Friday, October 31, 2014

Planning for a First Birthday Party

...is like planning for a wedding! Except this time, I'm taking control. Yes you read that right! Without going into details, suffice it to say that back in 2012, getting married was the biggest *SURPRISE* of my life! (in less than 100 days..it's a Chinese tradition which I may have to blog about at a later time)

I'm thankful that I have friends who helped me tremendously with the preparations because back then my mind was truly, truly chaotic. I wouldn't be able to handle it by myself. My then-fiance A must have been scratching his head and tsk-tsk-tsking. There I was, a 20-something bride-wannabe who really wanted to get married but was adamant to do it on such short notice. Parang, "ano ba talaga, ate?"

And I thank God in His infinite grace and wisdom for that test of character, of patience and for the blessings and direction He has given. O sige na nga side-kwento ng konti..I felt that it was a message from God when our officiant (Fr. Allen De Guzman) said something to the effect of, "Sometimes there are times in our life when we are called to do something. It may not be in the way we expect it to be. Or the way we want it to be. We may be scared. But we follow."

Okay back to regular programming. Next to our daughter's baptism which we did on her 4th month, our task is to plan for her first birthday celebration. Of course as a stay at home / work at home (SAHM/WAHM) mom, I feel it is my duty to conceptualize, plan and prepare for this major milestone. And this I am doing diligently!

Here are the 5 things I've learned so far:

1. Plan well in advance. In short, do not cram!

I don't know if I should be embarrassed to tell you this. I have been thinking about this and been doing my share of supplier research as far back as 6 months prior to her birthday. Is that super early? Hahaha..Well in terms of booking suppliers (and depending on who you want to get) it might be a bit late na! It's not only the venue and caterer one must think of, even the highly-rated magicians and photographers get booked way way waaaaay in advance. Yikes!! But I'm really glad I got my top picks for suppliers...Dibs! Yehey!! :)

First we chose a date. Once that was set, I contacted the caterer I wanted and inquired about their packages and rates. After choosing our birthday lunch set, we scheduled a food tasting. Normally my husband and I can decide on this already but we also invited my in-laws. We wanted to ensure that the taste will also be palatable to their 'age group' hehe. This was a non-negotiable supplier for me so I did not bother to check with others na...tralalalala :D

Ulalam!!! My favorite dish! I'd probably order an extra serving of this good for 10 pax? Hahahaha :)

Discussing food choices at the food tasting with Ms. Melissa of Passion Cooks

Z having fun too with her Amah and her favorite board book! :)
Then we looked for a venue. One that was near. Like, very very near! Hahaha!! Luckily we found one that's right about 10 minutes from our home! We like it because it's near, relatively cheap and looks neat, fresh and lovely! Even if we scrimp on 'styling' it would still look decent :) Thank God for Arch. A and my father-in-law who lovingly took the dimensions  and made the floor plan for the caterer to use!

While out of town trips and events are much fun, I can't imagine us having a first birthday celebration with a location outside Metro Manila. This is such a huge deviation from a wedding which we had in Caleruega (Nasugbu, Batangas). Not to mention, suppliers will charge anywhere from PHP 3,000 to upwards of PHP 10,000 for out of town fees. That's huge savings my dears!








Now at almost 2 months to go before our event, I can be more relaxed as I'm just doing "detailing" and planning for the small stuff. I'm also truly happy to have booked my suppliers of choice :) They have positive ratings and I'm sure that should there be glitches (as they are unavoidable), it would only be minor ones and will not cause me stress and heartaches.

As my college professor (Sir Harvey Ong) used to say, "Cramming is bad for your health!"

2. Set and agree on a BUDGET, choose suppliers based on VALUE and choose your party planning CONFIDANTES.

For most folks, even some dads would nod in agreement, it's just a big G-A-S-T-O-S. Really! And I do agree that expenses could easily go out of hand with all the new things cropping up for parties! That's why early on, we have set a budget. Yes we do have our "dream suppliers" but we always always look at the big picture and do our best to balance our wants (i.e., the party look and feel we are going for) and our budget.

