Jul 05, 2016 11:36AM
● By Ashley Pape
Thirty years ago, kids’ birthday parties were relatively simple. There was pizza and cake, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, and a refrain of “Happy Birthday.” These days, celebrations aren’t quite so quaint. Parents are tasked with making their child’s birthday party an elaborate affair, always better than the year before. After they conjure up themes that might include a circus troupe and full orchestra, they must pull it all off while contending with sugar highs, meltdowns and surprise guests who didn’t RSVP. It’s enough to make any parent want to bounce through the roof of the bounce house.
It’s no wonder parents sweat birthday parties. We’re living in the era of Pinterest, where a search for children’s birthday parties brings up pins for everything from themed food and activities to decorations and goodie bags. Ideas run the gamut from Octonauts and Minecraft to Angry Birds and magical fairy parties—and that’s just skimming the surface. Many ideas have been pinned thousands of times, most likely by parents hoping to pull off the birthday party to top all birthday parties.
There’s no doubt an overabundance of ideas (and sky-high expectations), but party-planning-wary parents have a solution: They simply outsource the big day.
Crafting Kids’ Parties … with a Little Help
Beth Murray and Kimberley Vines own Two Girls in Pearls Events, a Keller-based boutique event planning company. Their mission when it comes to kids’ celebrations? Make life easier for parents, so they can actually enjoy their child’s birthday party. “We like taking the pressure off Mom and Dad,” says Vines. “We want the vision to be fun for the child and the parents.”
In their 20 years of experience, they’ve orchestrated kids’ birthday parties with all kinds of fun features: ice cream sundae bars, photo booths, fashion shows. Milestone birthdays such as one, 10, 13 and 16 tend to be the biggest bashes, but Vines sees celebrations for all ages. Although each party is unique, some details are consistent across the board. “Theme parties are still a big trend,” Vines says. “And party favors are still a big hit with kids.”
Whether you’re seeking a hand assembling those favors or you could use some help dreaming up the ultimate theme, get ready to invest. At Two Girls in Pearls Events, services for planning a child’s birthday party range from $500 to $1,500. The fee varies depending on what services are needed: complete planning, partial planning or just coordinating the day by overseeing setup, cleanup and event timeline. “It may be a kid’s party, but we still want it be a great event for everyone involved,” says Vines.
Kristen Knight, CWP, owner of Shenanigans Weddings & Events in Trophy Club, says the first step in planning a child’s birthday party is simply talking it out. “When people call us, many times they’re not exactly sure what to expect or even what they’re looking for,” she says.
For Knight’s birthday-planning prowess, clients have spent up to $7,000. Like Two Girls in Pearls Events, Knight offers services tailored to clients’ specific needs. Her services can be as simple as developing a party plan—a written outline of ideas, vendors, and design and décor ideas that fit within the client’s budget and vision—to taking on the entire conception and execution of the event. “Basically, a soup-to-nuts approach,” says Knight.
Knight and her assistant, Deana Sabey, recently planned a party for a set of twin boys turning 10. When they met with the twins’ mom, she had many ideas but needed help narrowing them down. And she also needed a cohesive theme for the event—one child loved video games and the other was into dancing.
Knight’s solution? A dance party/video game combo she called “10 Squared.” The family’s home was transformed into an adrenaline-pumping, music-thumping venue complete with all the twins’ favorite things: a dance floor with a DJ dropping beats and a video game station where players could kick back in colorful bean bags.
“Seeing everything pulled off—we just love that,” says Knight. “There is always huge satisfaction seeing the child or guest of honor having fun or hearing them say, ‘This is exactly what I wanted!’”
Knight and Sabey have done a little of everything in the birthday celebrations they’ve planned, including a Sweet 16 party that transformed the Timarron Country Club into a scene to rival one of Dallas’ hottest night clubs. They pulled out all the stops for the milestone bash, including a bouncer at the door, a DJ at the turntable … and a gorgeous, three-tier cake as the event’s centerpiece. Because it’s not a birthday party without a birthday cake.
