Every birthday parents (like us) go through the agonizing decision of what to do for the party. We ask: Should we do it at home or away? Should we keep it small or go large? Should we hire caterers or do it ourselves? What’s the budget? Can we afford to spend as much as we did last year? This year was no different and we had the extra special occasion of our second born’s first birthday to contend with.
We wanted it to be perfect. We’d moved into a new house in Claremont, Cape Town a year ago so after renovating the place we could not pass up the opportunity to show it off by having the party in our very own home. The added bonus was of course was that our one year old would be able to enjoy his festivities in a place that was familiar to him. This, we thought, would help to mitigate any meltdowns and all the facilities (like his cot) was just down the passage in case it all got too much for him.
Not everything went according to plan though, so I wanted to share some insights and debate whether you should stick to trusted suppliers or try something new.
As we have an active three year old that also needed some entertainment we decided to go the whole hog with a jumping castle, slide and ball pond and one of those coin operated rides – you know the ones that are usually stationed outside the entrance to a popular shop and that rips the *rse out of parents by making them pay R5 for 30 second’s worth of pleasure for the kids. What a rip off those rides are! But I digress, we were keen to hire one for the party so instead of going with our usual supplier, Softly Does It, which specializes in soft play equipment we went for Cape Party Hire, which specializes in all sorts of entertainment for kids parties, which include jumping castles, ball ponds and kids rides to name a few.
But they did disappoint. They promised delivery the day before the party of all the goods at 4pm. Come 7pm and the goods had still not arrived. We were worried that our son’s first birthday would be ruined.
We contacted Softly Does it who were willing to step in with a toddler jumping castle and other equipment but luckily our order got delivered (albeit late) and they came through the following day to help set up the jumping castle. The ride itself was also nothing like we’d seen in the images on the company’s website and was missing a headlamp cover. However, on the day nobody noticed or cared and the kids (including my eldest) couldn’t get enough of the ride which was unlimited provided he pressed the button whenever it stopped.
In hindsight we thought that we’d messed up by trusting a new supplier and promised Softly Does It that they would get our business in the future. However, there was another supplier were new that did impress.
Tables, chairs and themed decorations
A couple of months back I bought a Wikideals voucher for a kiddies table and 10 chairs along with some decoration to go with it, which would be supplied by a company based in Ottery called Limitless Events. Wikideals is a group buying website, much like well known competitor Groupon. Deals from group buying websites can be a bit hit and miss so I was surprised about the efficiency of this company as well as the thought and preparation that went behind their package. We could have chosen from a variety of themes but ended up choosing the ‘Hungry Caterpillar’.
They charged us an extra R200 for delivery and collection but they were prompt and collected the items the next day when it suited us. The package included chairs with covers and matching tie backs, a couple of hungry caterpillar cutouts, a hungry caterpillar background drop sheet and, to our surprise, the letters of our son’s name also in polystyrene cutouts.
We had to do the set up ourselves. The tie backs proved a challenge for me but I think I ended up doing an OK job of making them look presentable. Next time though, I’ll just Google the problem!
Let them have cake!
When it came to the cake we stuck to someone we trusted. Natashia Schwendinger of Celebration Cakes had created and decorated our eldest son’s cake earlier this year when he celebrated his birthday in April. We knew she’d come through for us again but this time we gave her an extra challenge of doing a Rainbow Cake with the Hungry Caterpillar theme. I’ll let the pictures (see below) speak for themselves…
Food & drinks
We organized three platters for collection from Coimbra Bakery which is around the corner from where we live. The platters were generous and were enough to feed the 15 adults that attended. Hired glasses and drinks were provided by Picardi Rebel fine wine and liquor store.
A dog’s life
Finally, we checked our dogs into the @Frits Dog Hotel and Daycare Centre for the day so that we wouldn’t have to keep them away from the food and festivities. Personally I didn’t think it would be fair on them to see all the excitement in the back yard and sniffing all the delicious food. Maybe it’s my fault for not keeping them in check enough but if they had joined in on the fun those cupcakes and canapés would have been gone in a flash and I doubt very much that I would’ve been able to keep them away from the jumping castle! A day pass at the dog hotel costs R135 for one dog and if you’re concerned you can download their camera app to spy on your precious pooches.
You can employ a photographer who specializes in kids parties but we saved money by asking my dad to do the honors on the day. To be honest he does a better job than most professionals anyway. It’s something he enjoys as it’s his hobby. If you have a family member or friend taking the snaps you’re bound to save yourself a few hundred Rand. Alternatively, you can also rely on those attending the festivities to take the odd snap here. And if the images need some work it’s amazing what you can do with the editing tools provided by Instagram and Facebook these days.
I don’t think I could wholeheartedly recommend not going for suppliers you’ve not had any experiences with in the past as there were definitely some new providers that came through for us and gave us the type of service we expected. You can’t shy away from the unknown but at the same time it helps to have back up plan. But at the same time, if you have found someone trustworthy that doesn’t cost the earth why would you try someone different the next time?
I guess it all boils down to what you are prepared to risk. If you’re really uncertain, perhaps trusting recommendations from friends and family may be one way to go. Or you can have the attitude of ‘if something goes wrong, I’ll just go with the flow’. Just don’t tell the kids what you have planned in advance in case it does go wrong. I don’t think I would be able to deal with disappointed little faces!