Being the chief party planner for this event, I always look for at least 3 viable suppliers and canvass their offering. All options are then 'presented' to my husband for his final approval :) Despite our goal of sticking to the budget, we don't always go for the cheapest price. Instead, we look for VALUE, primarily. In the end, we do get what we pay for.

It is easy to know your party planning status and easily share it with your hubby or coordinator. What I did was to set up a spreadsheet on Google Docs which details the following:

a. Expense Category
b. Supplier
c. Working Estimate
d. Actual Cost
e. Down payment Made
f. Balance
g. Booking Details

So at any moment, we see an accurate picture of how close we are to sticking or going over our budget! :p

Another thing I realized is this - mommies, let's accept that not everyone will share in our excitement of planning for a first birthday party. Sometimes it's just us and maybe a couple of close friends. And that's okay. Much as this day is extremely important for us, in the light of eternity, this is just but a tiny dot. At first this can be disheartening. I mean, "Why aren't they excited??!" But then you know, people are busy, they also have other things to attend to. Let's just concentrate on planning and preparing well and understand where they are coming from. As for me, I'm happy that my hubby is mildly excited (hehe) and that I have 3 girl friends who are helping me out by listening to my crazy weird ideas and bringing me back to reality!

Two practical tips I'd like to share is (1) to have hard copies  (printed) contracts or MOA's and always attach receipts for any payments made. Especially if you intend to hand-over to a trusted friend/relative/coordinator on the day of the event. This way, you won't be stressed during the party trying to remember all the little details. It will also be easier to set and meet expectations should there be any issue. And (2) please also be upfront with suppliers when they ask for your budget. We will be helping them work more efficiently this way, rather than pushing for something that we cannot afford, and being frustrated in the end.

Another GOLDEN NUGGET I wish to share is this, our husband should be our partner. Let us be honest with them and not hide expenses they would just find about on the event itself and be powerless over. They should be our accountability partners as well. If planning for our child's party is making us do things that are contrary to our values, I hope we are able to pray for the humility to submit ourselves to God's guidance and our hubby's authority too.

3. Learn to let go

Sabi ko nga nuon, "If we're just able to get my dream caterer/stylist, a nice venue, great photographer and a pretty cake, I'm okay na!" But as I'm researching (hello Pinterest!), I keep finding nice add-ons for the party. And my hubby wouldn't let me hear the end of what I told him about my bare minimum! Hehehe :)

Yan ang downside to researching: finding nice, pretty and (gulp!) costly things. This is another challenge for us moms to prove our mettle as savvy savers extraordinaire. Can we discern what we truly need and in turn say no to these pretty yet unnecessary things? Without my hubby's 'supervision' (ahem!), I might have been too far gone flunking in this department!

To help us stick to our budget, we also streamlined our essentials and non-essentials. Right now in our planning stage, there are two main items we might not include in our party .... the dessert or candy buffet and the photo booth. Savings for avoiding both could be PHP 15,000 - 30,000! Yeah, that much..again, depending on the supplier chosen. Don't get me wrong ha, these are definitely nice to have at any party but for us personally, they are relegated to "let's think it over" as we try our best to allocate our budget efficiently.

I've been mulling over this as I know that almost all parties feature the following but hear me out:

Dessert Buffet / Candy Buffet

They are pretty, they are yummy..so why not? If we are holding it for 50 pax or less, I might reconsider. But since I'm expecting our guest list would go over a hundred, we are most likely passing up on this because (a) it's hard to manage a candy buffet station in such a way that majority of guests will be able to try it and (b) since it isn't usually manned, there is the risk of contamination especially when there are little kiddos (and okay, some grown-ups) who simply refuse to use serving spoons.

