by Tiffany Markman: copywriter & editor, co-owner of Sing at my Party and adoring mom and wife, who tries to balance her workaholism with her addiction to false eyelashes, caffeine, red wine, blogging about books, and Twitter.
I’m the daughter of a party-planning queen. I had ponies when I was three, a double-decker bus when I was four, and a fully sequined silver outfit at five. So you’d think children’s parties would be my happy place.
I find them stressful, massively time-consuming to organise, messy, noisy and a distraction from the everyday work of… well, work.
So, when my littlie turned one, we opted for a party venue (Bambanani). Same again at two (The Oakleaf). It’s easier: the equipment is there, the toys are there, the food and drink is there, and you don’t have to clean up Armageddon afterwards.
By the time she turned three, we had a bigger house with a nice garden. Party #3 was at home. And I hired a party planner. Yup, for a three-year-old’s birthday…
But it’s not quite as extravagant as it sounds, because my fabulous pro organised the theme, décor, kiddie table, sweeties, food, and entertainment, while I sorted the cake and party packs, and it cost me about 10% more than it otherwise would have.
Now my daughter is four and I’ve DIYed most of this party. It’s a cowboy party so, for the last 8 weekends, I’ve been:
- hunting for non-sugar-filled party pack treats,
- planning a cowboy-themed (catered) menu,
- making sheriff badges,
- painting polystyrene hats,
- inventing table runners out of plaid wrapping paper,
- planting mini cactuses,
- decorating bunting,
- hand-lettering little food identification signs,
- learning the art of paper-fan construction,
- Googling how on earth to work with fondant, and
- liaising with a face painter and a character singer.
I’ve had a lot of help from talented people and done a lot of work by hand. The irony? I’ve loved every single crafty and organisational minute of it.
I’m not sure if I’ve changed or if this gene was always there, lying dormant until I had a child old enough to care about parties. But there you have it…
I’m Party Mom. And here are 10 tips if you’re heading for or thinking of a DIY party:
- Start planning really, really early. The good service providers start booking up 8-10 weeks in advance. Your guests have stuff going on. And there are only so many Saturdays and Sundays in a month. So send out a Save The Date as soon as you have a date and then start engaging with entertainers, etc.
- Pinterest is your best friend. You don’t need to be arty, super-stylish or talented to pull off a DIY, but you do need craft inspiration – and other mommies’ gorgeous successes are the best place to start. Many also come with free printable downloads and detailed instructions.
- Jozikids is your second best friend, obviously. Once you know what sort of theme you’re going with, all of the best services are here, in one place.
- Start your (non-food) party shopping at the Chinese markets. They’re the cheapest. You’ll need a few hours for this, because you have to dig to find the good stuff. Whatever you can’t find there you’ll get, more expensively, at a Party Spot or similar big store, like Westpack. And whatever you can’t find there, you’ll get at one of the pricey but amazing niche party boutiques.
- If your kids are younger (i.e. under 8), organise a play-date for them on party day, so you can get everything ready without having them under-foot.
- Pay someone to be security-guard-gate-opener on the day, so that you don’t have to listen for doorbells, open gates, and then see guests out. It’ll save you a lot of running around and you’ll be able to relax a bit more.
- Close or lock the bedrooms, to confine the celebrating (and kid-related messing) to ‘common areas’ where there are plenty of adults around.
- Appoint someone to be the official photographer, from start to finish.
- Enlist committed help for clean-up. Whether it’s close family members or domestic staff, the aftermath of a party is always easier to tackle en masse.
- Don’t forget to buy the ice!
NB: All the service providers in this article have been paid in full and are recommended on the basis of my satisfaction with them, not in return for freebies, discounts or positive reviews.