Birthday parties. They are meant to be a time of happiness and joy. A celebration of another year in your precious child’s life. But if we are really honest, do the words happiness and joy spring to mind when you are starting to plan your child’s party?
I have lost count now, how many parties I have organised and hosted. I think I have done quite an interesting and varied array over the rather more years than I want to count. We have had soft play, football, swimming, homemade games, discos, crafts, build a teddy bear, LEGO, sports day, bowling and I’m sure there have been more. I’ve lost count of the number of party bags and cakes made, invitations written, times I wondered why I made so much food and as for the money. I would be a lot richer if there had been fewer parties, that is for sure.
Then there is the RSVP etiquette. Why can’t people respond to party invitations? It’s not hard, is it? You don’t even have to speak anymore, just send a text, it takes less than a minute.
But that is a whole other blog post.
The point is that parties can be quite stressful and a serious drain on the finances. My daughter’s party this year was probably the easiest party I have ever had (she had a bowling party at Hollywood Bowl and it was amazing). But it wasn’t cheap. She wanted a trampoline party but at £18.50 for a minimum of 10 to include takeaway pizza as food, I have to say that I wasn’t prepared to pay that much.
Two years ago, there were a few articles milling around on the internet that said that the average spend on a child’s party here in the UK was £320. And that was two years ago.
That might not be much for some, but to most, that is a lot of money. I reckon that I have spent anything between £30 (pizza and DVD party) to £200 (disco with 40 kids). By the time you have paid for the venue or entertainment, food and drink and party bags, it soon mounts up.
So would you consider charging parents a nominal fee for their child to attend a party?
My first reaction to that question was an absolute no way. What a bloody cheek!
This was of course in reaction to the story in the news last week about a mum from Leicestershire who was doing just that. She has twin boys in two separate classes and wanted to invite 60 children to a soft play party. The cost was £11 per child so she asked for the parents to contribute £6 towards the cost of the party rather than buy the her sons a gift. She felt that it was a win-win situarion. She wouldn’t end up with 60 presents that the children didn’t really need and the children would all have a great party and take home a goodie bag at the end of it.
On the whole, the idea had been well-recieved. Out of the 60 children invited, one parent took to social media to express her horror and from that, the story hit the headlines.
It certainly made me think. In reality, many parents will spend more than £6 on a party present, so a contribution without the hassle and expense of having to buy a present could be a positive. For the party hosts, a financial contribution can make a big difference and for some could be the difference between being able to afford a party or not. So this could be a solution that takes the pressure off all involved and in the end the children still get to have an amazing party and that is the most important thing.
The lack of presents might be a dealbreaker for some kids. My daughter loves having presents and she would probably be very upset if I went down this route for a party for her. Does it detract from the spirit of parties? It is a difficult one. Many kids have so much these days that no harm would really be done by not adding to their toy collections and maybe it teaches them that having a party is a present in itself, so they shouldn’t expect more.
It does seem like a really good idea. I have been invited to a theme park day out to celebrate my son’s birthday a few years back and that involved payment for the two of us to get in and transport costs. The party ‘hosts’ provided a picnic and a party bag but that party cost way more than £6 and I didn’t really question it at the time.
But would I be brave enough to do it? It does seem cheeky to send an invitation asking for money and you can garantee that there would always be someone who would get annoyed about it as however practical it might be, it is different, not the way things are usually done. What would you do if someone said yes but then didn’t pay? As it is hard enough to get a response at all out of some people, I can imagine this could be a real minefield.
For us, the time is coming for the party season to end. The boys no longer want parties, opting instead for sleepovers. My daughter may well have a couple more but we are coming to end of our time as party-organising parents. It will be interesting to see if the pay-per-parties become a regular thing or maybe we will be typically British about it all and keep on stumping up the cash ourselves and then moaning about it later.
Would you consider charging for kids to come to a birthday party?