How Do I Plan My Party? The Beginner Mom’s FAQ Guide to Planning Her First Birthday Party

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Jay Tyrone’s birthday bash. Thank you to Mike Sy for these nice images! 

HOW DO I PLAN MY PARTY? THE BEGINNER MOM’S FAQ-GUIDE TO PLANNING HER FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY

In an effort to document what I know about party planning (especially in the modern age of “event styling” as opposed to balloon decoration), and more importantly to help out all the new moms out there, I’m writing below the most frequently asked questions and concerns my clients have thrown at me during meetings. I will try to make this as comprehensive as possible, but in case I missed something out, please do post your questions in the comments section below this blog post and I’ll try to include the answer in this blog post. And make sure to bookmark this page so you can revisit it later on!


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How far in advance should I start planning for my party? The answer is that it depends for every mom’s situation and particular requirements. But I would say, on average, a good time span would be about 6-12 months in advance.

Which suppliers should I book first?

Another way to frame this question is: which suppliers are in most demand?

Book these suppliers 9 months to 1 year in advance

a.) Venue – if you are opting for a popular venue, some get booked as early as 1 year in advance, or more. Even if you don’t have a theme yet, just go ahead and book your venue. The details can come later on in the planning process.

b.) Photographer – very important as the photographer will be in charge of capturing your memories. Most popular photographers get booked very early on.

c.) Event Stylist – same story. ;p

d.) Host / Magician – if you are targeting a popular host or magician, same deal. They get booked early. So don’t think about the specifics, just reserve the host!

Book these suppliers 6-9 months in advance

Birthday cake / pastries (most of the popular ones are notorious for not being prompt with their replies, so knowing an event stylist or coordinator that has “backchannels” can really help)

Videographer

Coordinator

You should also be thinking hard about your program and other entertainment / activities jugglers, singers, princesses, and others.

Invitation designer and printer

Book these suppliers 3-6 months in advance

Food carts

Activities

Kiddie tables and chairs

Prizes, giveaways

Lights and Sounds

Do I need a coordinator?

This is a bit of a hard one. The short answer to this is, it depends on what type of planner you are. Are you the laid-back, delegator-type who loves her free time and is fine with trusting others to do the job for you? Or are you the ultimate hands-on, DIY mom who just can’t help but get down and dirty with all the details?

If you are not so sure which type you are, my suggestion is to do your research (like read this blog) and plan everything way in advance. If you feel overwhelmed, that might be the sign that you need a coordinator.

How far in advance should I send out my invitations?

Roughly 3 weeks to a month before the event date.

Should I even get a host?

Again, this is based on your personal preference. Whether you will be getting a host or not, and if yes the type of host you will get (each host has their own strengths), will depend on the theme you chose and the ambiance you will try to evoke.

If you are the type who hates rowdiness and noise, having a laid-back, relaxed party might appeal to you. I’ve had some clients who had literally no host. Their events focused on making the kids busy with activities, while the adults ate, gathered around, and caught up with each other.

It also depends on your guests. Do your guests have lots of active kids (aged 5-12 years old)? If yes, you might need to make your program more “lively”. If your guests are mostly adults with infants, then having a more laid-back program might make sense.

In terms of planning for event styling, what is the typical process and steps that I should undergo?

The first step would be to nail down two things: the theme, and the venue. The former will determine the overall look of the party while the latter will determine the constraints that the event stylist will have to deal with in terms of props, backdrops, and layout.

Once we nail down both theme and venue, I usually sit down with the client to have a better understanding of various nuances such as the client’s aesthetic taste, what she wants her party to look like, what elements she likes, what she doesn’t like, etc.

Meeting to discuss design elements before nailing down the theme and venue would be pointless.

After this, I would begin creating a stage design mock-up.

Do I need a “photo booth” photographer”?

Remember back in the good old days when photo booths were made up of “green screen” backdrops and a stationary photography set up? Nowadays, stylists such as Party Magic provide your very own, styled “photo booth” backdrop. So clients usually ask, do they still need a photographer for this “photo booth” area? 

My advice is: get 2 types of photographers. The first photographer should be your “main” photographer which focuses on taking family portraits (before the party) and shooting the styling/decor details while there are still no guests around,  while the second photographer should have people manning the photo area and entrance setups to take photos of the guests as they come into the party, and once the program gets started, to take photos of your guests at the tables, participating in the program, etc.

Where do I find inspiration in choosing a theme?

This is a personal thing, but I would suggest looking at party blogs, Pinterest, Instagram. Personally, I look at hundreds of images everyday so that my eyes and brain get a lot of stimuli.

