Birthdays, bar or bat mitzvahs, graduations, anniversaries — all of these major milestones are cause for a major celebration! They’re also often the cause of major stress, as parents work overtime to provide the perfect party for themselves or their loved ones only to spend the entire event exhausted and frustrated about the pieces that went wrong.
Are you planning a milestone party soon? Keep these tips in mind as you plan your event.
Make sure you invite the right people
I once went to a graduation party for a friend’s daughter, who was graduating from the prestigious Lexington High School in Boston. The house was beautiful — the family had clearly put a lot of work into Lexington blue and gold decorations, mortarboard-themed cupcakes, and a beautiful senior photo next to a guest book in which visitors could scrawl advice and well-wishes.
As I mingled with the other adults, drinking wine and talking about the news of the day, I realized I hadn’t seen the happy graduate since the party started. After a bit of snooping, I discovered she had retired to the den to watch television; there was literally no one at the party her age.
It seems like it would go without saying, but if you’re throwing a graduation party, make sure the graduate’s friends are present. Same for a bridal or baby shower. Likewise, if you’re throwing a silver wedding anniversary, you probably don’t want it overrun with small children. Think about the type of party you want to throw, and make sure you invite the right people to make it successful.
…but don’t worry too much about the guest list
Guest list worries seem to top party planners’ anxieties, as is evidenced by the numerous letters written to Dear Abby, Dear Prudence, and Miss Manners beginning “I’m throwing a party and I want to know whether I should invite…”
In nearly all cases, just say yes. Invite the cranky sister-in-law, the old friend of the family you really don’t like all that much, the neighbor kid with a tendency to misbehave. There are a very few exceptions — if you expect someone to seriously start a fight or make a scene, you can scratch them off the list — but otherwise, if they’re in your social circle of friends and family, you gotta invite them. That’s how social circles work.
The location makes the party
As soon as you decide to throw a party, you need to decide on a location. There’s a huge difference between a child’s birthday party thrown in your backyard and a child’s birthday party thrown at My Gym. (As many parents know, the My Gym party is often the least stressful, most fun solution — all you have to do is insert kids, and the party takes care of itself.)
For some locations, such as the prestigious Hampshire House, Boston, you need to plan well in advance. However, once the location is booked, you’ll find much of your party stress is out of the way — food, decorations, and activities all naturally derive from this first, and most important, party-planning decision.
On the big day, figure out how to let go
Yes, Cousin Ralph may make an off-color joke. Or that neighbor kid may knock over a vase. The musicians you booked might arrive late, or your carefully-ordered cake may turn out to be a Cake Wreck.
However, once your party’s started, you have to figure out how to let go and let it happen. Your guests will either remember how you warmly welcomed them and made sure they had somewhere to sit and plenty to eat, or they’ll remember that you stood with your cell phone for 45 minutes yelling at a caterer. The former makes you a better host — and it also makes sure you have a bit of fun too, on your big, milestone party day.