mylar star balloons, which the guests took home.
Partiers nibbled on very fancy miniature meatballs, chicken nuggets, grapes and cheese cubes, stuck with cocktail picks, and sipped sparkling fruit punch from plastic wine goblets. Chauffeurs had to make do with sangria and guacamole on the front porch.
After some time to gather and catch up, the kids played pass the parcel, who's got the button and pin the tail on the donkey. Then cupcakes were served à la table, before sending everyone out to take a crack at the pinata.
It was altogether charming, and so much more civilized than a free-for-all at the pizza arcade. "Here, darling, hold Auntie Kyran's drink, precious," takes on quite a different tone at home than it does in Chuck E. Cheese. And a floor length gown is so awkward there.
Here's the budget breakdown, for five guests and one host, as well as adult refreshments. It's not the economy version: I did get a little carried away with the favors, and the pinata (filled with fruit chew packets) was a last-minute impulse buy. Included in this are a cupcake decorating kit and extra baking pan that I can reuse. Still, there's no way we could have out-sourced a party for less, and I get to feel like we've kept the home birthday party alive another year.
wine & rum for sangria $13*
party favors and prizes $37
piñata & filler $18 (used $5 coupon at party store)
balloons, streamers, candles $27
2 dozen cupcakes $20 (inc. reusable deco kit & pan)
invitations, plates, cups & napkins $14
*no, I did not poison anyone. It was actually a very decent bottle of wine on sale.