10 Ways to Plan a Birthday Party

by Erin Ringwald

Throwing a birthday party isn't as simple as just telling people to show up. Planning is required to ensure everything goes smoothly. Knowing the key elements in birthday party planning lets you prepare confidently, knowing all the details are covered.

Budget

Deciding how much you want to spend determines all the other party details. Although there is no fee to have a party in your home, you must spend money on decorations and food for the guests. Sometimes a venue party ends up being less expensive in the end, depending on what's included in the price. Planning a party at a restaurant where the guests go Dutch limits your out-of-pocket expenses.

Location

Although planning a party at your home gives you the convenience of a familiar location, party venues provide another option. For example, planning a birthday at the park allows for larger guest lists and removes the need to clean your home before the party. Other options include bounce gyms for children's parties, the zoo or a local pizzeria. Contact the potential venue to discuss cost and reservations.

Guest List

Once you know where you want to throw the party, consider the guest list. If you're planning an in-home party, consider the space you have for guests. When planning a party outside the home, consider the venue's cost. Some venues charge by the number of guests, while others, such as parks, have no limits.

TIme

Although you can throw the birthday party at any time, consider your party needs before choosing a time. For example, if the party is for a little one, base the party around nap times. In other instances, consider if you want to feed the guests a meal or just snacks. Then set the party before, during, or after a mealtime, based on your food decision. Decide if you want a short 90-minute party or longer all-nighter. In addition, when using venues, the price may vary based on time and duration.

Theme

Parties don't require a theme, but a theme can help you choose decorations. Choose the guest of honor's favorite movie or television show. A favorite cartoon character or a favorite band gives you theme options as well. Other options include a favorite sport, color or animal.

Invitations

Choose invitations to inform the guests of the party's time, location and theme. Choose from store-bought invitations or make your own. Party supply stores carry numerous invitations in almost any theme you can think of. To make your own, choose a shape that matches your theme, such as a cowboy boot for a western party. Use a cookie cutter in that shape to trace it on a piece of cardstock. Cut it out and write the party details on the back.

Decorations

Although streamers and balloons are effective, bring in items from around your home or from a party supply store to accentuate the theme. For example, use bales of hay for a farm-themed party. Drape pieces of fabric on the walls and from the ceiling to create a tent for a circus party. Use stuffed animals or toys to decorate an animal-themed party. Photographs and posters that match the party's theme also work.

Games and Activities

Include games and activities to keep your guests entertained. Transform the classic game of pin the tail on the donkey to match your theme. For a SpongeBob party, for example, create a poster of SpongeBob without his pants. Give each guest a pair of construction paper pants to pin on. Or cut out sugar cookies in shapes to match the theme and let the guests decorate them with colored frosting and candies.

Food

When planning a party with just snacks, offer themed choices. If you're throwing a football party, choose foods in the color of your favorite team. For example, for a Redskins game, use yellow corn chips and red salsa, or strawberries and pineapple. When planning a dinner party, choose foods the guest of honor loves, such as a favorite alcoholic beverage or side dish.

Cake

Choose a simple layer or sheet cake with birthday wishes in icing, or create an elaborate cake to match your theme. Homemade cakes are less expensive than a bakery designed cake; however, they require more time. If you don't have cake baking skills, create a simple sheet cake and cover it in frosting. Add small plastic toys that match your theme, such as princesses for a fairytale party or plastic baseball players for a sports theme.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images