Hello, this is Gbemi and I’m here to help with ideas on how to throw your children’s party. It could be that important 1st year or a random class party. Hopefully at the end of this, we would all have gained a few tidbits. Here goes:
Define a Budget:
Before you start anything, tell yourself “this is not the end of Life” and pick a realistic amount of money you can spend without (1.) lamenting afterwards to everyone and, (2.) having to beg everyone afterwards. Because they will sympathise to your front, judge you at your back and you will lose respect. Pick a budget first, say “I have X amount of Naira, Pound or Dollar to spend”. Choosing your budget will help you make better decisions, such as “I want to spend N45,000 on all the party packs/gift bags, I will spend N5,000 on all cakes, I only have N100,000 for the whole shebang of a children’s party!”. Because there are lot of tempting, beautiful things out there and you don’t want to lose your savings throwing one party oh.
It’s not one month to the birthday, you’ll decide to start planning. Start 3, even 4 months before. A friend’s child is born in June and she got her party packs 2 months beforehand, to avoid having to go to market in the middle of rainy season. If you’re planning on serving jollof rice, know that every rainy season in Nigeria, prices of tomatoes go up. Whomever you want to book their services needs notice ahead of time. That includes caterers, tailors (no disappointment), photographers, event organisers etc. No last minute bookings and getting upset when they stand you up. Also use this time to scout for a venue if you are not doing the party at home. Have a guest list to estimate how many to cater for. If it falls on a school day, find out how many kids and teachers and assistants in class.
Manage Your Expectations:
Do you know we have Event Planners, photographers and caterers specially for Children’s parties? All those beautiful pictures on Instagram are from the best of those people. If you want something like that, do yourself a favour and hire them, don’t cheapen out and hire Iyana Iba to deliver Ikoyi levels (note, it costs N750,000 to N1million Naira for the event planner, N75,000 plus for the children’s photographer etc). If you don’t have the funds, calmly remove your eyes from there for your own peace of mind. I have seen where the Mummy carried one wonderful picture of a 4-tier Character cake to a less talented baker who couldn’t deliver, tears all around and not worth the stress. Reduce your chances of being upset by using an established vendor (go to Cakes ‘N Creams for a simple cake rather than pay someone online who may have stolen great images of another’s work to entice you).
What you can do is use those pictures to get idea, maybe select a theme. A Mickey Mouse themed party, maybe buy your plates, napkins and balloons in yellow, red, white and black. A Princess theme? Get tiaras (they usually go for like N200 apiece in markets) for all the kids. A lot of party supply vendors and shops abound so you could pick up a few items, perhaps get Character-themed paper cups the kids can take them home with them.
When it comes to Pre-Birthday photoshoots, it’s not every birthday that requires a professional photographer. I’ve seen some amazing shots done on people’s phones. Consider using one of the public parks around you if you are in Lagos or Abuja and shoot in the morning or evening (not between 11am to 3pm). If you do wish to use a professional photographer, go with a photo studio rather than a solo photographer as the former tend to run cheaper.
Choose nice gift items:
I’ve seen very nice party packs and I’ve thrown away bad party packs. Don’t get carried away stuffing your gift bag with 10 rubbish items, one of the nicest gift bags we have ever received had one item in it. It’s a waste of money to buy items that will be thrown away as soon as your guests walk out the door. Puzzles, bubble blowers, books, educational toys, good toys, can all be found at Balogun and Iponri markets in Lagos. And there is a vendor I use on Instagram (she brings in her own items so she has unique affordable stuff, compared to other vendors). A good giftbag can be N1000/child (including the price of the bag).
Be flexible on refreshment:
You don’t always have to serve rice. A friend I know who did her twins’ birthday party at home, we did small chops and hotdogs (all kids love hotdogs), with cocktails. It was an intimate affair and due to her health, no-one wanted to stress with washing up of plates afterwards so we used disposable plates and cups. Which was smart.
Another great saving tip: if you can’t afford a character cake (which is usually fondant and good ones start from N17,000), why not have the characters printed on a butter icing cake? It works out a bit cheaper for you and it’s less likely the baker will mess up when it is just to download and print the image out. Joy found these Paw Patrol toys for N500 which you can use as cake toppers, even more frugally (just get a plain cake and put them around just before pictures).
It may end up being less stressful to hire a caterer to cook a cooler or 2 of food and deliver. Once my guest list is over 20 adults, I get a caterer. I usually buy and ice my drinks myself.
Ideas for Entertainment:
Consider your DJ well: certain songs aren’t kid-appropriate and it’s not nice to see them grinding away to lyrics glorifying a careless lifestyle. Ask your DJ to give you a list of the songs he wants to play, beforehand.
For entertainment, add a lot of games (Joy is good at this, so she will do something on it later), try painting and craft tables. Ojuelegba road in Lagos is lined with stores filled with craft items you can get affordably. You can get other parents to help you supervise the kids. It’s nicer to keep the kids engaged like this rather than them sitting around, bored.
I’ll end with a funny story: when I was doing my son’s 1st birthday, I asked my younger brother not to bring crowd there, as money was tight. On the day, I saw like 20 hungry friends of his, they brought babes and the babes brought other friends to escort them. I stared angrily at him, he smiled slyly, Mumsy said “just calm down”. A week later, my brother was to go back to school. Mumsy calculated how much per plate for every guest he brought, deducted it from the allowance and gave him N3500 for semester. I have no idea how he survived (because she didn’t send him one kobo more), but in 6 years’ since, he’s respected himself at everyone’s parties.
Thanks and have a great one.