Yesterday was the first of these parties (and honestly I will need a year to recover after how hectic it all was), and seeing as Monsieur Baby is almost as much in love with animals as his mamma, the choice of theme was pretty easy: Safari party!
Now, before I leave you with my party pics and some tips, here is what I found out about myself in the two weeks that it took to get this party organised: first, I love nothing more than decorating the house with a theme,... it can get a little bit out of hand! Second, I am a little too obsessed with detail, Hubby Dearest even mentioned compulsive at some point! And finally, it's a fact that lots of little children running around in a closed space make me slightly dizzy, here's to looking forward to the bowling parties in a few years...
Now, to the planning... as you can imagine I had a tick-off list to help me go along with all the organisation and not missing anything. I really made a point of preparing everything myself, instead of hiring a company to do this, it's in line with cooking for Monsieur Baby, it makes me feel like I'm not just paying for people to take care of his needs. All-in, it's harder work, but to be frank it feels much better to get the compliments once it's all done but most importantly to hear the squeals of my little tiger when he saw the decorated kitchen (and, by the by, it's cheaper!)...
1) Get some inspiration...
My day job is finance, not party planning and certainly not entertainment, and though I love organising themed dinners I knew I needed a little bit of help in the ideas, so I checked out Hostess with the Mostess' website, to see what interesting safari party themes I could adapt for Monsieur Baby's party. I love this website, all the party themes are very polished and the attention to detail is unbelievable! Just check out this Jungle party which gave me the idea for a drink station, so cool!
2) Order some cute party themed paper goods
I find that the UK is really lacking in terms of party supplies which don't look tacky and cheap. In that regard, the US websites are much better equipped, and I especially like Beau-Coup, a website recommended by TinyPrints, where you'll literally find hundreds of gorgeous and not tacky at all party goodies, from cool invitations which you can print on to gorgeous little favour boxes. I ordered the Jungle Safari Party Kit, and it all arrived within days of ordering, with no need to pay customs duty as the value was lower than 100£! You can't imagine how many compliments we got for the invitations and the too cute for words bottle labels..
3) Amazon everything else!
Amazon is a fabulous place where you can find virtually anything these days, so to make it all more Safari-like I ordered some hessian for the vines and table displays, cheetah-print balloons and green ones for the entrance, lots of other bits and bobs for my decoration, and even a raffia skirt that I used to decorate the party favours corner and make some braids for the drinks station.
4) Get to work...
You can order everything you want but if you don't put some elbow grease into making it all personal it will all look a bit bland. It makes all the difference, but that meant I was cutting exotic-shaped leaves most of last week in the evenings (it's therapeutic at first but then it gets slightly boring) and then was running around frantically most of saturday creating the jungle cascade on our kitchen mirror, a high grass savannah around the drinks station etc. Not to mention the mess it all left on the floor (hessian is a messy thing to cut into vines, make sure you hoover before the party...) Oh and did I mention about the little knots for the napkins and the raffia braids? My legs still hurt from all the work!
5) Don't forget the food!
Getting food right for a toddlers party means you need a good mix of healthy fruit and raw veg, some breadsticks for the little teething party animals, and of course a variety of cookies. I went for simple but cute, with Oreos and animal-shaped Organix toddler cookies, and my Greek favourites: Caprice cigars bought on my recent trip to Athens, aka chocolate canes! Also I was mindful of the mummies who were watching their own waistlines and their babies' sugar intake, so prepared a platter of veggies with a Dolcelatte dip, and some fruit skewers. Drinks were easy, home-made iced tea (much tastier than the bought version!), apple juice, water and champagne of course (this is, after all, a little French boy's party...)
6) No party is ever complete without some cute cupcakes...
That, my friends, is where I admit my failings: I am a dreadful baker, and no amount of cookbooks from the best chefs in the world is ever going to fix this. Instead, I looked up some cupcake bakeries and after getting a couple of no replies, a terribly snotty proposal from one of the better-known London bakeries who didn't even bother to send me pictures of their bespoke work and quoted an extortionate price, I found the lovely Lucy at Vanilla Frost Cakes. She listened to my requests, suggested some ideas, and delivered in the morning of the party 24 absolutely perfect cupcakes and matching cake pops, prepared exactly to my specs and which tasted absolutely delicious. I cannot recommend her highly enough, she is quite amazing!
7) Setting up the scene, music and all!
It's all fun decorating the house with leaves and vines but if you want to take it one little notch higher, a bespoke play list is the way to go... I went for songs from The Lion King, Madagascar, and some African choir hymns, and despite the rain outside, it felt like we were transported for tea in the middle of the Serengeti!
8) Prepare the little party favours ahead of time...
One of things I remember most about going to children's parties as a kid was the party favours... I always loved looking into the little package to see what was inside. However I'm appalled to hear about the E20 and E-whatever components that are packed in the gummy treats that these come filled with, so I took a slightly different approach, and packed some raisins and a little finger puppet with a Safari theme... All packed into these little mini chinese take-away boxes... ready to be taken out!
I'm all party-ed out now... thankfully Hubby Dearest was at hand for me to outsource the tidying up, a part I loathe when it comes to entertaining! It's good the next children's party isn't for another year, as it's pretty exhausting, especially when you insist on doing everything yourself!