Birthdays and budgets: Can they really go together? Yes, all that’s needed is a little imagination and taking advantage of resources already on hand, and anyone can create a magical birthday for a special little girl. In this example, the girl in question was the daughter of a close friend who was turning five. The party was to include both adults and children, all good friends and family.
Setting and Theme: A Garden Tea Party
With little money to rent a special venue, the key was to use resources at hand. That could mean a backyard pool, a local park, or in this case, my friend’s lovely summer garden. In warm weather, this setting provided plenty of space for energetic boys and girls to run around, while adults could enjoy the flowers in bloom.
Steering clear of pricey cartoon or animated character-themed décor, my friend had her daughter and a friend create (on thick white card-sized paper) invitations that they decorated with their own depictions of flowers and outdoor scenes. Inside, invitees would find the (computer-printed and glued-in) details of the birthday event.
Decorations and Activities
Set outdoors were several large tables, some owned by mom, others brought ahead of time by friends and family members. Adults and children were seated separately. At the adult table, a simple white tablecloth had been stitched with colorful pom-poms along its edge, and flowers from the garden served as the centerpiece.
A croquet game was set up for the adults, while children enjoyed the balloons that festooned the scene. Plastic tea sets with teapots filled with water meant for play were enjoyed by many of the children, a favorite (spontaneous) activity of watering the garden kept many busy for long periods of time. A bead-bracelet-making activity was planned, but abandoned because children (when left to their own devices) can keep themselves happy for hours.
At the children’s tables, white butcher paper with glasses filled with crayons (an idea borrowed from child-friendly restaurants) topped an oilcloth table. Everyone was encouraged to have fun coloring.
White paper plates and colorful napkins ruled the day, as did plastic silverware and paper and plastic cups. A lined wastebasket, near the perimeter of the garden, was set up for easy disposal, and plenty of wet wipes were on hand to deal with tiny sticky fingers. No muss, no fuss.
Food and Cupcake Decorating
No muss, no fuss extended to the food and drinks served at the birthday party as well. All the food served was cold. The menu included (made ahead) cold fried chicken, potato salad, pasta salad, vegetables and dip, along with bowls of fresh fruit. Children were encouraged to add strawberries, grapes, orange slices, and blueberries to their plates, as well as to tiny paper cups filled with colorful jello. A wide range of sandwiches to please both adults (chicken salad , ham and cheese, and cucumber and watercress) as well as kids (peanut butter and jelly, egg salad) were cut into quarters, so everyone could enjoy as many of whatever kind they liked.
Help (in the form of family and friends) was called in ahead of the lunch for the mass assembling of sandwiches before guests arrived (as well as blowing up all those balloons). However, the lack of cooking on-site meant that the hostess could enjoy the party instead of being distracted by a barbeque grill or stove. To save even more money, a pot-luck-style menu could have been used, with adult guests asked to bring a dish or beverage.
Drinks included juice, lemonade, and water for the small ones. A fruity sangria, as well as iced coffee and iced tea, adorned the drinks menu for adults. The finale of the birthday event was a top-it-yourself cupcake bar. Items like gummy worms, M&Ms, toasted coconut, strawberries, and other desirable goodies were available to top pink-frosted cupcakes.
Goodie Bags for Kids
Brown paper bags (again decorated on the outside with flowers by the birthday girl and friend) contained some of the same candy treats found on the cupcake bar. They also included fun plastic items available from any local dollar store, a box of crayons, and a bottle of bubbles for blowing. Two hole punches at the top of the bag provided space for weaving through a pink ribbon and plastic daisy to seal the bag shut.
Key to Success
The real key to this very successful girls’ birthday party was simplicity. Even one of the activities planned was abandoned to let everyone just enjoy the moment. Choose-it-yourself menus offered enough options for picky eaters, and simple paper plates (many in a smaller size) meant no-bother clean-up and no outrageous expenses for throw-away items.
Doing most of the work ahead and enlisting the help of friends before the party began made for a relatively stress-free day for mom, too. And that is a success by anyone’s measure!