Well-planned parties make great memories
When it comes to children’s birthday parties, the event may only last a day, but the memories last a lifetime. Whether you’re high-style or low-budget, there are many ways to plan your child’s next bash. Here are some ideas from some local party planners and experts who love to celebrate.
For Yvonkia Illiassou, going all out for her kid’s birthday parties is pure fun. The 39-year-old Harrisburg mom enjoys every part of the planning process from cakes and décor to location and theme for her children, Chance, 6, and Honesty, 2.
Illiassou chooses everything for her party based on the current interest of her child. For past parties, she has ordered over-the-top 3D character cakes and extravagant balloon decorations shaped like wrestling rings. She loves to have her children’s favorite characters attend the party. “We had Mickey and Minnie come up to the Friendship Center. We’ve done Spider-Man at the roller rink,” she said. “My Batman was actually the Clown Around Town guy. He went out and rented the costume. He interacted with the kids and did balloons. They rent costumes, come out to our house and read books or fairytales.”
Illiassou suggests parents think about costs before planning. “I usually do a budget before I start. Now I know how much it costs so I try not to go over the budget,” she said. If Illiassou is running short on money, she adjusts her plans to save where she can. “We made the (cake) to feed less people so it can fit my budget,” she said.
David Everett, event and wedding producer at the JDK Group in Harrisburg, said today’s parents want a birthday party that is unique and customized to each child. “When you look back over the parties of yesterday, it was a lot about balloons, streamers and finding them that plate that had Spider-Man or the Big Red Dog,” he said. “Now the celebrations are being taken to the next level and really using very unique elements to create that atmosphere.”
Whether you are planning a child’s birthday party or the Inaugural Gala like the JDK Group, Everett says there are things to consider when you begin the process. The first step: look to your guest of honor. “You really want to analyze what your child is into and from there create the atmosphere and theme,” he said. Next, choose invitations and build décor around those. “Continue the concept with what are your linens going to be… to centerpieces on the tables. What food elements are you going to serve?” Everett said.
Everett suggests looking at magazines or using Pinterest to find inspiration and choosing ways to make typical items special. “Instead of doing cookies on a plate bake them on a stick so it’s a cookie lollipop then take it to the next level and serve it with milk. Take a graham cracker pre-dipped in chocolate, and then dip into fluff and torch right there and display on a clothespin. Think outside the box,” he said. “No matter what budget they have to create an event like this it’s very important that you do create that experience for your kids because they will carry these memories with them throughout their lifetime.”
Sherie Crum is the budget party décor guru for her friends and family. The 60-year-old grandmother of four loves to set the stage for a party by taking free and no cost items and turning them into something memorable. Crum suggests parents use the child’s toys, books or everyday objects found around the home for décor to save the most money.
For Crum’s parties, the food table is where it’s at. “People flip over a gorgeous table,” she said. “To make any table look gorgeous the key is lifts and levels.” After putting down white Christmas lights, Crum places party food on different platters or plates at different heights around the table. “If you don’t have a pedestal, use books and then cover it with a table cloth or pieces of material, old curtains or a sheet. You might not have a pretty plate but you can take a paper doily and make that plate look adorable,” she said.
She recently decorated a party for her youngest grandson by using toy trucks. “Put all your food in toy trucks and line them with foil or Saran Wrap,” she said. “I built highways for all my trucks and used black construction paper and put white paint down the middle so the trucks sit on the construction paper. There are so many things you can do for nothing,” she said.
Crum’s favorite tip is to take two tall wooden boards and connect with string to hang items from on the food table. She uses children’s dress up clothes, balloons, snowflakes, sports jerseys, or even items like pinwheels that the children can take home with them as party favors. “It doesn’t have to cost you hardly anything and you can make it adorable,” she said.
Marina Shannon is a freelance writer and married mom of two energetic boys in Waynesboro.