In our household we go out of our way to make birthdays (at least the kid's) really special. It started when my was born right at Christmas time. I never wanted him to feel like his birthday was meshed with Christmas so we always tried to make his birthday larger than life. Of course when my daughter came along we kept it up for her.
Over the years there have been birthdays when I've had more time than money, others when I've had more money than time and even more when I didn't have a lot of either. This year I have a little bit more money than time so for this posting I'm going to talk about ways that I save time while still planning a special party.
A typical birthday at our house consists of at least two parties - one for family and one for friends. I know some people like to put them together but I prefer not to subject my family to a bunch of screaming kids if I can help it (yes - I have done it before when that was the best option for my sanity). The family party consists of a dinner for about 20 people while the friend party size depends on what we're doing.
This year I'm keeping things simple to save my sanity. My number one go to when money isn't a huge problem - HIRE A CATERER! I know this sounds expensive but it really doesn't need to be. I found an upscale cafeteria here that has a wide menu that I have used for personal parties, Girl Scout dinners and even my department Christmas party. This year I'm doing a sandwich buffet that includes an assortment of artisan breads, quality lunch meats, cheeses, a tortellini/portabella mushroom salad, a tomato/mozzarella salad and an assortment of desserts. They also throw in all the condiments, plates, napkins and cutlery for the low price of $8.25/person plus tax. If I looked for sales, clipped coupons, ran to different stores and spent the time putting it together I do realize I could do it cheaper. However my time is pretty valuable to so I'd rather just pay someone to do it all. I would encourage you to explore the options in your city, you might be pleasantly surprised.
My second rule to keep my sanity - HAVE SOMEONE ELSE CLEAN YOUR HOUSE! I asked my mother to come clean my house instead of giving me a birthday present this year. She's coming over this Thursday to clean my house for the party that's on Saturday. The family will be under strict orders to not mess anything up under penalty of death. The guests will need to live with any dust or dirt that winds up on the floor between now and then. My mom doesn't do quite the white glove job that I do but I'm trying to live with my new motto of "it's good enough".
My third rule - DON'T GO CRAZY DECORATING THE HOUSE! When the kids were younger I always felt the need to go for the theme birthdays. I don't even bother with special napkins - one less thing for me to stress about or pick up afterwards
Saturday morning all I will need to do is pick up the food, pick up the cake and relax. If I can pull this off it will be a first since I'm usually stressed to the max by the time the party starts. Who wants an exhausted, crabby hostess?
Since my daughter is turning 14 we don't go all out for friends birthdays. This year I'm letting her invite 10 girls to a sleep over (I'm crossing my fingers they won't all come). We have a finished family room in the basement so I won't really hear them once they are downstairs for the night, which they will be shortly after they get here. We'll have frozen pizza for dinner and an inexpensive bakery cake. I won't be out much money or aggravation since they won't want to be by me any more than I want to be by them. My husband was the one who agreed to the 10 girls, easy for him to say yes since he'll be working 3rd shift and I'll be home all alone with them :)
Any ideas for having a stress free party?