Joey D’s Top Tips for

Having a Successful Birthday Party

Throwing a birthday party can be a lot of work.  You can run yourself ragged trying to do something special only to have your best laid plans ruined by a simple oversight.  After hundreds and hundreds of birthday parties, I have seen many common mistakes that could have been prevented. 


Schedule: Have a rough schedule and a plan.  Obviously, there is a lot to do before, during and after the party.    I have included a whole bunch of time saving tips and a party checklist to help you.  The schedule is up to you but a good length for the party is 2 hours, longer if the children are older.  It can also be longer if you are serving food or have other children's entertainment. 

Invitations: Be sure to mail your invitations out with plenty of time for people to plan.  I suggest between two and three weeks before the party.  The perfect party size seems to be 15-25 children.  If you do plan a larger party, make sure you have extra adult helpers on hand. 

Rentals: Renting tables & chairs, tents, etc. is very easy.  Just be sure to call a party rental company in advance.  Hire all your entertainment and rent a space at least one month (if not two) in advance.  Make sure you pay any deposits necessary to reserve hired people and rented places or things.  Having to reschedule the location of the party or find a new caterer last minute can be very time consuming and frustrating. 

Location: Visit the location in person to make sure that it is the right choice for your party.   Ask if you can have the entertainment you are planning on having.  Some party places have policies against outside entertainment.

     Having the party at home is a great way to save money.  Make sure to have a safe place for the party: close doors to keep certain rooms "off limits", put away anything fragile or valuable, etc.  Put ALL pets somewhere safe.

Outdoor Parties: 1) Have a backup plan in case of bad weather.   2) Think about planning a few activities indoors.  The sun can be fun, but you want to keep your guests safe and comfortable.  Too much of a good thing can be bad.  3) Be aware of outdoor problems: wind, bees, poison ivy, etc.  4) Ask about cancellation policies, some companies will reschedule for a small or no fee.

Decorate:  You don’t need to spend hundreds to decorate for a party.  Pick one party room and decorate as follows: 1) Balloons, lots of balloons.  Fill them with helium on the day of the party, they will last longer.  Use a few balloons to mark the party location (on the mail box, tied to a tree so people can see where to turn, near the front door, etc).   Also, use balloons to fill the space with color.  2) Streamers, lots of streamers.  Make a pattern on your ceiling like the spokes on a bicycles wheel.  Be sure to twist the streamer as you place it up to create that party look.  3) Visit a party store for banners, tablecloths, napkins, plates etc to match your theme.

Food: Do you cook, have the food delivered or catered?  The age of the guests will determine that.  I have also found that some younger kid’s birthday parties often do not have food served at them besides the cake and ice cream.  Be aware of any of your guest’s food allergies.  Peanut allergies are becoming more common.  Pizza is a great choice: it’s quick, easy and everybody likes pizza.

Entertainment: There are lots of choices for birthday party entertainers: Magicians, Balloon Twisters, Clowns, Face Painters, Pony Rides, Bounce Houses, etc.  You don’t need to go overboard; pick one or two big activities or a few smaller games to fill the time.  Make sure you ask what each company needs to perform/setup.  Most bounce houses will not setup in high winds, rain, or on gravel.  Some entertainers need power, tables, chairs, etc.  (I only need power, and I can do without that if necessary)  Also, be sure to check that there will be enough time to paint everybody’s face, or give everybody a balloon animal, especially if the invite list grows.  Ask lots of questions.  Also, if you are having more than one form of entertainment, make sure that all the entertainers know what else is going on.  A loud DJ and pony rides for example might not be a good mix.   

Capture the moment: Digital cameras are great, but remember to charge your camera and clean the memory card.  Also, don't have everybody pose for every picture, take some impromptu shots too.  Remove the lens cap.

Arrivals & Introductions: Greet people as they arrive.  Be sure parents dropping off kids know what time the party is over.  Introduce everybody to the group.  Giving each child a nametag is a great idea that I got from a party planner years ago.  They can wear it for the party, so you know everybody’s name, and then at the end they can put it on their goody bag.  This one tip will save lots of headaches.

The cake:  Save the sugary cake and ice cream for near the end of the party.  Have a cup of water nearby to put the candles in to make sure they are extinguished completely.  I don’t need to see another garbage can fire.

The presents:  Have a garbage bag handy for the paper.  To make writing thank you cards easy, keep track of who gave which present as they are opened. Finally, remind the birthday boy to say thank you.

The guest of honor: Make sure you involve your child in the party process.  Let him or her pick out the cake, decide what games you are going to play, also he or she can help with the balloons and decorations, etc.  Let him or her know how to greet his friends and thank them for coming.  Although it is his special day, make sure he knows to treat his guests with kindness and respect.

Other kids:  Some people’s kids will try to get away with behavior that is completely unsafe or very disrespectful.  This is especially true at abirthday party. Be strict with what kinds of behavior you let go on.    It is your house.

Parents:   Some parents are helpful. Make sure to thank them.  Get contact phone numbers if possible for parents who will not be attending.

The end of the party: Let everybody know that the party is ending soon. Avoid a huge mess by asking the kids to put everything back (toys in bins, dishes in garbage can) and help pick up any stray bits of trash.  Parents will be by to pick up their kids. As they leave, thank everybody for coming and wish them a safe journey home.

Thank you cards: should be sent out the next day if possible or hand delivered.

Other:  Here are some tips that don’t fit anywhere else

1) Pools are fun but they can be dangerous.  You need to know who can’t swim and keep a close eye on large groups of kids in a pool.  

2) Piñatas are dangerous.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone hurt.   There is a pull string variation that is perfect for birthday parties and much safer than the traditional dizzy, blindfolded, bat wielding Derek Jeter method.

3) Goody bags items can be expensive ($1 each) and time consuming.  Save yourself time, money and aggravation and let me take care of them for you.  My Make you own goody bags are $3 each and kids get to pick 6 items from a basket full of stuff.

4) Don’t give kids noisemakers.  Ever. 

5) People will arrive late and leave early, kids will tug on the dogs ears, birthday boy’s will change their minds overnight as to what the best present in the world is and other unexpected stuff happens.  Don’t let it stress you.  As long as you and your child have a cupcake and you wish him a happy birthday, you have done your job.  The rest is just the icing on the cake.

     Throwing a birthday party can cost $3000 or it can cost $300.  By using this information, choosing where to spend your time and money, and involving the guest of honor in the decisions, you will be sure to have a memorable birthday party. 

Written by birthday magician, balloon artist, and comedy magicianJoey DiDonna. Please share this with your friends that are having a children's birthday party or anyone who is looking for birthday party entertainment, birthday magician or party magician

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Albany magician Joey D has been entertaining audiences with his balloon art and magic shows since 1994