Parties at home - Planning and invitations

So far, the idea of having your child's party at home has been just that - an idea. You've gotten used to the idea and managed to regulate your breathing and heart-rate. Now, turning your party ideas into a reality by sending out invitations and confirming any bookings should be a breeze.

One+ month before
Following the previous post: Parties at home - Part 1 - Deciding to do it, by now you would have:
  • Set the date and time.
  • Decided where in your house or yard the main party activities will occur.
  • Put together a guest list.
  • Decided on a theme (or not to have one).
Now it's time to get to the nitty-gritty of the party plan and start a list – on paper or electronic, whatever works for you.

Schedule the activities
Following on from the dot points above, decide on the order and timing of activities to occur on the day. This can be as regimented or as loose as you like but will allow you to book any entertainment now and put any required information on the invitation. When deciding the activities, ask yourself how much do these children really want and how much are you prepared to do? Factors to include are:
  • Arrival time of guests.
  • Order and duration of all games and entertainment.
  • Food and drink intervals.
  • Singing happy birthday and cake time.
  • Gift opening. Decide whether this will happen as gifts are given (only if the gifts won't be a distraction for your child and others), at a specified time during the party or after the guests have gone home).
  • Handing out loot bags.
  • Departure of guests.
Schedule the lead up to the party
Once you know what activities will happen at the party then you can plan how far in advance you need to book, organise or buy for each activity.
  • Games, activities and entertainment - if you are outsourcing jumping castles, magicians, animals or other entertainers, book them now. If you are planning to organise your own games and activities, think about anything you'll require (such as prizes) and add them to a party supplies shopping list now.
  • Food, drinks and other edible treats - will you be making your own or organising catering? If the later, then book now. If you're organising your own, add items to your shopping list. If you are preparing your own food but require edible decorative items relating to a theme, order these now.
  • Cake - if you're having a cake made, or if you're making your own but need special tin shapes, themed toppers or DIY cake kits, order these now.
3-4 weeks before
Send out invitations
You should now have enough information to be able to send out invitations. There are a few ways to tell your guests about the upcoming party:
  • In person - phone them or tell them when you see them, though this only really works if you are inviting one or two people, otherwise most people like to have the details documented in some form.
  • Electronically - text, email or message via social media - again, best for small numbers and close family & friends.
  • On paper - this is where is gets a bit more creative and fun (yes, fun!). You can:
    • Buy invitation pads which simply need to be filled in with the details. These are readily available from most party shops, newsagencies, craft stores, discount stores or gift shops. They are available in a multitude of themes, colours or licensed characters and are usually come in pads of 25 sheets and all you have to do is fill in the date and address details.
    • Make the invite yourself
    • Get your child to make them
    • Have invitations professionally made - see Children's Guide list of stationery design and supply businesses. These are businesses I've found that have details and examples online and deliver all across Australia.
Which ever way you decide to let your guests know, your invitations must have at least the following:
  • To
  • From (admission - I once forgot to do this and had parents calling me saying their child would love to come, but whose party was it!?)
  • Date
  • Start and end time
  • Address (including any funny directions or access)
  • Event theme - include age or child and specific theme if guests are invited to dress up
  • RSVP
  • Name of parents and contact details
  • Optional – additional information if the child might be getting wet, face-painted or muddy so that parents can be prepared with spare clothes, swimmers, socks required etc. You may also let the parents know what meals you’ll be serving - whether it's just light party snacks or a full lunch/dinner. 
2-3 weeks before
The invitations are out and anything that you are outsourcing has been booked. RSVPs will be coming in and you may have an accurate idea how many guests will be attending. 

Plan menu
If you are preparing the party food yourself, write your menu and add the ingredients to your shopping list. Decide if there is anything that could be made in advance and frozen, or if you simply need to open packets (such as frozen mini pies for heating) or slice fruit and veg just prior to the party. Will you also be catering for any parents who stay?

Party decor and supplies
What party supplies will you need? Will you keep decorations simple or try to recreate every Pinterest board you've seen on your chosen theme? Add to your shopping list all decorative items and balloons and everything related to serving and eating food (platters, plates, cups, cutlery, napkins, etc.)

Do you need extra chairs, tables or outdoor shading? Now is a good time to hire or buy online or ask generous and giving friends to lend you theirs.

Loot bags – will you make your own and insert treats found in local shops or order online? If online, order now to ensure timely delivery.

1 week before
RSVPs due – See who still hasn't responded to the invite and follow up. Have your final numbers now, or as close as possible. Also allow for extra siblings who may come along. 

Check that everything that needs to be delivered will still be done so on time, particularly if you have ordered decorations or baking items online.

Go through your original schedule of planning and activities and ensure that everything has been done and that your shopping list is complete.

Who is going to help you on the day? Even if you outsource entertainment and catering, don't underestimate how much help you will need on the day. Ask a family member or if you are friendly enough with a few of the parents, check if they will be staying during the party and willing to be allocated a job which may be something as simple as ensuring the water jugs and kids' cups are topped up, taking photos or keeping an eye on the bathroom and toilet. 

3 days before
Final shop - you may have been buying party supplies over the past weeks, but go through your final shopping list now and buy anything and everything still required for the party. Consider your numbers and anticipate parents who may stay or bring siblings along.

Printing - if you are hand-making name tags for party bags, thank yous or have other printing needs, do these now.

2 days before
Ensure party clothes and costumes have been washed, ironed and are ready to wear.

Fill the party bags.

Have all party games, activities and prizes, wrapped and ready to be played.

Select music so you just have to hit play on the day.

Day before
Make and decorate the cake.

Clean the house and yard and prepare space requirements for outsourced entertainment.

Ensure all electronic devices are charged – cameras, tablets and phones.

Prepare food, or have on hand ready for packets to be opened tomorrow.

Organise the decorative items, ready to be placed tomorrow.

On the day
Get the pets out of the way. Schedule this a few weeks earlier if you want to book dogs into a doggy-day care or have friends take care of pets for a few hours.

Decorate the party area and tie balloons to the letter box.

Pick up ice if required for drinks tubs.

Final slicing, heating and placing food on platters and in bowls.

Cast a final eye over everything, sit back and wait for the first knock at the door!

You've done it - you've planned the party! Not only should you be breathing normally now, but you may also be hearing angels singing.


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  2. Do not have your spouse/ex-spouse served with court papers when you know your children will be present.