More Advice on Birthday Parties

Updated on January 13, 2014
A.F. asks from Bellmore, NY
20 answers

My daughter is turning five this March. I did not have a party last year for her. I really want this party to be extra special because in April, Alyssa will be a big sister! She wants a "Princess Party" with a Princess character like Cinderella. We live in NY but regardless, a party for the usual ten guests in a venue runs at least $500 plus maybe tax & gratuity. I am considering it though. I won't have a big party every year.

My house is really small with a living room/dining room combo. The basement is unfinished and my yard which is very roomy is too cold in March to host a party. Alyssa attends daycare and has about five girls in her class plus her. I want to invite my niece (age 3) and one other girl in her daycare who she plays with a little. That girl is inviting Alyssa to her party.

I still end up with about eight girls and little room in my house to save money on a house party. The parent's will also stay at this age for a party and then I have no room at all. I hate to leave out any of Alyssa's daycare classmates. Any ideas?

Thank you!

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for the advice. My mother would agree with everyone who thinks $500 is too much for a party. I am new at birthday party planning. My house is small and I often feel anxiety during the one or two holidays that my husband and I end up hosting with my small family. With just 8-10 people, it gets tight in here. Alyssa hasn't been invited to many daycare parties. And the ones we have been to, the parents do stay for the duration of the party. If I invite kids to Alyssa's party and we never had a play date, a parent is going to stay. I think once the kids are closer to 7 or 8 is when parents drop kids off.

I will take all the advice into consideration. By the way, I will be 8 months pregnant in March. Not sure if I want the added stress of having to clean up a party at that stage. P.S. My parent's house is just as small as mine if not smaller with an unfinished basement as well. Thanks for the suggestion. Decisions!

Featured Answers



answers from Amarillo on

Have the party at home. Get a few sheets to cover the walls or break up the space into a big room. Get the big box and paint it to make a castle and have fun. Kids that age don't care what it looks like they just want to play and eat cake and ice cream. Do a project where they take the tiara or such home as a gift (no need for goody bags).

Do it nice but simple since you are pregnant. Save the big bucks for the 16th party. If you don't she'll want the sports car for $35,000 for a birthday present.

Have a good time. Also have a safe delivery.

the other S.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I've had numerous parties in my home and in venues. At home parties end up costing just as much as the venue parties once you add in the party bags, extra food for adults, etc. I go all out, but my kids love it. It's what I do. I tried to have a low-key potluck once because we were broke, but it didn't go over well. Even the adults were disappointed.

My least expensive party was $16. A pack of cupcakes and juice boxes at daycare recess when she was 3y.

March = St. Patrick's Day. You could have a 'Brave' party. Yes, she is Scottish, but the girls won't know or care. Go to a park, have it be a dress up Princess party, get some play archery sets....

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Chicago on

I would never spend 500. 200, yes, but 500, no.

You have an unfinished basement. Can't you use it? Set up tables/chairs,etc. or move furniture from upstairs into it to free up space? is great for buying discounted fairy, princess stuff. I cut out form stars and had the girls decorate wands, attaching ribbon, etc. I also purchased dresses for the girls, so when people arrived, they got dressed up. I did this for my oldest's 4th party, and it worked out great. I have a small house, and we had a bunch of kids, I even feed them lunch.

I'd figure out how to use the space in your house. Sometimes in March the weather is nice enough for the kids to at least run around outside for a little while.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

insanity. that's WAY too much money for a party for a 5 year old and way too many people to cram into a small house.
a) find a different venue
b) invite fewer people
c) use sheets and streamers and balloons and space heaters (and creative friends) and turn your basement into a (cheap) princess palace.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

You'll be eight months pregnant. My sister-in-law gave her DD a party just before her brother's birth in a park. It was 100 degrees that day. She looked miserable.

Since you cannot limit the number of kids further, do yourself a favor. Do it at the venue. You will still have plenty to do.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

$500 for 10 guests? That's $50 a child for 5 year olds? I didn't pay that for my son's bar mitzvah!

Now's a good time to decide on your philosophy about birthday parties. When your daughter gets older and is in a class of 22 kids, what will you do? Invite them all? No one wants that! You will not want to be going to 22 parties throughout the year, and you will not want to buy 22 presents. I never wanted my son to "hold court" on his birthday and receive 22 presents either! (I like small parties where the kids can really socialize, where the birthday child gets a few gifts, and where the friends get to see him open those gifts so everyone learns the manners around giving and accepting with thanks.)

