Jill Fay: Tips for planning a great party... Don't forget the cake!

I sometimes feel like I am a little bit nutty when it comes to throwing parties!! Especially when it involves my kiddos. I enjoy EVERYTHING about all that is involved in party planning! Some things I have learned along the way of party planning is PLAN EVERYTHING WAY BEFORE THE PARTY DATE!!!! Really, if you do this, it is totally possible to throw a lavish party on a budget. Especially if you are crafty. Planning in advance helps to create time to put things together and come across great finds/deals to stash for the big day. Preparing in advance will keep stress down! I try to plan at least a couple months in advance to the party date.

Picking a theme is the first, most important part! Everything will flow around that. I usually don't like all the decorations to be all matching. Colors yes, but design not exactly. Picking an idea that you can incorporate similarities in style is important if you want to save money. For example... I planned a lalaloopsy picnic party for my 6 yr old daughter birthday that was celebrated in our backyard. We used $1 plates (picnic style and not lalaloopsy ones), napkins, and plastic cups (which we wrapped in ribbon for flare). We added liqourice for straws and candy lemon wedges to the cups. We made pom pom hangers out of tissue purchased at the dollar store and used with some other hanging decorations I found. Very cheap and easy to make the poms in any size. Watch youtube for help! Pinterest is amazing and you can google just about any idea you need help with. I like to take the ideas and then add my own creativity. Don't forget to take lots of pictures! I decided (last minute) to hire a photographer to capture the party since I had saved in other areas. That way I did not have to worry about taking pictures and the ones taken are professional..(one of the things I can not do). My photographer is one of my neighbors and was very reasonable in cost. Photos shown of party are taken by Ashley Moss Photography.

Big tip I can give you when planning a big party! Send Save the dates about a month ahead of time to ensure your guest have plenty of time to get on the calendar. Always follow up. Being realistic, RSVPS are hard to come by on their own these days. We make our own invites using whatever scrapbook materials we have (adding a theme embelishment) and send out about 2 weeks in advance to party. Then a week prior to event I usually follow up since I really like to have a close to exact head count for food and prizes/favors.

Lists are my favorite! I am only as organized as my lists!! Make a menu list of a few small snacks, possible main dish, drink, and dessert. Create the menu for guests that are age appropriate. Again..the internet (pinterest and google) are huge helps with fun easy ways to feed the crew. Make a List of a schedule of how you would like to party to go in a timely matter. Include time for food/visiting, play time (crafts/games), dessert and gifts. We usually hand out favors as the prizes at the end of the games to each child or as they leave as a thank you for coming. I like to have my children involved in the making or putting together of their thank you's.

The cake is the hit of the party usually. Being a self employed cake designer, I believe this is a very important part of the party. If baking/cake decorating is not your thing then save your time on doing it yourself and save up for a special cake! However, I love when moms make the cake!! I love to see moms being creative and saving some bucks by doing it herself. Moms make the best cakes! A tip if you attempt this is to use toys as toppers, if you are an amateur designer. Make it easy on yourself and use whatever you can to add flare without the timely fondant work. Plus..the kids love the toys!

Having a special guest is fun! Last year my daughter had a disney princess themed party and a teacher who looked just like snow white dressed up and came to read a story to the kids and paint nails. Boys LOVE weapons I have come to learn. My son and I made marshmallow guns last year for his birthday favor and they were a huge hit. My husband cut pvc pipes and my son and I wrapped them with camoflauge duct tape. We attached baggies filled with marshmallows to them.

Oh how I love Michaels Craft Store!!! And all the wonderful coupons that come with. Did you know you can add an app on your phone and use your coupon every day if you want? I save lots of bucks ahead of time by browsing the clearance isles and using my coupons on items over a several week span. I found really pretty pom pom style yarn there in a clearance bin for $1.99. It was a big bunch of it that went a really long ways for décor. I used it to swag in front of the food tables and for other decoration. Dollar store is REALLY helpful as well!

If your pinterest project fails.. don't stress about it! No one will know unless you tell them. I made a dum dum topiary tree and the top ended up breaking off. So, I stuck it on top of a vase filled with tissue paper and decided to move on from it. I also like to try and keep (reuse) whatever I can for future parties to save on cost. Table clothes, décor, ect can all be kept and reused. Keeping gift bags, tissue, bows, or anything that is reusable after the party is something I do for future gifts.

My little Jenna loves details just like her mommy and I really enjoy making all the details for all to enjoy. Making a big deal of the party is very special for our family. We like to spend less on gifts and more on fun while sharing it with those we love. My son will be 11 soon and now that he is older we have decided less detail is more than fine with him. He wants food and fun! So making things easier on myself and buying a package at a local winery (Henry Estate) to celebrate his birthday. Water slide and mini golf fun are in the future for his party. Along with a bbq there. I will be switching gears soon from girlie to All boy and hope to share my experience of the boy party in September.

Jill Fay is married with two children. Read her Fridays on Douglas County Moms.


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The News-Review Updated Nov 18, 2013 07:31PM Published Aug 8, 2013 11:38AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.