Party Planning Guides

*Children’s Party Guide
Whom to invite?
Where to have it?
When is best?
What entertainment?
More tips.
*Planning Company Picnics
Whom to invite?
Where to have it?
When is best?
What entertainment?
More tips.
*Grown Up Party Guide
Whom to invite?
Where to have it?
When is best?
What entertainment?
More tips.

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Children’s Party Planning Guide

Whom to invite?

  • Some experts advise that for young children, you only invite as many little guests as your child’s age in years. Example: 1st Birthday – 1 little guest, 2nd Birthday – 2 little guests, and so on. We find that one or two more makes for a better party. Many parties for 1 & 2 year old children have guests of mixed ages, often ranging from 1 to 10 or 12 years old. With mixed age groups, lots more children at the same party is okay, we just wouldn’t recommend trying to have a party with a huge group of 1 year olds.
  • If you choose to have entertainment, it’s ideal to have a group of 8 to 15 children. With parties for little ones, mixed ages work best, especially for games, magic and other party activities.

Where to have it?

  • Home:
    If your party is at home, it usually means cleaning before and after the event, but you have all the prep time you need. Some moms let the birthday child get involved with the party planning, decorating the house, and preparing the refreshments. It’s a fun way for them to learn all about being a good host or hostess. Another nice thing about home parties is all the choices you have for entertainment: characters, magic, music, ponies or bounces can be brought to almost any home.
  • Park:
    Lots of people like to go to a local park for a birthday party. There’s plenty of room to run around, and there’s generally less preparation and less after party clean up. If you choose a park, choose carefully. Are there good restroom facilities? Nearby? How’s the parking? How popular is it– will it be crowded? Is there a playground, lots of grass and shade in the hot weather? Check first to see what amenities it offers, and what restrictions, if any, there are. Some parks allow you to make a reservation for a specific area, others are first come, first served. You may need to send someone early to hold a popular picnic site. Some people get there before 6 am! Also, it can be difficult keeping little uninvited guests from joining your group.Be sure to find out the rules for that park–some places don’t allow bounces, mechanical rides, ponies or petting zoos, dunk tanks, live music, or amplified music. (Park Rangers will come by and shut you down!) Also, for rides and music, you need to arrange to have the power turned on, or a generator, and for a dunk, you need a source of water. In the rainy season it’s always good to have a back-up location, just in case.
  • School or Daycare:
    Some parents of preschool and kindergarten age children have parties during the week at their child’s school or childcare facility. The “guests” are already there and the school visit by a Clown or favorite Character is always a special treat. Be sure to ask permission–some places don’t allow you to bring in entertainment.
  • Restaurant:
    Some restaurants are perfect for a children’s party. Many places like pizza restaurants have special party packages. Advantages to booking at a restaurant are that they take care of all the food, and the cleanup, and sometimes you can even order a cake from them. You will want to see if they have a private party area or if your group would be sharing space with all the other patrons. You often have to deal with a high noise level. Some pizza parlors don’t allow outside entertainers. If you do hire an entertainer to perform for you, is there room for the children to play games or will you need to choose activities that don’t require much space?
  • Other Party Spots:
    There are also special children’s activity centers which offer special programs for parties. For example: your local children’s museum, kiddie gyms or dance schools. They often have organized programs of games and activities suited to the age of the children, and the group is well chaperoned. However, there are limitations. Many limit the size of your guest list. Some will allow you to bring in a clown, character or magician to enhance your party, some will not. Also you may not have the luxury to linger longer than the time you reserved. When your time is up, you’re expected to clear out to make room for the next group. For older children you might consider a bowling or skating party. The facility often has a party package which includes skate/bowl time for each of your guests plus there is often a party area available for you to eat, open gifts and even have some special hired entertainment. Note: If your party is in a public place you may need more adults to help chaperone your group.

When is best?

  • Most children’s birthday parties are held on Saturday and Sunday afternoons between 11:30am and 4pm. If you are having entertainment or renting a facility, keep in mind that these time periods book up the fastest, so make your reservations as much in advance as possible. If you are having the party during the week at your child’s school, the entertainers may not have other shows booked, but probably have other commitments, so it’s still advisable to book at least a week or two in advance.
  • For little ones, try to avoid having the party coincide with your child’s regular nap time. Perhaps an early start at 10:30 or 11am, playtime, lunch, then any entertainment and conclude with cake & presents so that all who need to can get home in time for their afternoon rest.
  • If you’re serving a meal first, allow enough time to eat (even if the pizza is late) before your entertainer arrives. Remember hungry children get cranky, so try to feed children close to their regular meal times or at least have some solid food they can snack on.
  • Unless you are having the entertainer stay for the entire party, don’t have them scheduled to begin at the same time your guests are due to arrive. Generally, allow at least 30 minutes for most of your guests to arrive before your entertainment begins. (Fifteen minutes is okay for very short parties.) One to two hours into the party is recommended if your party will go on for many hours.
  • If you want the entertainer to be there for your Cake Ceremony, it’s a good idea to do that in last 5-10 minutes of the scheduled time. He or she will lead everyone in singing “Happy Birthday” and that’s a great time to pose for photo’s too! Then your performer can say goodbye and leave as your guests sit down to enjoy their cake.

