During lockdown I rediscovered many of my favourite comedies and when I starting re-watching the first series of Motherland and saw the episode where Julia is inviting the other parents and children to her daughter Ivy’s birthday party and Anne asks her “what’s the theme?”, it made me chuckle. The look of terror on Julia’s face says it all as she realises the party is going to involve a lot more time and effort than she had planned to put in and a lot of judgement from the other parents!
But I’m here to reassure you that firstly, party planning these days can be done by ordering from a few well-chosen small businesses. They’re willing to help you through every step of the way and give you ideas of how you can make your party stand out. It doesn’t have to take up all your time unless you want it to, and it really doesn’t have to cost a fortune. And secondly, you can have the best fun theming kids’ parties, which is why I started my business! And at the end of the day, it’s what your child thinks that matters, no one else.
So why is party theming important?
A theme is much more than your child choosing their favourite character. It’s ultimately about making memories. Children’s birthday parties were a bit different back in my day when branded, themed items were far less commonplace. But I vividly remember my woodland themed party. A hedgehog themed cake was the centrepiece, made by my incredibly talented Mum and we have lots of photos of that party. Elements from the theme connected with people, it made them want to take pictures, and I remember the party and that cake to this day, well over 30 years later.
A theme marks a point in time. I remember when Care Bears were around the first time, and my parents took my friends and me to see the Care Bears film at the cinema for one of my birthdays. I can date that birthday because of the theme, much like my niece will date her recent Frozen 2 themed birthday.
A theme helps bring everything together so your party will look great, it will also help you organise the party in so many ways. It will help to determine the colour scheme, the invitation style, gifts for the party bags, the cake design, and the entertainment or activity, to name but a few. It will make lots of decisions easy, and it’s a chance to get creative. It will also help other parents greatly in terms of what your child is interested in so they can buy a relevant present.
A well put together theme can make your party stand out from the rest. Yes the whole class may have had dinosaur themed parties but you can make yours different, whether it’s the tableware, the food or the entertainment, think about what’s already been done, and how you can do it differently. And if you’re struggling or don’t have time to figure it out, ask for help. Lots of us small party companies don’t just sell stuff. We love to get involved in the creative process and we’re sure to come up with something to make your party standout!
Knowing where and when to use your theme for not only maximum effect but also maximum value for money is important because at the end of the day, kids just want to have fun and most could do that with a cardboard box in the garden and not much else. Whether your party is at home or in a hall, there are a few simple rules of thumb we suggest you stick to.
Keep things simple by concentrating on a few key areas to make an impact. You may want to make a big impression before people have even walked in the door but remember they will only see that for a few minutes so a huge balloon garland at the front door may not be the best place to spend your budget. And whatever you do inside, needs to live up to or be better than what people see when they arrive. It’s always good to signpost your party but a welcome banner and a few balloons in your theme colours will do the job just as well and save you money to spend in areas where people will spend more time.
A fabulous looking party table makes a great centrepiece, and is an ideal backdrop for taking photos so concentrate your theme here. Themed tableware, a colour matched tablecloth, themed food labels, themed toys from the kid’s toy boxes, and fun themed food with your cake as the centrepiece will do the trick!
Keep the food simple. The children are not interested in your culinary skills, they want something to keep them going not a huge banquet. Some of the best kids’ parties I’ve hosted have been where the food was kept really simple. Individual crisp packets in a range of flavours, boxed raisins, individual fruit skewers, wrapped chocolate bars and themed cupcakes not only go down really well but also work brilliantly for the new normal rather than the sharing bowls of days gone by.
Not everything at the party has to be themed. Using the theme colours for items like balloons and honeycomb decorations is highly effective and you can add any unused leftovers to your party box to be used at your next party. Fabric bunting is a fab way of personalising your party and if you get the colour choice right, and remember you can have different colours on each side, you could be using it at parties for years to come which is good for the environment, good for your pocket and keeps the memories of parties gone by alive!
If you’ve booked entertainment, this will likely be a considerable chunk of your party budget so make sure you get value for money. Either meet with or arrange a call with the company so you understand exactly what you are getting for your money. Arrange arrival times, understand how much time they need to set up, and how much space they need. If it’s a DJ, for example, make sure they are well briefed on your child’s favourite music, ask them to theme any messages over the microphone, to play some themed tracks and agree music for the party games. If it’s a balloon artist or entertainer, ask if they can use your theme in their show. If they have entertained at other parties in your social circle, make them aware of this so they can add in some different elements rather than repeating a show the children have already seen. And forgive me but I’ve just been sided tracked by thoughts of Animal Man from Motherland! And if they don’t call you the day prior to the party to check through the final details, make sure you call them.
Your last couple of opportunities to create an impression are your party bags and thank you cards so make sure these follow your theme through in some way. Having something themed to take away with them will keep kids talking about your party and it doesn’t have to be plastic! There are lots of small businesses out there selling fabulous party bags complete with contents for all the popular themes such as dinosaurs, flamingos, unicorns with some great plastic alternative goodies. If your theme is licensed choose a cotton bag so the printed fabric it’s made out of is the themed element. It’s something for your guests to keep and good for the environment too. And don’t forget to personalise both your party bags and thank you cards. Everyone likes seeing their name on stuff including children.
And these rules don’t just apply to the at-home or hall party. If your party is at an activity centre, you can still apply these rules. If the activity is at a spy mission centre, for example, then go for camouflage tableware with colour matched balloons and commission some fab camo goody bags and your party will really come alive!
And lastly, whatever the party theme, remember to have fun making memories!