PLANNING YOUR FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY?
You’re a first-time mom with a 9 month old baby girl. Besides the occasional birthday parties you’ve attended from the distant relative, you have close to ZERO first-hand experience with children’s parties, let alone in planning one from scratch.
But that’s okay. You just planned and went through your wedding. Compared to that, birthday parties should be a walk in the park.
Does this look familiar?
THE MOST COMMON CONCERNS AND QUESTIONS OF EVERY MOMMY PLANNER
Suddenly, you are swimming with a ton of questions:
- How much will this party set me back? What’s the typical budget range for the “usual” kiddie party?
- I’m just 3 months away from my baby’s 1st birthday. Is it too late for me already? Do I still have hope?
- Which suppliers should I book first?
- Which venues, caterers, bakers, and photographers should I get?
- Can I have a party with the least amount of chaos and pandemonium?
- Do I need a coordinator/planner to help me answer all of these questions?
SIT DOWN WITH ME AND PLAN YOUR PARTY IN 15 MINUTES
In this blog post, let’s pretend that you’re sitting down in the Party Magic store and having a meeting with me, discussing your party. I will try and answer all your questions and provide you with a step-by-step plan on how to execute your party.
A little warning first: this blog post is really MEATY. I’m not holding back on any information or tips in terms of planning your party. So be sure to bookmark this post first so you can revisit it again in the future.
A.) FIRST THINGS FIRST: BUDGET
How much will it cost you to hold your party, all-in?
This is the first question on the tip of every mom’s tongue, but you probably won’t like my answer:
As with everything else, it all depends on your expectations for your party, the venue you are renting, the caterer you are getting, the stylist / balloon decorator you are hiring, the number of guests you are inviting, and the general “grade-level” of suppliers.
To give you an example, about 2 years ago, a client of mine spent a total of P345,000 all-in for a party of about 300 guests. What did that type of money buy her? See below:
BREAKING IT DOWN PIECE BY PIECE:
Below is a breakdown of the cost components.*Food carts included NYFD, Nacho King, Sorbetes
*Entertainment included Symond host/magician, Jive, mascots, flamethrowers, jugglers, stiltwalkers, kiddie salon, crafts booth
A BASIC RULE OF THUMB
Based on my experience with this and other numerous clients, a pattern emerges. P345k all-in cost for 300 guests comes to about P1,150 per person for this particular example. My own internal rule of thumb is that for a reasonably above-average birthday party, expect to spend anywhere between P1,000-P1,500 per person, all-in cost.
Limitations to this Rule of Thumb
Of course, the definition of “above-average” is highly subjective (if a couple’s objective is to “wow” the socks off their guests, then obviously total costing will exceed this range), and add to this the fact that people come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, then you should take this guideline of mine with a fistful grain of salt. This is all very rough, and only serves as a sort of example or reference point.
THE KEY TO THROWING AN AFFORDABLE PARTY: CONTROL THE BIG 3!
Let’s take a look at that table again, but this time calculating how many percent out of the total cost does each line item represent. The biggest discovery (more like epiphany!) here is that 65% or roughly two thirds of your entire budget will go towards the venue, food, and styling/decorations.
So. If you can make prudent choices and control your costs in terms of these “Big 3” items, then you are already two-thirds of the way in.
I’m going to throw off some ideas:
Venue – Don’t just look for venues with cheap rental. Why not scrap rental altogether by getting a venue that offers no rent, just a consumable catering package? Makati Sports Club comes to mind. Another way to go about this is to find respectable village clubhouses that have reasonable rental fees (think Greenmeadows, Corinthians, Northeast Greenhills, etc.).
Catering – There really is no shortcut on this one. For me, don’t just focus on the lowest priced caterer. Go for the established ones that are known for delicious food that are reasonably priced. People are coming to your event primarily to EAT and not just chat with you, after all. Then again if you’ve followed my advice and took a venue that offers a consumable food package, you could transfer your savings from not having to pay the rental fee into more or better food.
