Day 19 :: Simple, Stress-Free Parties {Kids’ Edition}

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S
o hospitality doesn’t have to be throwing a big fancy party. It doesn’t have to be a full meal.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.

(And goodness knows, if you’re coming to my place, it won’t be perfect).

Hospitality is simply opening your home and life to others in a warm and genuine way.

That being said, sometimes you do just want to throw a party.

But without going crazy.

And there’s the rub: How do you celebrate without stressing over the details?

I can’t say I have all the answers.  But I did attempt to throw a simple, stress-free first birthday party for my little guy this year.  And, at least in terms of mommy’s sanity, it was a success.

A Simple, Stress-Free Birthday Party

Our little Buckaroo was born about an hour before Christmas Eve, so our family has joined the ranks of those who must yearly wrangle Christmas and birthday celebrations.

This year, I just didn’t have it in me to do a bunch of hoopla for the little guy’s birthday. Holiday celebrations, travel plans, and winter sickness made the kind of extravaganza we had done for big sister’s first birthday just feel overwhelming.

The Buckaroo, dutifully wearing his crown.
The Buckaroo, dutifully wearing his crown.

But, I couldn’t let the day pass without doing something and I did want a birthday party invitation for his baby book.

Enter: A Simple and Stress-Free Birthday Celebration

I would do a party, but make it hardly big enough to merit the word. I promised myself I wouldn’t buy any decorations, make extravagant food, or spend lots on party favors.

And every time I found myself thinking something wasn’t grand enough, I’d try to remember my mantra: Simple. Stress-free.

How to Keep it Simple and Stress-Free (but Still Special):

1.) Keep the guest list small. Small as in I nearly sent more invitations to out of town family members whom I knew wouldn’t be able to come but would appreciate the gesture than I sent to in-town people who could potentially attend. Small as in our neighbors + a couple of other families.

2.) Make easy food. I threw Buckaroo’s party right after lunchtime, so we just had light, kid-friendly snacks. All dips, actually: peanut butter-yogurt dip with apples, homemade hummus with carrots and sweet potato chips, and guacamole with blue corn tortilla chips.

I am always lame about drinks, so we just did ice water and coffee for the parents. Morning of the party, I started thinking what a bummer it was to only have water for the kids and considered sending Hubs to the store for something more fun (read: sugary).

Then I remembered: Simple. Stress-free.

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3.) Keep the cake simple. Here, by simple, I mean budget-friendly and not covered in thirty shades of fondant (not knocking fondant; just keeping it simple).

I made cupcakes.

I actually let myself get a wee bit fancy and went with Martha Stewart chocolate-raspberry cupcakes with almond butter cream frosting. But, I was super familiar with the recipe and since our guest list was so small, I didn’t have to make many.

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Other options for keeping the cake simple: have a friend make it, find a reasonably priced bakery, or make something easy like a cookie cake.

I almost dyed the frosting 3 different colors to coordinate with his birthday banner. Then I remembered my mantra (simple, stress-free). And ran out of time.
I almost dyed the frosting 3 different colors to coordinate with his birthday banner. Then I remembered my mantra (simple, stress-free). And ran out of time.

4.) Do activities that don’t require much prep. We did a story time in which I read to the kids from Hubs’s–I mean Buckaroo’s–favorite bedtime story. I also brought out all the kids’ new Christmas toys and just treated the afternoon as one big play date. Think about what the birthday boy/girl would enjoy.

I will give you a dollar if you can find one child paying attention during story time. But, I'm still glad we did it, if even because Hubs can't get enough of The Brave Cowboy.  P.S. Naturally overly expressive Jenn + reading children's book = goofy picture, yes?
I will give you a dollar if you can find one child paying attention during story time. But, I’m still glad we did it, if even because Hubs can’t get enough of The Brave Cowboy.

5.) Don’t be responsible for taking all the pictures. Outsource it! Ask a friend to help take some so you’re not having to worry about both hosting and capturing every moment. I asked a sweet friend who takes great pics to get a few and bless her heart, she made me a whole disc.

No, we did not outsource photography to the Bun and her Disney princess camera.
No, we did not outsource photography to the Bun and her Disney princess camera.

6.) Use what you already have for decorations. I literally shopped Buck’s room for the party decor. I took pictures off walls, switched some frames around, and grabbed his bunting banner.

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Then, I got out some remnant Christmas decor, tossed some candles, acorns, and pebbles in mason jars, and filled in the gaps with greenery from our yard.

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I call it a minimalist-woodsy-winter theme. You may call it what you like.

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7.) Keep the favors affordable and easy. I’m always amazed at how quickly party favors add up; even if you’re buying something inexpensive, you’re still buying 20 of them (another reason to keep the guest list small!) And, let’s be honest: because of this, they often end up being trinket-y.

I often like to do prettily wrapped treats as favors because a.) treats are affordable and b.) treats are not going to get lost between car seats or cause injury/annoyance.

Admittedly, I did not follow my mantra on this one. I thought hand-sewing Christmas ornaments would be nice. And it was…during all 5 episodes of Downton Abbey I watched while making them.

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All in all, our sweet little celebration was a success. Both in terms of enjoyment by the birthday boy and his momma’s sanity.

What are your best tips for a simple, stress-free party?

This post originally appeared at A Simple Haven in February 2013 and is part of a 31-day series on Real, Simple Hospitality.  Read all the other posts here.  Check out all the other 31 Day-ers here.

 

About Jenn

Jenn is a mommy of three and wife to her best friend. She enjoys good books, dinner guests, elevenses, and proper apostrophe use.