Hostess with the Okay-est-ess: Why I Started Throwing Non-Pinterest Birthday Parties

I need to confess something, and I know it sounds sacrilegious, but hear me out: I think Pinterest has ruined our generation’s ability to hostess sanely.  Don’t get me wrong; I love me some Pinterest.  I spend far more time than is probably healthy surveying outfits I will never fit into, recipes I am not skilled enough to execute, toddler activities I do not have the patience to attempt, and homes I am not rich enough to own.  But this is exactly the problem.  With all this inspiration pinning, we’ve set the bar way too high for ourselves, and this is especially true when it comes to hosting parties.

What you have here is Pin-spiration overload.  What you end up with is a kid who is less than enthused about the party you painstakingly planned.  I’ve learned my lesson.

So this year, I went a different route…

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Just a handful of balloons for the Birthday Boy to play with on the morning of his big day.
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Staying breezy and comfortable in this Madewell romper.
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My anti-theme theme?  A picnic in the park.

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No fancy tablescape this time!  Just some good old-fashioned BBQ.

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He asked for a “minion cake with all the colors,” and that’s exactly what he got.  No theme needed.
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For my birthday, I wanted the focus to be on me with this feminine Mata Traders dress.
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Just one floral centerpiece this year, not twelve.

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The menu: potluck party!!
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My cake of choice: my Grandma Julie’s famous cheesecake.
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No money spent on entertainment for the kids; grandma’s backyard and bin of outdoor toys worked just fine!

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Erinn looked boho-fabulous in the Free People dress she found while we shopped for birthday dresses.

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A small guest list meant that I got to snuggle my nephew for a really long time at the party.

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I finally got the perfect family birthday party picture that I have been trying to snap for three years!

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In the old pre-Pinterest days, the hostess only worried about her outfit and the menu.  Now, because we see moms who are hostessing their socks off on Pinterest, we’ve forced ourselves to worry about matching place cards, and pretty food, and DIY decorations, and balloon backdrops, and animal-shaped fruit, and three tiered cakes decorated to replicate the entire cast of Sesame Street, all for the sake of crafting the Greatest Party Ever.  Even entering the search terms “toddler birthday party” into Pinterest leads down a rabbit hole of themes: art party, splash party, farm party, Thomas party, racecar party, princess party, Mickey Mouse party.  Did you know you needed a theme?  Oh, you must have a theme.   You cannot NOT have a theme.  And everything must coordinate with that theme: cake, goodie bags, games, invitations, centerpieces, dessert tables, food placards, plates, cups, napkins, drink dispensers, serve wear, table-scapes, thank you cards, activities for the kids, birthday child’s outfit, birthday child’s backup outfit.

It’s just too much, Pinterest.

Trust me, I get the allure.  I’ve been sucked into the Pinterest Party wormhole many many times.  I threw three enormous pin-worthy birthday parties for my son (2 of them for year one!), and what I ended up with was boat-loads of dollars spent on Etsy and Amazon, countless hours of cooking and decorating, huge guest lists that prevented me from talking to anyone longer than three minutes, loss of sleep, anxiety, blood, sweat, tears…and, oh yeah, a Birthday Boy who was sick at his own party TWO YEARS IN A ROW.

So this year, I gave up.  I gave up the imaginary pressure that I had put on myself to become a pseudo-event planner for a toddler.  I went back to basics and simplified my life.  This year, I threw two birthday parties in one weekend—one for myself and one for my son—and I didn’t have a shred of stress clouding either day.  And, trust me, these were far more memorable than my parties of yore.

