Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Birthday party budget blues

So, the kiddo has asked us if she can invite her entire preschool class to her birthday party this year. Other parents at preschool have done this - the party we went to a few weekends ago had more than 2/3 of her class in attendance. On the one hand, we'd be totally happy to honor this request, especially given the fact that we didn't have any sort of big, kid-centered birthday party last year. On the other hand, however, the kiddo has a HUGE class - we're talking 22 kids. Add to that her two best friends, who do not attend her preschool but who would definitely be invited, and my nephews, who will be in town that weekend, and we're up to 26 kids. Then there's the fact that the kids are not yet at the "drop them off and pick 'em up again in a couple of hours" age, either, so we have to take at least one grown-up per kid/sibling group into account as well. And that? Is a LOT of people.

We've been bouncing around various ideas for party venues. (Hubby is adamant that such a large party will NOT be taking place at our home. I'd be more inclined just because there are no additional rental fees involved, but yeah, that is a lot of people. The most we've ever had here before is 36 for the kiddo's baptism, but that was all adults besides 3 kids, and adults are less inclined to create total mayhem, and even then it was a bit crowded and a lot of cleaning up afterwards.) Top places we've been considering include the YMCA (we're members), the zoo (we're members there as well), a really cool farm that is also kind of a hike (45 mins - an hourish away, depending on from where in town one is driving), another farm that is significantly closer and renting a pavilion at a local park. Unfortunately, the going rate for a birthday party at the venues I've mentioned is in the $12-15 per kid range, and that doesn't include feeding the adults present. Yikes.

Even the park idea isn't cheap. There's a park 10 minutes away from our house with an awesome playground (the kiddo and I are planning on visiting it later today, as a matter of fact), and they have some nice pavilions there as well. Unfortunately, this park is not in our town, but the next town over, and since we're not residents, the fee more than doubles to rent a pavilion. Add to the rental fee the cost of feeding the masses, decorations (even if it's just a bunch o' balloons), paper products etc, and it starts looking about as expensive as going to the YMCA or the zoo or wherever, plus then we'd be doing the set-up and clean-up.

One thing I'd suggested to the hubby was having the party at such a time that a meal wouldn't be implied. Most of the venues will do a party with just cake, ice cream and juice but no pizza (the meal option of choice) and that way, we've eliminated the whole "feeding the grown-ups" cost altogether. Hubby wasn't too keen on that idea, however. He thinks that it is expected and also customary to feed everyone who attends a party an actual meal.

So, I've got the birthday party budget blues. I don't feel that we're being overindulgent parents or that we're spoiling the kiddo by attempting a whole-class party. Goodness knows, she hears "no" a heck of a lot more than she hears "yes" about things in our everyday life. She truly adores all the kids in her class and wants to have them come and play with her and have fun with her for her birthday. We may wind up having to limit the number of kids, though, since it seems a bit risky to just hope/assume that a good portion of them will not attend. The number we've been using for cost estimates is 20 out of 26, which may be high but doesn't seem improbable.

At this point, I'm leaning towards doing the park thing, (so if anyone out there lives in Parma and wants to help us save $65 in rental fees, we'd be most grateful and appreciative) but we're still crunching numbers. If we do have a whole-class party, this will most likely be the last year we'd do it. Once the kiddo gets to elementary school, we'll start limiting the number of friends she can invite, in part because I'm assuming friendships will start being more selective as the kiddo get older. I don't want to use the "clique" word, but you know what I mean - different social groups start forming, and it seems like that starts a lot earlier nowadays than it did when I was a kid. I guess I'm thinking of this as sort of the end of an era in a way, because it feels like a certain amount of childhood innocence will be disappearing forever once the kiddo climbs on the school bus in September and heads out into the big, bad world of elementary school. Hmmm, I just don't know.

So tell me, dear readers, what are your thoughts on the whole children's birthday party subject and our budget-busting dilemma? Do you think that people have a general expectation of being fed an entire meal (even if that's just pizza and juice) at a birthday party? Would it be chintzy to just have cake and juice and let the kids run around the playground together? Are we being hideously overindulgent by even considering the kiddo's request? Any brilliant suggestions?


My name is Andy. said...


When we go to b-day parties, I have NO expectation of being fed, just because I'm an adult who stayed because Liam is too young to just drop off. And neither have the other parents that are in our b-day party circle. I also think a 1:30-3:30 party time means you can just do cake and drinks, and maybe a couple of bags of chips or a fruit tray. Avoid the whole meal thing all together!!

Nora said...

Hey Heather, how about "renting" the church hall? As a member there is no fee for you, it is a large area that opens into the back yard. Plenty of room for games etc.
I'd stick with the cake and ice cream and maybe some snacks...chips, juice or veges for adults. Face it, people don't go to parties for the food, they go for the fun. Plan a few games, time for snacks, the obvious cake etc and gifts and you've got a great party going.

Anonymous said...

I agree, maybe lay out chips and dip, maybe a fruit and cheese thing and some drinks and cake.

We have yet to do any kind of big party for the kids. Heck, just bringing their cousins an older sibs brings the kid count to over 10!

You could always succumb to the horror of Chucky Cheese!

Anonymous said...

Our society has gotten waaaaayyyy out of hand with the expectations for kids' parties these days. Since Bean is still so young, we usually end up doing a Christmas party/birthday party combo so the adults expect to get (over)fed, but that's my hubby's Italian coming out more than anything.

For the kids, we do a few birthday decorations, I make a homemade cake and toss some cheap candy into a cheap pinata. The kids play in the yard and eat chips and cake until they collapse. Voila. Birthday bash. If I'm at a 2 hour party I do NOT expect a full banquet.

Cake and punch and a few snacks are MORE than fine for an afternoon party, IMHO, especially for 25+ kids and adults!

Happy upcoming birthday to the Emster, too. Sniff. I can't beleive how big she's getting. I'm sure you're far more stunned than I am!

Sue said...

Heather -

A kids party (yes, even with adults) with that many kids is plenty long at 2 hours. And with only 2 hours in the afternoon, there's no need for a meal. Maybe some snacks such as veggies, fruit, chips. And of course cake!
Did you think of using the church fellowship hall? Free for members :) A great big hall to run around in, and it opens to the open back yard. Plenty of bathroom space and a big kitchen.
I love the idea of inviting the whole class. You're right, it will probably be the last time you'll have that chance. Kids that age have a blast just running around with a few games and cake.