For a good amount of my young adult years , I have been planning surprise birthday parties for all my closest friends. It has become what I am known for best. A birthday might mean something to some and may be just another day to others so take into consideration on who you’re planning it for. Since the economy has somewhat blew a hole in our pockets, here’s some simple ways to make at least this occasion, nicely celebrated.
1. Who ?
Is this person close to you? Is it a romantic relationship ? Family? Or just a work colleague ?
The effort you put in has to equate to the level of priority this person is to you. Because someone who’s not so close to you might either take it the wrong way (if it’s overly done), or be guilted into being indebted to you or even worse, doesn’t even appreciate it at all. So know who you’re doing this for. Find out if they hate or like surprises. What are their likes and dislikes ? You don’t want to over do it for someone you really like, they might think you’re creepy.
Get the data and work from there.
2. When ?
Does the birthday date fall on a weekend or weekday? Will there be other guests ?
Realizing that not everyone can attend a Wednesday luncheon will be a plus cos you don’t want to plan into everyone’s work week . Make it easier by celebrating before the actual birthday if the date falls on a weekday that no one can attend. Make it a weekend thing that everyone can look forward to.
Unless, you plan just a two person outing then that’s fine. If you need other guests to be there, maybe do a small dinner for everyone’s end of day highlight if the weekends are all packed.
Would this birthday be easier or more fun if it’s themed ? An all- white and gold themed party or Hawaiian luau sounds good to me.
To simplify it, theme it by color. Get everyone to dress in white, blue or green. Find a color that’s common and it helps if people can get it in their closet.
To make it slightly more creative like a Hawaiian luau, make sure to get props ready. Even if people don’t dress Hawaiian, at least you’ve got the props to pass it off as one. Get leias and wreaths. Top off the drinks with tiny umbrellas and you’ve got a good Hawaiian themed party going.
- leias ( from any $1 shop or $2 store)
- tiny umbrellas (any baking supply, party or even grocery store might have them)
- everyone to dress up in floral or jungle/ island themed
How many guests are being invited. This helps you with space (venue) and also reducing food wastage.
Food management is key when it comes to parties, even for party napkins, forks and spoons and plates. People always leave their half drank party cups aside and then they go grab another drink cos they can’t remember which one is theirs. So use short glasses or label their cups. This is of course meant for small 7-10 pax parties. For larger groups, it’s good to get smaller plastic cups so that they’ll finish their drinks fast and go use the same cup to go get more. That’s the secret I use for my private parties (also I make awesome lemonade). You reduce cup wastage this way. The best is to use non disposables of course.
Another tip for the other stuff like plates and utensils, is to place the forks and spoons in a tall wide glass. Fill it up only when it’s depleting and you’re left with one spoon and one fork. For the plates, use a decorative paper weight (or a bag of marbles) and place it on top of them so the plates won’t fly off. Also replenish it only when it’s down to two plates. People who are coming back for more will see that the stack of plates are almost done and will tend to want to reuse their plates for the second round cos they don’t want to be the ones to ask the host for more plates (making it look like they’re troublesome or causing interruption to the host).
People are nice that way.
How to simplify a venue? Hmm.. ok let’s see your options. Is it in a club, huge game centre , karaoke lounge, that there’ll be staff there to organize the event for you? If you’ve got the money then why not. Pay the cash and let them handle it all, from food to activities. Let them do the heavy lifting. If they don’t provide food, here’s what you can do. Ask your friends to help you out with a potluck surprise for the birthday boy/girl. Second option is to order pizza or simple hand held type foods like MacDonald’s or a fruit platter with chocolate dipping sauce. Even if you order bento boxes and individually packed rice packets or noodles, that’s a win already. Make it easy. Simplify remember?
So now the venue is outdoors like at the beach or park. Picnic or BBQ would naturally be the option. Personally I don’t like organizing a BBQ for a large number of people only because there’s too much inventory to take stock of and supplies to live up to the amount of mouths to feed. Cleaning up and all that jazz. So simplify.