My advice for themes in general is:

– Pick a theme that you genuinely like; I would even suggest to pick a theme that you have a personal attachment / history with. For example, my client Mommy Diana’s absolute favorite book was the Velveteen Rabbit, so she chose this theme for her baby Isabel. See more at Isabel’s Velveteen Rabbit Birthday

– Don’t pick a theme that is too general (i.e., Kite theme, Cloud theme), as it will be very hard to translate a general theme into a party with many details. A multidimensional theme is desired; for example, don’t just do a “nautical” theme. Do a “Mickey-Sailor” theme instead.

Do I need a table assignment for my guests?

Most of the parties that I’ve done have no pre-assigned table arrangements for the guests. However, I have done parties which did have table assignments. Either way works. However:

I’m more of in the practical camp. Because almost all guests do not RSVP for kiddie parties, there is almost no sure-fire way to determine your final guest list. The guests simply show up on the day of the party. Not to mention, other guests will have tag-alongs that are totally not in your expected list (think of your mother-in-law’s friend’s grand children!).

These factors make trying to control the seating arrangement of your guests very unpredictable. So my advice is, you can probably allocate a few tables for your family and some VIP guests, but for the rest, just go with the flow!

How many prizes should I prepare?

Prizes are normally doled out to the kids as reward for participating in the games. The number of prizes ultimately depends on how many kids you are expecting in the party, but a good range would be about 50-80 prizes at about a total budget of P8,000-P10,000. This is for a typical-sized party, which would number at around 30-50 kids.

Do you have a checklist or a complete list of suppliers / items that I need?

Here are the important suppliers you will need (in no particular order):

Event Stylist

Venue

Photographer

Videographer

Coordinator

Host

Invitations

Entertainment (various)

Cake

Pastries (for dessert table)

Food carts

Souvenirs

Giveaways

Kiddie tables and chairs

Lights and sounds system

How long should be my entertainment? How many entertainment suppliers should I book?

My advice is to keep things short and sweet. Most kiddie parties run at about 3 hours max, from start of program to finish. This means that you probably have enough time to squeeze in a main host (who will have his own program), some games, and 1-2 other entertainers. Some other parties will try to squeeze in more than this, but this usually results to a longer party time.

Are souvenirs only for kids?

Normally, yes. For other Filipino-Chinese parties, the parents also prepare special gifts for the godparents of the birthday kid.

How many food carts should I get?

The number of food carts to get will be dependent on the volume of food you order from your caterer. For example, if you are serving only snacks and “merienda” food, it might make sense to bulk up more on food carts.

Having said that, I would say that if you are availing a “full meal” package from your caterer, a recommended number of food carts to get would be 3-4 food carts.

How many hours of ingress do you need?

Party Magic normally needs a minimum of 5-6 hours to set up everything. This is because we usually haul large items and furniture, and we often do many trips back and forth from our warehouse for a single party. Just unloading our items from the truck would take one hour minimum.

As a general rule: the earlier we can set up, the better.

How many bookings in a day does Party Magic accept?

Our maximum is 2 events per day. We will never accept more than 2 events in a day as I always want to maintain the highest quality of service that Party Magic can provide.

Why are birthday cakes so expensive?

For the top bakers out there, prices of their cakes might seem extravagant. The real reason for this pricing, however, is because kiddie birthday cakes are normally more detailed and intricate, and highly customized to the theme.

What time should my party start? What’s a good schedule for the party?

Stick to the schedule of your host. Hosts typically offer 2 time slots for interested clients: 11AM to 2PM, and 3PM to 6PM.

Do not set your party at odd hours, such as 1PM or 4PM!

If my party starts at 3PM, what type of food should I serve?

Some people deliberately choose the 3PM-6PM time slot so that they could serve merienda or snack items and save on cost. However, for some people in the Chinese community this might be frowned upon and it might be best to serve early dinner.

Do I need a dessert table?

Strictly speaking, no. However, having a dessert table is also a great plus, especially for your guests with sweet tooth! One way to think about the dessert table/area is that it is a “prettified” food cart. In addition to providing guests with dessert, it also allows your photographer additional design/decor details to take photos of. Of course, there are also other options as well which you can replace the dessert table with, such as a drinks bar, a cocktail bar, or a donut wall.

Are giveaways really needed? How many giveaways should I prepare?

In general, yes giveaways are needed because they are expected. I once had a party where no giveaways were prepared; some of the guests ransacked our props!

As a general rule, you should prepare giveaways for each child that attends your party, plus more as backup. This is because some guests are “hoarders” and might “double dip”. Other adults guests might also ask from you, saying that they want to give it to their kids / grand kids when they get home.

Who are your recommended suppliers?

The best would be to browse through this blog as I sometimes post my recommended suppliers. Note however, that some blog posts are outdated.

Love,

Michelle

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Michelle Lao

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