Photo courtesy of http://www.karaspartyideas.com/

Photo booth

Photo booths are fun! We even had them at our wedding (remember our bed photo studio?). They provide lasting memories of the fun time guests have had at your party. So again, why not? For one, I feel the concept is getting old. When I attend parties, I rarely line up to get a photo booth souvenir taken because I feel I've exhausted all possible high-fashion poses (naks! joke lang po!) I have in my bag of tricks! Hahaha..Unless of course, I'm able to find a 'new concept' for a good deal. *wink, wink, wink!!!* And then again, subject to hubby's A-OK! Else, I'll do a DIY na lang and have people use their cams / phones to take photos :)




Oh, these are also some expense areas that are heavily policed by hubbyness:

Party Outfit

Because we've chosen a 'period theme', I feel it's just apt to reflect it also on our attire. I'm okay with having coordinated outfits with my baby and my hubby. But my hubby thinks this is already superfluous. What do you think?

Videographer

Hubby says that we already have a photographer to capture the moment. And ito ang nakakaloka, according to him: "Mommy, a picture is already worth a thousand words. Tapos may video pa? Baka mahilo na si baby niyan sa dami ng words!" Anu daw??? Hahahaha..But I'm still convincing him that since Z is still too young to appreciate the party, a video is a nice token for her to look back to from time to time. Do you agree?

4. Claim it!

Maybe I'm just a late bloomer but something about being a mom (or a parent, in general) gives one a double-edged vulnerability and the strength to perform new capabilities. I'm actually enjoying this experience, it isn't all too hard pala. Well, save for curbing my appetite for all things pretty...really have to stick with that dang budget!

On the other hand, I'm also relishing this responsibility...for crafting an experience for our family and friends. Looking for superb suppliers and communicating our vision. Trying out different things while still considering tradition.

I'm not claiming to be an expert party planner but this is such a learning moment for me. It would definitely be so much more convenient to just hand over the major planning and preps to a party planner but I think I'm kinda enjoying getting my hands dirty and just diving deep into this wonderful world of first birthdays! :)

And so I am claiming it! I am wearing my heart (and preferences) on my sleeve and will be proud of it. It can be daunting, still such a huge event to pull off. Still so many things to do. What if something goes wrong? What if, what if, what if? But I will learn to be brave, I will learn to trust and best of all, I will learn to accept and enjoy :)

5. Pray about it

Yes, there are many uncertainties, insecurities and fears that party planning can bring. That's why we always turn to the Almighty Father to continue to guide and bless us. As they say, "pray for the best but still prepare for the worst." I'm so blessed to have chanced upon Ms. Joy Mendoza's blog on how she was also struggling and praying about her daughter's first birthday and how the Lord continued to bless them despite their initial challenges (read about it here). It definitely confirmed what I've been sensing all along and I especially appreciate the part where she advises for us wives to be obedient to our husband. It's easy to be a brat about getting what one wants but is it worth it to jeopardize your relationship (and bank account) just for a single day of festivity?

In our planning, there are already a few glitches we have encountered. I have accepted also that no party will ever be totally stress-free. Hence we are also preparing for contingencies. This early, I'm already foreseeing a possible "disturbance" to our plans and hence I'm praying for God's best.

I don't know about you but sometimes I experience myopic vision. This is where my mind just zooms to my "creative pegs" and I'm hopelessly floating and expecting that it will come to be. Reality is that there will always be deviations, adjustments and flex points. And we do have to be flexible.

So this is always part of my prayers. That we be guided on planning for a party that we can reasonably afford, that we will be enlightened with our intentions (you know at the back of our minds, it's always nice to be featured in certain party blogs but that shouldn't be the reason we are having a party in the first place), that the Lord will lead us to the right suppliers and that He continues to guide and protect our suppliers and loved ones.

Thank you so much for reading and as a simple request, please pray for us too! :)

Related Posts:

Countdown to Z's party

We're on a first birthday high! :)

Official Photos by Happy Folks Studio

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