For small groups, you can still do a BBQ but keep the food selection to foods that are easy to cook and people will actually eat them. I’m sure you realise how many corn on the cobs have sacrificed their kernels just cause you over bought and no one wants to bring the extra corn home. So for a party of 7 or less, please just do a simple picnic. It’ll save you on clean up and prep time. If it’s for a party of 10 or more then go for only 5 food selections.
- cheese platter
- fruit platter
- sushi platter
- individually packed rice packets (nasi lemak, nasi goreng with fried chicken)
- bento boxes
Selection of 5 foods include 2 mains and 3 finger foods for bigger groups. Keep it to 3 food selections for smaller groups.
Main – cook a main starch source like Pasta Bolognese, Seafood fried Noodles, Kimchi fried rice or Garlic Mashed Potatoes.
Finger foods – You could bring Curry Puffs, Apple Strudels , Chicken drumlets, mini sausages , shepherd pies or fried Spring rolls. All of these foods can be found at the frozen aisle. Your Air-fry will be your best friend here or just a quick dip in the wok. Add on a fourth finger food if you think that there’ll be vegetarians.
So it’s safer to be home and celebrating with a very small group of people. Your loved ones, family and just a few close friends. Use what you have, borrow or ask people to bring a long anything that can be of use. Ask your sister in-law for paper plates, your mum can make the dessert, you’ll cook the main meal and a friend can bring some ice. I always ask someone to get us the ice haha. I love them. It’s a team effort.
- use what you have
- table cloths, linen
- decorative pieces like fake flowers, leftover party decor
- arrange your furniture to make it look like a new space just for the day, it makes a difference
- make full use of lighting (dimmers, black light, fairy lights, glow in the dark sticks)
Easy to cook – fried rice, seafood noodles, drumlets, potato puffs, pasta
Easy to order – pizza, any take-out, bento boxes
Drinks – the easiest for drinks is a cooler filled with ice and just dump all the packets of drinks or cans of drinks right in there. The more economical way would be to just make lemonade or use rose syrup, it’s pretty easy. Please put a flask of water for guests to wash down all the oil and sweetness.
- use your own kitchenware if you have enough, this is the best and most encouraged option
- prepare a small basin with warm water and soap for the dirty forks and spoons for washing later
- if not then ask anyone who has leftover plastic forks/spoons to bring’ em over
- you could easily get this from any party or dollar store
- put a large trash bag over a chair or a stool near the front door of your house or wherever the main trash chute might be ( to ease throwing and changing the bag )
- lay out the dishes if you have an extra foldable table but if your dining table is huge enough use that, it’ll be easier for clean up since you don’t need to dismantle anything
Ok let’s recap.
1. Who – Effort equals the closeness of the person to you, this is to save time and money. Also that some people might not appreciate it. So know what this person would appreciate and not appreciate. There are people who hate birthdays, yes they exist.
2. When – Flexible date for two people or a weekend/ weeknight for those who work 9-5.
3. Theme – Color themes are easy. If it’s party themed, keep it simple and use easy props.
4. Quantity – Reduce food wastage and disposable tableware. Know how many people are actually coming.
5. Venue – If it’s a club/ game centre then let the staff handle the food and activities. For outdoors event that you have to do yourself, do a simple picnic or BBQ with easy finger foods.
6. Homebound – Cook easy foods, get guests to bring items you may need if it’s amongst close family and friends. Organize the set up for ease of cleanup. Rearrange your furniture differently so it’s a fresh new take for your eyes and the eyes of your guests who has been to your place before.
Oh ya… one more thing, don’t forget the cake.
A birthday is a special occasion for a lot of people and mostly enjoyed because it’s a celebration of someone’s existence. Make it extra special if you’d like. Even do it for people who’s never celebrated their birthday as a child before, as an adult, that memorable experience is a gesture that will be etched in stone. Spend if you have the money to splurge or keep it simple. If you still want to make a day of it and create memories on a budget, simplify but make it classic.
Get a piece of paper out, write it down, plan and carry it out excellently. You just need to organize it in 10-15 mins, there’s nothing to it.
I hope you’ve got some idea on how to make a celebratory event simply memorable. Little touches here and there does make a difference. At the end of the day, it’s the thought that counts.
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Happy 1st Oct !