Decorations/Styling – I have absolutely zero suggestions for savings costs on this one, since I obviously believe that wonderful styling transforms your entire event and makes it a wonderful experience for all your guests. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this:
Kyrie’s Travel Themed Party at the Blue Leaf by Party Magic. Will blog about this soon too!
B.) WHAT IS THE PROPER PLANNING PERIOD?
Yes, in this case, there is one other PPP that is just as important as our country’s Public-Private Partnership Program, and that is the: Proper Planning Period. Tada!
Yes, when you’re running out of time, you can certainly “wing it” and manage get out relatively unscathed. However in my own experience, poor planning most certainly leads to minor hiccups and potential big ones.
Again I’m going to throw off a rule of thumb here: in an ideal scenario, you should start the planning process 5-6 months before your event date. If you are a very busy person and you are now 3 months away from your event date, it’s not the end of the world so don’t panic.
But: 5-6 months lead time is ideal because your first step should be booking the suppliers that get fully booked the fastest. Which leads me to…
C.) WHICH SUPPLIERS TO BOOK FIRST?
THE FIRST PRIORITY
Book these guys FIRST because trust me, they get booked EARLY:
The most advanced booking I ever received was a full year before the event date (this is a 1st birthday party, so the mommy booked right after she gave birth! LOL)
The ideal time frame to book these suppliers should be 5-6 months in advance.
THE SECOND PRIORITY
Book these next because they are either important and/or they also get booked fast (to a lesser degree), OR they do work that may involve a lot of back and forth decision making processes (such as designing invitations and cakes)
- Cake supplier
- Invitations designer / printer
- Giveaway/souvenir suppliers
Book them around 3-5 months in advance.
A little caveat in terms of cake suppliers: the best ones are notoriously tardy when it comes to replying back to inquiries, so don’t be dismayed. These guys literally live inside their kitchen and most of them do not have administrative clerks so checking emails is usually the 2nd priority. The key is to secure your slot / event date with them, and provide them pegs. After that, expect more activity and back-and-forth at a time that is nearer your event date.
THE LAST PRIORITY: THE REST OF THE SUPPLIERS
Now that you’ve nailed down the above suppliers, give yourself a pat on the back as you can now relax a bit. The last set of suppliers are the less critical ones and the ones that have a lot of capacity to accept your booking:
- Food carts – potato corner, FIC ice cream, pizza, coffee, milk tea, the works
- Crafts/activity booths
- Other entertainment options – inflatables, arcade games, mascots, singing princesses, marching bands, you get the idea
- Sounds and lights supplier
- Stage platform supplier (if needed)
- Photobooth (ie, Photoman)
Ideally, book these guys about 2-3 months in advance (a month in advance works too).
D.) WHICH SUPPLIERS TO GET?
Venue – there are 5 types of venues to book:
- Stand-alone venue places
- Condominium function rooms
Clubhouses – This is the classic venue where you can never go wrong. Clubhouses on average are more affordable than the other venues, they are on the ground floor (usually) so no elevators, plus it’s in a relaxed setting (within a private subdivision or a private sports club). Think Greenmeadows, Greenhills West, or the Valle Verde clubhouses.
Standalone Venue Places – These are typically pricier as collecting rent is their main and only business. However, if you’re willing to dish out the money, you are definitely getting its worth as these venue places are usually spacious and beautifully designed. Think Blue Leaf, or White Space.
Condominium Function Rooms – Venues like these are quite cozy, but usually limited in size and capacity. Pricing varies widely and depends on the condominium itself. Think One Shang, St. Francis, or Arya Residences in BGC.
Restaurants – If you are on a tight budget, I suggest considering restaurants as venues. The best thing about restos is that they usually do not charge venue rental rates. You just order food and that’s it. A fair warning though: restaurants usually offer very very limited ingress period for stylists, PLUS because of the way their interiors are designed, little to absolutely no styling/decor can be done for your party. (this might be a good thing though for those who are looking for more cost savings!)