What entertainment?

  • Clowns are great for children of all ages, and work especially well for 1st to 3rd birthdays where the guests range from 1-12 years of age. If all the guests are really little, or some of them are timid around clowns, you can request that your performer come with little or no clown makeup. It’s more important that the children are relaxed and having a good time, than that your clown has a white face or lots of paint.
  • Characters are fun whenever there is a special theme to the festivities.
    Boys 3 years old and up are especially fond of Super Heroes, Pirates & Cowboys. Little girls adore Princesses, Heroines, or dress up parties!
  • Older children enjoy theme parties too! How about a 50’s Sock Hop, 60’s Happening, even a 70’s Disco Fever party. They can get dressed up in the appropriate look for the period. You can bring in a D.J. or hire an entertainer or do both. 50’s Characters ala Sandy & Danny can run games & contests, teach the kids to hand jive, and even sing! For the 60’s, a flower child will bring the age of Aquarius right into your living room.. And for the 70’s, you can go all out with a D.J., disco lights and glow in the dark jewelry, or keep it simple, pull out your Saturday Night Fever album and do the Hustle! Hire an entertainer to teach the kids some basic disco steps. With any of these themes, organized games and magic still work great.Note: For tweens ages 8-11, the girls generally enjoy dance parties more than boys.
  • Magicians are always a hit. We suggest having a full length magic show when kids are old enough to sit for 35-45 minutes without being distracted. Younger children love magic but it’s best to have your performer do a short magic show along with other activities for ages 3-6 so the guests don’t get the wiggles.
  • How about something really different? Try a Dinosaur and Fossil Program or a 50’s style Dance Party. Exotic Animal Programs give the kids get a chance to see unusual creatures up close, and learn fascinating details about them.

More tips:

  • Games and a short Magic show can be done with everyone together. Face Painting & Balloon Animals are great party favorites, but these activities are only for one child at a time. Some children will enjoy watching, but mainly the other children are running around. It can take 1-2 minutes per child to paint or make a balloon sculpture. You may decide to include only one of these activities to allow more time for group play, or book more time to accommodate your number of guests.

 

Click here for Birthday Party Ideas in Southern California

 

Planning a Company Picnic

Whom to invite?

  • Employees Only picnics are planned when companies want a fun way to bring their employees together to get to know each other. Team games can be played with either departments competing against each other or mixing members from all different departments as a way of promoting interoffice teamwork. “Employees only” gatherings are best scheduled on weekdays during regular office hours, as many employees want to spend their weekend hours with their families.
  • Most company picnics are for employees and their families, and are fun social occasions. However, there are still decisions about who to include. Can single people bring dates? What about couples with no children or grown children, can they bring nieces and nephews, or grandchildren? What about married couples who both work at the company, is each still entitled to bring a guest?If costs are not high, it’s usually “whomever you want.” But if this is a big event–with a nice catered meal, entertainment, and maybe some rides and Bingo! or carnival games with prizes–the number of people matters, and some employees will be angry if they or their children miss out, or have to wait a very long time, because one or two employees brought everyone they know.Most companies allow “immediate family, or one guest.” Some limit it to “1 adult, and all your own children, or up to 2 other children.”Many companies would like to let everyone bring whomever they want, but are concerned about the cost of the food. One option is to charge employees at cost, or even below cost, for whomever they bring beyond the allotted number of guests, or beyond their immediate families. That keeps people from bringing a dozen grandchildren or cousins, and makes it feel more fair to everyone else.
  • See More hints for ideas about how to get an accurate idea about attendance.

Where to have it?