So, if you, like me, are ready to renounce perfection by hosting the perfect Non-Pinterest Party, here’s what I’d suggest:

  1. Ditch the décor.  No one remembers décor at a birthday party, especially not the sugared-up toddler whose existence on this earth is the reason for the celebration in the first place.  Besides, if said toddler does happen to notice the décor, he’ll surely rip it down.
  2. Simplify the guest list.  For all of my son’s previous parties, I invited every human who had ever made contact with him since he was in utero.  This was unnecessary.  And more than that, the number of guests overwhelmed my son and caused him to superglue himself to my arms.  This time around, I kept the guest list super small: immediate family only for his party and my closest friends and family for mine.  This made both events so much more intimate.  Birthday Boy was comfortable because he was surrounded by familiar faces, and I was able to spend quality time with the people I love the most without having to endure a moment of small talk with neighbors, distant relatives, or the mailman.
  3. You don’t need a theme.  I was guilty of coordinating everything to fit a theme.  No more, my friends.  Birthday Boy’s theme this year?  Picnic.  What does that mean?  It means we had a literal picnic in the park.  The décor? Picnic blankets.  The photo op backdrop? The playground.  The cake? As Birthday Boy requested, it was “chocolate with minions and all the colors.”  Did it make sense or match anything else?  No.  And it was amazing.  The sheer joy of watching his face light up as he saw the cake of his dreams was the best part of the day.  The pictures I snapped of him and his cousins on the playground are better than any backdrop I could have DIYed because they’re filled with real smiles.  My family totally got in the spirit and dragged along picnic blankets and lawn chairs from home.  It was the best party I ever threw.
  4. Throw some money at the problem.  The worst part of hosting is the food prep.  I used to spend days doing this, organizing lists of things that could be made ahead of time, scheduling my decorating responsibilities around the oven timer, waving off all offers of help with a trite “just bring yourselves!”  The morning of a party, I usually don’t even see my son—I just toss on as many episodes of Bubble Guppies as I can while I play dictator in my kitchen.  This year, I catered from a local BBQ joint.  This year, my family offered to make dishes, and I said yes to each of them.  This year, I spent the entire morning with my husband and son.  I didn’t cook or decorate a single thing, and it was the greatest morning of my life.  We decided to surprise our boy with balloons all over our living room, and the awe on his face made my heart burst open in a million pieces.  We spent the entire morning playing with balloons, and I would have missed it all if I had been stuck in the kitchen.
  5. Scale back on the table-scape.   Centerpieces are lovely.  But I can no longer construct some sort of DIY masterpiece out of papier-mâché and witch hazel.  I’m going to buy some flowers and call it a day.  People like flowers.   Tablecloths are also lovely.  I recycle mine.  I bought a bunch of $10 navy blue tablecloths from Amazon, and I reuse them for every party I throw.  Navy goes with everything and every season, and now I don’t have to make yet another trip to Party City.
  6. Wear something that makes you feel pretty, but that you can still “mom” in.   For the picnic party, I chose a more modest romper because I could still chase my son around the park without flashing anyone, but this one made me feel fabulous because the fabric is luscious and the details are feminine.  For my birthday party, I chose a patterned dress that really stood out and fit my body type nicely, but it was long and loose enough that I could move freely around my parents’ backyard.
  7. Keep the kids entertained on the cheap.  No clown or fairy princess has to make an appearance.  No bouncy house needs to be rented. The playground kept those kids busy (and wore them out!) at Party 1.  For Party 2, I put out a bin of bubbles, balls, and sidewalk chalk (ie: crack for kids).  I also ransacked my parents’ palace of toys for their grandchild, and located a tunnel maze.  Children=occupied for hours.  Wallet=full.

 

At the end of the day, I realized that all this pressure to throw the perfect party wound up being a waste of money and energy.  Instead, I focused on what I wanted the most: to enjoy the party and the people there.  This might sound selfish, like I’m ignoring the needs of my guests, but I like to think that it was the proverbial light bulb that went off in my head.  When I stopped focusing so much on living up to some self-imposed, fantasy hostess standard, I was able to be truly present for my son and my family.   And hopefully Pinterest will forgive me.

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Shop A’s looks:

Chambray Anchor Shirt     Striped Linen Shirt  

Other rompers I love:

               

 

Other Mata Traders Dresses I love:

        

 

 

 

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