Hotels – These venues are the cream of the crop. Classy, elegant, and not to mention (typically) expensive. Think Sofitel, the Marriott function halls, and the Shangri-La hotels.
Need exact suggestions? Check out a few my other blog posts regarding venues here:
For those who have read my various blog posts about recommended catering services, you might notice that they are a bit outdated. Here’s my current opinion of these caterers.
The Creamery’s Beef Shortplate in Burgundy Wine Sauce
If it were me who will throw a birthday party this year, here are the caterers who are on my shortlist:
- The Creamery Catering
- Tjioe the Caterer
- K by Cunanan
- Albergus Catering
- M Catering
- Golden Cape Catering
- Verleo Catering
- Hizon’s Catering
That’s really just it. No need to make your life more complicated than it already is by searching high and low for various other caterers because most probably, these other caterers will disappoint you. The guys listed above are the best in the business, in my humble opinion.
Party Magic. =)
Here’s another work of ours:
Hee-yah!! Everybody was Kung Fu fighting in Lucio’s most Awesome Kung Fu Panda Party! Styled by Party Magic.
CAKE AND PASTRIES
For proof, see picture below:
Tazzy Cakes don’t make cakes. They create art.
Believe it or not, this is not a lechon. It’s a cake. More specifically, it’s the birthday cake of Ate Cady in her Pinoy Fiesta Themed Party!
You may also consider:
Go for Lemon Three Films. Click here to find out why they are the No. 1 Videographer On My Reco List.
Phew. Now this topic deserves an entire blog post in itself as I can talk a long time about your options here. But since we only have 15 mins, here’s the quickie:
Magicians/hosts you should consider: Alex Lagula, Wizzo, Chubster, Ruther, Leodini, Symond.
E.) IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE TO HAVE A RELAXED, “CHILL” PARTY?
The answer to this is a most definite YES. The key is to achieving this is more nuanced however. You need to be able to know your guests well. If they are the more relaxed, chit-chat, civil type, then you can create a more relaxed atmosphere by fiddling with your a.) decorations and your b.) program and entertainment.
For decorations, choose a stylist instead of a balloon decorator. The aesthetic between the two is worlds away. By choosing the right stylist, you can achieve that less crowded, more sophisticated look.
For program and entertainment, shy away from the usual magicians/comedians/noisy hosting. Here are some ideas:
- Hire Kindermusik to devise a storytelling, role-playing, educational session for the kids.
- Get Gladys of Crafts and Party Bucket to conceptualize a crafts and activity area for the kids. She can do practically any activity you can think of.
The key here is to keep the kids busy with stories and activities and minimize the hosting/talking/noisy sound system. With the kids busy, the adults can sit back and get to catch up with each other.
Crafts and Party Bucket’s decorate your fishbowl activity
F.) DO I NEED A COORDINATOR?
Yes and no. It depends on the type of person you are, and the amount of work you are willing to do. For some, coordinators are a gift from the heavens. For others, an unnecessary cost. How would you know which one?
Planning a birthday party requires some work, but it basically just boils down to two things:
- Researching (which suppliers to get: venue, stylist, caterer, etc.)
- Booking and coordinating with all these suppliers
- Doing a minimal amount of things yourself (such as sourcing prizes and giveaways)
Fortunately, I hope that this blog post of mine has already helped you with number 1 above, somewhat. Now you only need to do 2. and 3. Take note though that this involves inquiries, phone calls, emails, and even meetings and a lot of back-and-forth. If this sounds too tedious, and you’re the type who just wants to write the check and show up to her party, then hiring a coordinator will definitely make sense.
If you do decide to get a coordinator, who should you pick? My top 3 choices are:
- Maan San Buenaventura of Party Starters
- Kenny del Rosario of Planners Plus
- Sharon Alvarez of Events and Beyond
15 MINS UP!
As a parting gift, here are some additional resources that you might find useful in your research.