An influential force in the village that is helping me raise my children is our preschool community, a quirky, community-minded cohort of families. For example: each eldest class in the school nominates a name for themselves, and Sawyer is a proud member of the Rainbow Penguins (#howberkeleycanyoube).
This weekend, we co-hosted a fourth birthday party with three other Rainbow Penguin families to celebrate the last cluster of children turning the big 0-4. Because we were already planning to invite the same guests, it seemed like a no-brainer to join forces. Of course, I learned a few lessons that I want to share.
Pro-tips for throwing a joint birthday party (from an amateur)
One person needs to drive the train. Whether it is organizing location, determining theme, or choosing the menu, let someone be the boss of the plan. For this party, our boss was another mama; she kept us all on task, sent out invitations, and loosely themed the party around Rainbow Penguins. Boom.
Agree on a budget. Boring, but critical. By teaming up, does that mean we all will chip in for that $600 laser tag party that I’d never do on my own? Or are we merely sharing the load for a more fantastic bubble BBQ at the park? Either way, get on the same page before booking the fire juggler and bounce houses.
Let all the parents proof the invitation before it’s distributed. When his older brother turned five, Sawyer was a newborn and we dipped our toes into the waters of a joint party with a very best friend at a swimming pool. Both families were juggling babies, too, so a combined party minimized costs and stress while still being superfun. We used these printed Hallmark cards, but you can easily make a quick collage and organize responses via evite.
Make sure each child’s name is included – maybe all caps will help – because a basic “It’s Party Time” evite may look like it’s coming only from the parent who created it. Also? No one wants their kid’s name misspelled on their party invite. Let Alyssa’s parents remind you that her name is actually Alissa.
Let it be special for each birthday child. I knew Sawyer needed his own cake with four strawberries to feel like it was HIS birthday. Other children will require a pinata or special party favors. As long as we’re loosely sticking with the theme — see how laid back I am? — let each child get their special wishes met! When three out of four of the birthday boys’ moms were bringing a cake, I made a crazy decision and grabbed a fourth cake. I’m not saying it was a perfect move, but it felt more fair.
But what about gifts? Ack. We had a no-gift policy in place. At least, I’m pretty sure we did because nobody brought gifts. Alternative ideas:
- Books! Bring ONE book as a present and they are divided up among guests of honor.
- Charity. There are so many wonderful kid-centric charities. It would be terrific to honor one of them like Project Night Night with a gift for homeless children.
Is a joint party a good idea?
I had to do some deep thinking about whether this party was going to meet my needs, as both a control freak and a birthday enthusiast who wants my children to feel honored on their special days. I had to weigh that against the alternative solution of hosting ($) a separate party and asking the whole preschool class to reserve another afternoon for yet another 4-year old’s party.
The bottom line is that it can be a great idea if you have a huge overlap in guest lists, party style, budget — and a terrible idea if your special snowflake of a rainbow penguin (or his mother) doesn’t feel enough birthday party magic when sharing the spotlight.
In this case, Sawyer gave it a big thumbs up!
- Save money on your next birthday party
- Decorations for a rainbow party
- The Star Wars Party I might have to throw myself
[All photos property of Rookie Moms, all rights reserved… except the rainbow penguin and pinata, those are from amazon]