Congratulations and welcome to the Club! The ‘Twins Birthday Club’, that is. The Club where suddenly everything is doubled: the guest list, the cakes, the loot bags, the budget and — yes — even the fun.
And as if that weren’t enough, you have a boy and a girl and suddenly, barring a mutual affinity for Star Wars or Barbie, you find you’re throwing two parties simultaneously with two completely separate themes.
I know this because I have lived it — and survived it — for the past seven birthdays. And while I have been known to splurge on some party items, keeping to a budget is entirely possible. Following are my top sanity-saving tips.
Erica’s Top 10 Pro Tips for Planning Your Twins’ Birthday Party
1. Create a budget and stick to it:
Whether it’s $100 or $500, stick to your budget. Dollarama and Dollar Tree as well as discount items at Wal-Mart and Michaels have a pretty great selection of themed party paraphernalia without having to resort to junky items that will break 18 seconds after your little guests have pulled out of the driveway.
2. Establish the guest list:
Since you are basically having two parties in one, limiting the guest list can be sanity-saving. One thing I don’t subscribe to is the idea of inviting the whole darned class to the party. And since my kids are in different classes, it doubles the pool of friends.
Without making them feel as though they are excluding anyone, we do a trial run, asking who they would like to invite. So far, their requests have been reasonable so we haven’t felt the need to cap, though eight, max, for each is not unreasonable.
Remember, you have veto power. Also, not everyone can usually attend, so you will likely end up with fewer at the party than were invited.
3. Set a theme (or not) and start pinning:
Yup. Pinterest. As soon as you have a party in your sights, begin pinning ideas to your board. I admit I’ve fallen into the theme trap. Repeatedly. But I enjoy it and it helps to tie the party together. Pinterest is a fantastic resource for any and all party ideas.
In my case the trick has been finding a boy theme and a girl theme that sorta-kinda go together. (In the end, they usually don’t.) I’ve also been stumped by themes (Beyblades, anyone?!) But a theme need not be character-driven; it could be inspired by a colour or decor combination — like polka dot plates and napkins — or a favourite place, game or food (Paris? Minecraft? Candy?)
4. Plan ahead and shop early:
By ‘planning ahead’ I don’t mean the week before; and by ‘shopping early’ I don’t mean at 6am. I mean (for real) figure out your theme two-to-three months ahead and begin bargain hunting. Or else, next thing you know it’s two weeks before the party and you realize there’s not one damned Beyblade in all of Canada! (Thank goodness for Dollarama!)
This also gives you time to shop online and have items delivered in time so you don’t have to pay ridiculous express shipping costs! (The most expensive *cough* paper plates and napkins in all of history.) In my defense, I had a gift card at Amazon so I justified the expense that way. Also, keep in mind some theme items are seasonal, like pirates at Halloween or flower/garden in the Spring.
5. Home or away:
If your budget allows (or for sanity’s sake) go on and book a gym or rock-climbing venue. This year, for my twins’ seventh, was the first year I took their party out of our home. Somewhere between the ages of 6-7 and 11-12, kids are, like, sooo over the pin-the-tail-on-the-party-game circuit and perhaps not quite into the movies-and-sleepovers circuit (if that’s your bag) so taking them somewhere to burn off some energy is a fantastic idea (unless your backyard is equipped with pool and trampoline and you don’t mind 18 kids tearing through your house).
Some affordable options, depending on the age and size of your group, and equally as fun for boys and girls are: renting out a sports dome, a trampoline park, a gym/play park, the movie theatre and rock climbing.
We have had some pretty fun home parties in the past and, while I have always let my kids choose their themes, next year we may have to put a moratorium on anything princess. Games and activities have included: bean bag toss, cookie-decorating, walking the plank, superhero-in-training silly-string-villain-attacking and princess-in-training book-on-head-balancing.
6. DIY invitations and printables:
Certainly you can order custom invitations just as you can buy the inexpensive, fill-in-the-blank variety at the dollar or department store but why not make your own? Some sites (like this one) offer free printables for invitations and other party decor ideas, like tent cards and banners so take advantage.
7. Get crafty or recruit a crafty friend and ASK FOR HELP:
Ok, I admit, I have one super-crafty friend, Laura, who — in addition to coming up with some really cool ideas and suggestions — has made me custom banners and decorations (sometimes the night before the party because no-thanks-I-can-do-it-all-myself turned into help-me-I’ve-run-out-of-time-and-have-so-much-left-to-do!) She even constructed a plywood ball-toss game the year of the Star Wars Angry Birds party, forcryingoutloud! Epic.
8. Organize your menu:
Decide whether the timing of your party will include a meal (brunch, lunch or dinner) or simply some snacks or finger foods. If you are budget-conscious, a fruit and veggie platter and maybe a couple of bowls of chips or pretzels are a simple option. Standard party fare seems to be pizza but if you are hosting at home you may want to serve sandwiches or barbecue hotdogs and hamburgers.
It can be fun to find extra special candies, snacks and treats that lend themselves naturally to the theme. My daughter and her friends decorated Hello Kitty cookies that I’d baked one year; Goldfish crackers are fun for any mermaid or pirate theme; Twizzlers in blue and red make awesome light sabers and sandwiches cut out in shapes are awesome: use a bat cookie cutter for Batman or a flower for a summery party and, if you’re wild and crazy, you could make cake pops.
9. Order or bake the cake (or cookies, or cupcakes):
I admit, I am the baker when it comes to birthdays and each of my kids gets a homemade cake or cupcakes on his or her birthday — always in keeping with the party theme, of course. Sometimes these can be very elaborate and time-consuming which explains why I sometimes falter on other party details and depend on Laura for her mad party decor skills.
If you don’t fancy yourself a baker, order your cake well in advance, particularly if you are splurging on a custom creation at a local bakery. Alternatively, and more affordably, you can order from the bakery section of your grocery store which usually offers plenty of themed options.
10. The scoop on the loot:
Yes, I do up loot bags or party favours. As a general rule my budget-per-kid is $6-$7. And I don’t do the fall-apart junk. In the past, loot bags have included books, frisbees, Hello Kitty wall decals, Disney Frozen characters and Beyblades (best find EVER) from Dollarama.
I’ve made cake pops and custom t-shirts (buying shirts in bulk for $2-$3 each + DIY iron-on). For a personalized touch, the birthday party labels from Mabel’s Labels are awesome — but this only really works if your guests RSVP on time and well in advance of the party.
But guess what? No one said you had to have loot bags. Hosting your child’s guests for a fun afternoon of play and cake is gift enough.