Ruth Robbins of Tastefully Yours Cakes in Southlake created the cake for the Sweet 16 party. She’s been making cakes for 25 years for all kinds of celebrations. For birthday parties, parents spend anywhere from $60 to $300 for a custom cake to commemorate the occasion.
Her creations range from whimsical cakes for first birthdays to elaborate, multi-tiered masterpieces. For kids’ parties, she says classic flavors still reign: vanilla, chocolate and confetti. The trend these days is adding three-dimensional elements to cakes—think sparkling wings or a horn on a unicorn cake. Whatever parents may dream up (or save from Pinterest), she’s happy to make it.
“I’ve seen cakes go from simple sheet cakes to elaborate tiered creations. There are no limits to your imagination when it comes to my cakes,” she says. “Each cake is a work of love and art for me.”
The Joy of Birthdays
A birthday party is an event to celebrate the birthday boy or girl, but Paige Chenault knows the event ends up being so much more. In 2012, she founded The Birthday Party Project, an Addison-based nonprofit that brings the joy of birthday parties to homeless children. Since its inception, the organization has celebrated more than 1,600 birthdays with more than 15,000 children and 4,500 volunteers, a.k.a birthday enthusiasts.
Chenault left a 10-year career as a wedding planner and started the nonprofit out of a passion for serving others. That and the fact she’s always up for a great party. “I love being able to celebrate people, whether it’s watching a wedding unfold in a big ballroom or watching a birthday party unfold in a homeless shelter,” she says.
The Birthday Party Project currently operates in 10 cities, including Dallas-Fort Worth, and throws 26 parties each month. A team of birthday enthusiasts decides on a monthly theme (county fair is the theme for July), and then plans the birthday party from start to finish, from activities, crafts and games to cupcakes and party favors. Then, it’s party time. They gather everything and bring it to the homeless shelter or transitional living center.
“We want there to be joy surrounding the uncertainty or trauma that’s associated with living there,” explains Chenault.
Each one-hour party is a time to celebrate all the kids with a birthday that month. Every birthday child receives a gift, a special birthday badge and a bundtlet. And every child in the shelter is invited to the party. “We believe in creating a community,” she says.
The organization started the “Share Your Birthday” campaign, in which kids and adults can have gifts or party supplies donated to The Birthday Party Project on their behalf. Chenault also welcomes volunteers and donations of all kinds. “We have face painters come in or we have someone who’s connected with tickets to a sporting event bring the kids to see a game,” she says. “We feel like the sky’s the limit.”
The mantra of The Birthday Party Project is “joy changes lives.” It’s not just an empty expression or catchy hashtag for social media. “When we say that joy changes lives, we actually mean it,” Chenault says. “Our parties are an opportunity for us to interact with people just like us, only living in unfortunate circumstances. We’re bridging the gap between two communities.”
Chenault’s eight-year-old daughter often volunteers with her, which means she’s running around with all the other kids. Chenault describes the parties as “pure chaotic joy.” At a party, birthday enthusiasts form a soccer-tunnel entrance and all the kids run through. Kids dance to pulse-pounding music or head to a station to enjoy an activity or craft. Some of kids’ favorite activities have been smashing through a paper wall with giant Hulk hands and painting a portrait at an art station. About 45 minutes into the party, birthday enthusiasts line up all the birthday kids, call them by name and everyone sings “Happy Birthday” at the top of their lungs.
“There’s such power in these tiny moments of connecting,” Chenault says. “Celebrations bring out the best in people.” SS
Advice for Planning Birthday Parties from People Who Plan Parties for a Living
“Be realistic and remember kids are kids. Keep events planned age-appropriately and try not to engage kids in too many activities that will over-stimulate them. The main goal is fun.”
—Kimberley Vines, Two Girls in Pearls Events
“Remember the party is for the kids, so involve them in the planning process. Also, focus on the key elements. Doing a few things well is better than doing many things halfway. No one will notice the things you don’t do.”
—Kristen Knight, CWP, Shenanigans Weddings & Events
“Think outside the box. Anything is possible when we’re celebrating kids.”
—Paige Chenault, The Birthday Party Project (Visit TheBirthdayPartyProject.org for details on getting involved.)