Within the last month, three of my six kids have had birthdays. It’s a very lean month in our household – topping up RESPs along with throwing a few birthday parties can take its toll on anyone’s budget.

In addition to not liking birthdays’ financial implications, I think birthday parties are a royal pain. I know many party mamas out there who relish in planning extravagant events, particularly their children’s parties. Indeed, I have one friend who says one of the things she loves most about being a mother is throwing birthday parties. That mama is not me. Birthday parties make the bottom of my list of things I love about being a mama. Yes, I like my kids to have fun and enjoy their special day, but all the hoopla around it doesn’t float my boat.

So when I throw a party, it’s all about keeping it simple. I thought it would be fun to compare some of my tips and strategies with those of my friend, Janine who is mama party planner extraordinaire. In September, she is well in planning mode for a January birthday. All the neighbourhood kids have fingers crossed that their name makes the list. In short, Janine generally makes me look like a complete slacker.

The rules according to me, the “Keep It Simple Mom”:

- Have a no birthday present policy.
- Have a no loot bag policy.
- Plan your parties at a time that will ensure you do not have to prepare a meal for little guests.
- Don’t over-engineer the thing – kids are old pros at figuring out how to have fun.
- Sure have a theme, but don’t bother obsessing. You don’t want to have to drive around to 10 different stores just to get the napkins that match the plates.
- Don’t have it in your house. Way too much cleaning is involved then – you’ll end up cleaning before AND after the party.

The rules according to Janine, “Keener Perfectionist Mom”:

- EVERYTHING needs to be matchy matchy – pick a theme and colour scheme and stick with it: invitations, decorations, balloons, utensils, EVERYTHING!
- Make it an event – seal invitations with a stamp monogram and mail them because kids love getting mail.
- Don’t scrimp on the cake – if nothing else is done right, be sure that you have a fabulous cake (which of course corresponds to the party theme!)
- Mind your present etiquette. If opening at party, tape a half circle in front of birthday child, have 2 chairs (one for birthday child, one for gift giver). Read card together and open gift. Take a picture of birthday child with gift and gift giver and send as a “thank you” after the party.

Janine also agrees that the birthday present thing can get a bit much and suggests donations in lieu of gifts, and also checking out

There you have it – what kind of party planner are you? Apply the rules that most suit you and I’m pretty sure your kid will have a great party that even mama will enjoy.

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