  • The three most popular locations for a picnic are at work facilities, at a park, or at an all-in-one party location. All have their advantages & limitations.
  • Your Facilities:
    If your party is at your location, it usually means cleaning before and after the event, but you have all the prep time you need. Some companies like employees to get involved with the party planning, decorating, and preparing the refreshments. Another nice thing about your facilities is all the choices you have for entertainment: Bands or D.J.s, a Dunk Tank, Ponies and Petting Zoos, Carnival Rides or Bounces can be brought to almost any location.
  • Park:
    Lots of people like to go to a local park for a company picnic. There’s plenty of room to run around, and there’s generally less preparation and less clean up afterwards. If you choose a park, choose carefully. Are there good restroom facilities? Nearby? How’s the parking? How popular is it– will it be crowded? Is there a playground, lots of grass and shade in the hot weather? Check first to see what amenities it offers, what fees are involved, and what restrictions, if any, there are. Some parks allow you to make a reservation for a specific area, others are first come, first served. You may need to send someone early to hold a popular picnic site. Some people get there before 6 am! Also, it can be difficult keeping little uninvited guests from joining your group.Many parks don’t allow live music, amplified music, pony rides or petting zoos, dunk tanks, mechanical rides and bounces, or if they do, they may have strict rules, and require you to pay for a one day insurance policy. (If all your paperwork is not in order, Park Rangers will come by and shut you down!) See if electricity is available for anything that requires power, or if you need a generator. For a dunk tank, make sure there’s a hose hook-up, and that the water is turned on–sometimes it’s not! In the rainy season it’s always good to have a back-up location, just in case.
  • All-In-One Location:
    There are also special locations which offer complete programs for parties. However, there are limitations. Some limit the size of your guest list. Generally, they have to provide all the food and entertainment, so you may have less choices, and often have to pay more. Also you may not have the luxury to linger longer than the time you reserved–when your time is up, you’re expected to clear out to make room for the next group. But everything is coordinated at one time, which is important for some people.

When is best?

  • Most picnics run 4 to 6 hours, allowing people time to arrive casually, and stay for a while when there’s lots of fun activities.
  • Plan to serve the food close to the time people normally eat, or even start a half hour sooner, to avoid an immediate rush.
  • If you’re having a Face Painter, you can schedule that person to begin early in your event so that, as the children arrive, there is something for them to do. That also helps to avoid long lines later.
  • If you’re scheduling a Clown, Games Coordinator, or a Magic or Puppet Show, be sure to schedule the time when the maximum amount of guests are expected so that no one misses anything.

What entertainment?

  • A Games Coordinator with picnic games (such as sack race, relay races, and water balloon toss) is popular for either the adults, the children, or most often both together. Some Clowns can also bring and lead your picnic games. A Clown is a fun addition to any picnic, and he or she can do a magic show, make balloon animals, play games, and do face painting.
  • If there are lots of children, or if the adults might like to get their faces or arms painted, a separate Face Painter is a good idea, and less expensive than several additional hours of a clown. Your Face Painter can do traditional water colors or, for a little bit more money, you might prefer a “Tattoo” Artist with water transferable temporary tattoos. The hottest new twist on temporay tattoos is Henna Staining. Henna Artists paint new or traditional designs on your hand, arm, ankle, or foot and your design will last for weeks!
  • If you want something extra special, Air Brush Artists can paint fantasy art on faces, or on T-shirts for a fabulous keepsake. Many companies book one or more Caricature Artists to draw cartoons of the guests. Some artists can pre-print their paper to have your company name, logo, or a theme drawing on it.
  • A strolling Magician can keep things lively for the adults, as well as the youngsters. If you want a show that’s entertaining for all ages, Magic, Juggling, or even Puppets are a big hit!
  • A live Band or D.J. is a great idea, since music sets a festive mood for your party! It helps create and enhance a theme too: try Country Western music for a barbecue; Reggae, Steel Drum or Polynesian music for an Island Paradise Picnic; even go retro with 50’s or 60’s music.

More tips:

  • If this is your first picnic, or if you are trying to generate some more interest in this event, you might try a theme. Western, Polynesian, Beach Bums, Hollywood, Retro, Circus/Carnival, and Old-Fashioned County Fair are popular ones. You can then gear the music and entertainment, the food, and certainly the decor, around that theme. Encourage guests to dress up to add more fun and color to the day.
  • To work towards a goal of either better cooperation within departments, or of breaking down barriers between departments, assign people in advance to teams for the games.
  • You probably need RSVPs to get an idea about how many will show up. If you need a more accurate count, especially if you are having the food catered, you’ll want to have tickets. Many companies even charge a nominal fee, like $1 per ticket, just to make sure people are really planning on attending. Some charge even a larger amount, like $5 per person, which is refunded when they come, just to make certain the company doesn’t have to pay for a lot of food for people who don’t bother to show up.

 

Click here for Company Picnic Entertainment in Southern California

 

 

Grown Up Party Guide

Whom to invite?

  • Of course for a private party you’ll invite whomever you’d like to. For a formal dinner party, you’ll generally want to make your guest list of people with common interests, or of people who would enjoy each other’s company.
  • For a company Dinner/Dance, traditionally each employee may bring one guest. Company holiday parties usually include employees and their immediate families. (For more on family events, see Picnics – Who to Invite).
  • Open Houses events are a good way to introduce your company to prospective clients or vendors, and also to neighboring business people.

Where to have it?

  • Hotels & Banquet Halls:
    Pick a location that’s accessible to the maximum number of guests. The less time spent to drive there, the more time spent enjoying the party. Is it self parking or valet service? Is there a parking fee? Does you plan to pay for parking? If not, finding a place with free parking or a moderate fee will be appreciated by your guests. Consider the catering element. Most banquet facilities and hotels use only their own caterers. If you prefer your own, you’ll have to find a facility that will work with whomever you choose.
  • Restaurants& Clubs:
    Many restaurants & clubs can be booked for private parties. All of these locations may restrict you to using their food & beverage, and may also have restrictions on decorations. What you can use, and how much time you have before and after your event to decorate & take down.
  • Warehouse:
    Some larger companies get around all these restrictions by either renting or using their own warehouse. You can take more time to decorate. Even create an entire Winter Wonderland, Tropical Paradise, Fairy Tale Castle, Fifties Diner, Old West Saloon, or Futuristic Planet. You can bring in whomever you want as caterer. But you’ll also need to bring in everything: tables, chairs, dinnerware, and dance floor, plus don’t forget heaters in the cold season. You will also want to consider whether the restroom facilities are adequate.
  • Private Home:
    Companies with a small number of employees often have a corporate event at the home of the business owner or one of it’s senior executives. Again you’ll want to consider whether there is enough space and parking for all of your guests. You may want to hire a valet service. If you’ll be using your local streets for parking, it’s courteous to advise your neighbors before the event. Also, make sure your city has no local parking ordinances.

When is best?

  • Dinner dances & casino parties are usually scheduled for Friday or Saturday nights. Some companies opt for Thursday nights to allow themselves less competition for the entertainment and space they wish to use. Open houses seem to work well on weekdays, but if it’s for a holiday event where families are invited, Saturday mornings are best.

What entertainment?

  • Music, music, music! Live or played by a D.J. sets the mood. A small specialty band or big jazz band, string quartet or Harpist, strolling guitar, or Pianist/vocalist, Carolers or even a fiddler on the roof!
  • Magic is always a crowd-pleaser. For larger groups we suggest strolling magic or a stage show. For more intimate functions, with less than 35 guests, a single close up performance or Parlour show will do the “trick”.
  • Jugglers or Stiltwalkers can liven up an event by mixing balancing skills with fun audience interaction. Comedy juggling acts are a nice change of pace from the more traditional magic show.
  • Psychics have been a popular addition to many events. Whether they read palms, tarot cards, crystals, runes, shadow cards or crystal ball they add fun and a touch of the mystical cosmos. Gypsies, sorcerer or sorceress, even Crystalman – a time traveler from the 23rd century, take your pick, all are gifted and entertaining.
  • Many companies book one or more Caricature Artists to draw cartoons of the guests. Some artists can pre-print their paper to have your company name, logo, or a theme drawing on it.
  • Add some intrigue to the evening by booking an interactive Murder Mystery. Often plot elements can be customized to include your company or special event. Everyone gets to play detective and sometimes the guests are even suspects!
  • An entertaining, enlightening and unusual addition to your occasion would be a Hypnosis show. Hypnotists will explore the hidden talents of volunteer subjects, even give the entire audience an opportunity to become hypnotized and experience more mental power, concentration, and relaxation than ever before. Hypnosis shows are great for home parties, birthday parties, anniversaries or company events, Christmas, New Years, showers, weddings, any special celebration.
  • Theme Photography combines hours of interactive fun with a unique keepsake for your guests. Packages include high quality instant photos with folders, themed backdrop, costumes & props, personnel, and equipment. Traditional Holiday themes are available as well as Tropical, Las Vegas, Old West, Hollywood Premier or Sunset, Cosmic Space or Fairy Tale Castle, Sports, and many more.
  • Celebrity Look-a-likes bring glamour to your event! People love to mingle and be photographed with the famous or the infamous, even when they’re the next best thing.

More tips:

  • Try to book a banquet facility or Hotel Ballroom as soon as possible. Remember that nice facilities are generally heavily booked in May & June for weddings, and in December, most days, especially Fridays and Saturdays. Music and other entertainment will be heavily booked then as well.

Click here for Entertainers and Shows for Adults in Southern California

Tip of the Month
For a party away from home:
Bring several large trash bags to the park or restaurant, to carry the gifts out to the car, and then into the house, without making dozens of trips. Of course, you need to check for heavy or fragile gifts before tossing them in a bag!