We followed the "age rule" - when my son turned 5, he invited 5 friends. If they didn't all come, oh well! They always had a blast!! We played simple, classic party games or they had a treasure hunt in the house or the basement. I got a book from the library on old games - because no one plays them at these expensive party venues - I got some good ideas, learned the rules, and used stuff in my house. We did "pin the tail on the whatever" in the basement (you could do "pin the royal flag on the castle" and just use a big sheet of butcher paper to draw the outline of a castle and stick it on the basement wall. You could, if you were really industrious, call an appliance store and ask for a refrigerator or dishwasher box - have someone put a quick coat of paint on it and then cut a few holes to be the windows and the gate. Cut down one side of it except on the bottom so it flops down to the floor still attached at the bottom, and add 2 pieces of clothesline - poof! Instant drawbridge! The kids will adore it - and if you only have 3 or 4 guests plus your daughter, you have an activity and a playhouse for as long as it lasts beyond that!

Scale back. Invite the few special kids via the parents - send a written invitation to the house (do not have the daycare provider or teacher give them out in the kids' backpacks!). Hopefully the parents won't tell the kids about it until the date is close, and don't have Alyssa talking about it with everyone.

I'm not sure what a princess party entails but perhaps a small craft where they make crowns? You can buy inexpensive crown forms at any craft store and then an assortment of jewels and features and sequins, and make the party activity a sit-down-at-the-table session - the kids get to keep their crowns of course which is part of the "goody bag" package (or all of it - I think goody bags are out of control too!). You could have the kids dress up in a bunch of hand-me-down things or inexpensive feather boas and jewelry from Goodwill or the dollar store. Get a few inexpensive decorations or even print out a bunch of copies of a castle, then draw in the letters of your daughter's name (perhaps preceded by "Happy Birthday") - one letter on each sheet, and tape them to a long string and suspend them like a banner along one wall. Honestly, the kids don't care - they just want to play and eat cake.

I disagree about parents staying at this age - 5 year olds who go to school or day care can manage for 90 minutes alone! The parent of the 3 year old niece can stay a) because the child is 3 and b) because the parent is your family. You, your husband and your sister or sister-in-law can easily manage 4-5 girls!

And your friends will be delighted that you started a trend of small, manageable, intimate parties without the huge expense. Believe me, the pressure of "doing one better" starts to build and pretty soon people are renting bouncy houses and ponies and so on, and it gets out of hand.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Heck, hire a high school student from the drama dept at the local school, rent a costume for her to wear. Or see if her drama dept will let her borrow it I or rent it from there collection. She can be your assistant at the party.
$100. Boom, done.

Do not go too overboard on this. It is easy to get carried away. Make a budget 10 kids at the most. $40 to $50. Cake this is high end, a Costco cake is $15.00. You can stick flowers and a crown on it.

Crafts, decorate their own wands, maybe a pretty sash. Give each one a small hair comb to wear with a crown attached or glued on it.

Let them run around and just play games, balloons blown up, see who can keep it in the air the longest. A string piñata.. Check on line for one, no stick needed.

You get the idea.. They will be excited just to be there.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

$500! That's insane. Have it home. Have parents drop off. There is absolutely no need for parents to stay. Have them do a princess type of craft. Cake, ice cream. Wala you had a party. If you want you can do lunch. She does not care about what it cost. You are feeling guilty. Get over it and save yourself a lot of money.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I think you can do a very small tea party. I would also specify to parents that it's a drop off party (due to space) ...within the last year I have not been expected to stay at DD5's friend parties (though you can talk to the 3 yr old's parents if you need to) and to please leave you with contact information in case of an emergency.

Ask the girls to come in their fancy dresses, get some in expensive wands and tiaras or crafts from Michael's or Oriental Trading. Right now one of our local grocery stores has plastic juice glasses for $1 or you can get princess glasses in the party store. Serve princess tea and fruit and sandwiches cut up with cookie cutters, cupcakes and cookies. They'll have a blast. The crafts/wands/hats will be the giveaway.

Oh, and solid colored tableware is usually less expensive.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Just invite the girls and do it at your home! The girls don't care if the space is small. Make a princess cake. Have some princess games, paint nails, give them all tiaras or boas or something princess-y. How little room do you have? We used to live in Alaska in a 20 x 20 cabin but we had parties with 15-20 people all the time! It's perfectly ok to do it in a small space. Our good friends live in a tiny apartment and they just had a birthday party for their daughter. They invited 3 friends and parents to come hang out too. Yes, it was a small space, but so what! The girls all had so much fun. At one point we went outside and took a walk (to a nearby duck pond) and then went back and had cake and the kids played some more. Do you have a park or anything the girls can all walk to? I say definitely do it at your house. PS - at age 5 usually parents just drop off kids. Tell the parents they are welcome to drop their child off.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I understand the desire for a "big party", but spending $50 per guest seems a bit extreme.....

