Keep it simple.
Published: May 28, 2015
By: Leah Ingram Eagle
Planning your child’s birthday party can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. If you want to skip the work of a party at your home, another option is to have it at a venue where someone else handles everything for you.
One of the biggest advantages of having a party away from home is less stress. Instead of getting all wrapped up in planning and preparing, parents can just relax and enjoy their child’s party. Other perks are more space, on-site entertainment and having everything. This way, you don’t have to clean your house before guests arrive and after they leave.
There are many options around the Birmingham area that offer all kinds of activities. From dance and gymnastics to skating and bowling, to pottery and art, and indoor inflatables and trampoline arenas, you’re sure to find something your child will enjoy. Many of these venues offer complete packages that include everything from the invitations and paper products, to food and cake, so you just bring the birthday girl or boy and have fun!
COST OF HOME VS. AWAY
First, compare the cost of a home party vs. an outside venue. There may not be a big difference. After buying the cake, food, decorations, party favors and other items, it can add up to the same or more than what you’d pay at a party venue. “We really don’t have any surprises with our parties,” says Nicki Mewbourne, owner of Pump It Up in Trussville. “We are pretty much cut and dry for what our offerings are. Everybody wants to know about pricing. The most important things to ask are, “What does the facility provide in each type of package? What if something happens and I need to reschedule? And is my party private?”
HOW TO CHOOSE A VENUE
Next, choose a venue. Think about what kind of place would be best suited for your child and their age. If they’re old enough, ask for their input. When choosing a venue, make a list of places your family likes to go and check and see if they have a party package. Make sure to ask about the menu and cost per person. If the weather is nice, a party at the park could be a fun option. For example, Hoover Parks & Recreation takes reservations for Veterans Park off Valleydale Road up to three months in advance, says Jackie Tortomasi of Hoover Parks & Recreation. All other Hoover parks are first come, first served. “We rent to residents of Hoover or Shelby County,” Tortomasi says. “Just bring your own stuff and clean up afterward.”
Call the venue in plenty of time. Planning should begin at least six weeks before your child’s birthday. Places can book up to several months in advance, especially if you want a Saturday, so don’t wait until the last minute to call for availability. If your child’s birthday falls within the school year, it may be easier to have the party on a weekend. However, if it’s during winter break, spring break or summer, you could opt for a weekday party, where some places offer less expensive rates.
Also, you may want to determine the guest list in advance, so you can know if the party is affordable for your guest list, or if you may need to adjust to fit your budget.
ASK THOSE ALL-IMPORTANT QUESTIONS ABOUT CONTRACTS AND MONEY
Will your party be private, or will there be other people in the venue? Will an employee be on hand to help serve the party? Does each child have to have an adult with them? Are tips requested or allowed? What is the suggested age range for the party? Do they require a deposit, and when is the final payment due? What if you have to cancel because of illness or family emergency? If the party is outdoors, what is the backup plan?
Venues may have a limit on the number of attendees, and charge extra per child if it’s more than their package caters to. Invite fewer guests if your child prefers a smaller group. And remember, the more guests, the more the party will cost and the more hectic it will be. Always get a written agreement and cost from the venue. Make sure to read the fine print and don’t forget about the sales tax.
FIND OUT WHAT’S INCLUDED & WHAT YOU CAN BRING IN
Megan Smith, birthday party coordinator at McWane Science Center, says parents also need to ask what outside items may be brought in and decoration restrictions. And Connie Buse, front office manager at the Pelham Civic Complex, is often asked the temperature inside the arena, how guests should dress and package rates, including skate rental.
About three to four weeks before the party, send the invitations, either by mail, e-mail or hand delivery. It’s best not to hand out invitations at school if not inviting the entire class, so others don’t feel left out. Make sure the invitations have all the important details including the date, start and end time, location and address, RSVP information, special instructions (dress up, what food will be served) and directions.
About a week before the party, check your RSVPs, call the venue and confirm a final number of attendees, and get ready to have fun!
Leah Ingram Eagle is a Birmingham freelance writer.
- Planning ideas with a thorough list of questions to ask:
- A great party checklist: