When I was a kid, I loved a good birthday party! Who didn’t? I’d put on my black patent leather party shoes and head out the door to my friend’s house. When we were small, birthday planning was easy for our parents. Everyone had home parties with a few games, treats, and a goody bag as a party favor. When we were older, it was all about the sleepover with a few good midnight pranks and a pancake breakfast. Those parties were simple and fun…and probably unrecognizable to kids today.
So much has changed when it comes to birthday party planning. In some ways, things have gotten easier. Now, we have a ton of all-inclusive party venues to choose from that allow us to show up 15 minutes early and leave 15 minutes after the last guest departs. It’s great…No fuss, no muss and no house to clean. On the other hand, costs can be out of control and the gifts are no longer the highlight. For better or worse, there is no doubt about it… birthday parties have changed!
Walk down memory lane with me and have a look at seven ways birthday parties are different today than when we were young.
- The size of the guest list
When I was a kid, we only invited several good friends. I was typically limited to eight because that was the number of invitations in the pack. Today, some schools require you to invite the whole class so no one is excluded.
- The Invitations
My invitations were handwritten. My children’s are either custom printed or managed online via email, social media, text, or a party planning website. Technology makes hunting down RSVPs so much easier!
- The location
Home parties were a hit 30 years ago. Today, they’re almost non-existent. Back in my pre-kid days, I boldly declared I would never, ever pay hundreds of dollars to have my child’s party at a venue. If a home party was good for me, it was good for my kids. Yeah. That was until I was tasked with cleaning our house from ceiling to floors, watching it get trashed at the party, then re-cleaning it. The money spent on a location where all I had to do was show up, have fun, then leave was worth it. Big time.
- The games
Pin the tail on the donkey and Hot Potato were the party games from yesteryear. Today kids go big with bowling and elaborate scavenger hunts. And have you noticed how everyone is a winner? I remember there were three prizes to give out. If you won, you got one. If you didn’t, you were sad. Now everybody’s a winner, which makes the guests happy , but requires more planning, more work and more money.
- The food
The menu was always the same at my birthday parties – chips, orange crush soda, and cake. For my children, I crank out detailed, full-meal menus that include most food groups, are allergy friendly, and not too sugary. If my mom served fruit salad at my parties, I would have scoffed. My kids and their friends expect it. It’s cool that they’re up for good food choices. It’s a bummer they’re expensive to buy and time-consuming to prepare.
- The cake
Sometimes my mom made my cake, other times we’d get a layer cake from our favorite local bakery. I still dream about the lemon filling and butter cream. Today, we’re ditching the cutting, plates and forks and opting for cupcakes or amazing multi-level fondant creations.
What’s the most requested present at birthday parties today? Gift cards! Why? There are two big reasons. 1) Kids already have so much and 2) the things they’d like are often too expensive for one guest to buy. That gift card allows them to buy what they really want, rather than that that thing they already have two of. When I was a kid, gift certificates weren’t widely available. I got three Birthday Barbies one year. If I had a choice, I would have gotten one and a sweet ride for her.