JMHO, however.... I will admit, I'm cheap.....

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

Have it at home and make sure you tell them parents it is drop off due to small space. Parents do not attend parties where I am from.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

Do you have a friend, aunt, cousin or older niece who can dress-up and face paint?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on
My friend gets birthday party things from here and it is good quality and many times they have sales and the personalized items are GREAT and good quality and we STILL are using them, and they have great themes and party stuff.

Go and have it at a public park.
And the parents who attend, will be the extra party "supervisors" at the party too.
And you will be 8 months pregnant.
Well your Hubby will HAVE TO pitch in and do lots of things, for the party and help, you.
AND tell anyone else, if they can help with cleaning up. Being you are, so pregnant at that point.

Or, you just invite 1 or 2 friends, and then, go take the girls to a cute lunch place.

We have never spent that much on our kids' parties.
Even at 10 kids attending.
If that.

We never really had b-day parties for our kids, until they were in say Kindergarten, and/or actually said they wanted a party.

Just make the party for 2 hours.
STATE a start and end time.
And make it at a non-meal time.
To cut, costs and food costs and everything else.
And limit the guest list.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Do you have a friend or relative who would be willing to host it for you, maybe as a sort of new baby gift or just a favor? When I was 7 months pregnant with my 2nd and on partial bed rest my parents hosted the birthday party for my 3-year-old. It was different than yours since it was just relatives and not daycare or other friends, but we kept it simple and my mom had a lot of fun putting it together. I think we just showed up with the guest of honor and the cake!

Is there a YMCA or anything nearby where you could have a cheaper party? It's been a while since we've done it so maybe prices have gone up, but our YMCA only charged about $150 for access to the gym or pool for an hour and then one hour in a party room. We brought our own cake and beverages. You could still decorate with a princess theme and have a princess cake and/or surprise princess guest.



answers from Detroit on

Around here there are TONS of options for princess parties as this is a popular request. There are princess limos, princess, spa packages, princess craft/ paint parties, princess baking parties, etc. At 8 months I would have wanted to control everything-but not have it at home (those last two months I was mega nesting mom). I would try and find a nice rental hall and DIY the party. Maybe even something that has a pretty appearance outside-a church or something that looks regal. I love the advice of finding a teen or college student to be the princess-you might
even be able to afford two that way. If you ask around at daycare maybe one of the daycare workers will do it. If you end up inviting the daycare kids they might get a kick out of seeing a familiar face all dressed up!


answers from Columbia on

Do it at home. I guarantee that you can be inventive, move some furniture to the side, and have a great time. Cheese pizzas, cupcakes, punch, decorations, a take-home princess jewelry craft. NO goody bags. Nobody likes them anyway. There is NO reason that you should have to spend more than $150 for everything.



answers from Los Angeles on

I think you should have the party at a venue that does all of the work for you, even if it costs $500. You're not going to want all those people in your house when you are 8 months pregnant. It is too much cleaning - both before and after - too much food prep, and too much stress. When you have the party at a venue, you can just show up and they take care of everything. If you want a princess theme, you can bring your own plates, cups, balloons, etc, but if you want to keep it cheap, most venues provide basic paper products too.

Another way to save money is to have the party from 2 - 4 or 3 - 5 (if it works with naps) so you don't have to serve a meal. Just cake and maybe have some fruit or chips around for munching.

I agree that the parents will stay. Drop off parties for my group of friends pretty much started when they turned 6.



answers from Los Angeles on

Do it at home. You can have a great party w/o spending $500. That's
too much.
I say have it at your house.
Move furniture around in your living room/dining room.
Decorate w/streamers, balloons & tulle to create a "princess" feel.
Ask an older girl from the neighborhood to dress up like Cinderella (you
could rent the costume from a local halloween store or put it together
from a thrift shop (think prom dress, crown, heels, blonde wig etc).
Make your house as magical as possible.
Hang litter stars (get from party shop) from ceiling.
Use the tulle to drape across walls, entertainment centers or whatever
you have etc.
This way you save money, get to invite everyone & have money for good
Don't give goody bags. You could give each girl a small wand & crown.
Just google ways to make your home as magical as possible.
This way you're in the comfort of your own home & save lots of money.


answers from Reading on

At a minimum, I would look for a larger venue. I know hosted parties can be expensive, but in our area, there are indoor playgrounds in churches and malls that can be rented just for the space, without the hosting services, and it is much less expensive. If you can afford a hosted party, you should do it. You will only be 8 months pregnant during a party once in your life and it's a worthwhile investment. By the way, my second was born at 36 weeks. You do not need to be working that hard. Throw some money at the problem!

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