Birthday Parties

Décor and Favors
Keep the décor simple: Just the picnic blankets will do; nature will provide the rest of the party decorations. Do remember to guide guests from the parking lot to the picnic site with balloons or homemade signs. If the guest of honor appreciates extravagant touches, consider adding a few streamers and balloons to the picnic site.

Instead of favors, give out prizes for the croquet champions (or whichever game you elect to play). Purchase and wrap inexpensive, gender-neutral gifts (movie tickets, gift cards, candy), and award first, second, and third-place winners.

Plan ahead for a day of outdoor recreation by bringing along a few necessities: sunblock, premoistened towelettes, Benadryl, matches, a first-aid kit, trash bags, insect repellant, and plenty of bottled water.

Music and Entertainment
Bring a boom box and an assortment of CDs the guest of honor would enjoy. If you aren't sure of your friend's tastes, opt for tunes that will set a pleasant, mellow atmosphere, such as these:

  • Graceland, Paul Simon
  • Revival, Gillian Welsh
  • Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman
For entertainment, the birthday guest will have presents to open and a candle to blow out. Either before or after this merriment, host a picnic-appropriate game of some sort, such as croquet, badminton, or even Scrabble. If your guests are not inclined to play, simply give out the prizes arbitrarily—best lip-sync to "Fast Car," longest nap, or the best grass-blade whistler.

Celebrating Different Birthdays
You can easily adapt the picnic idea to almost any birthday celebration, even those for children or the elderly. Of course, you'll want to keep your guests in mind when you choose your picnic site. For example, children will prefer a park with a good playground, and seniors will appreciate picnic tables. Beyond choosing the venue, here are a few more ideas about how to make a birthday celebration special.

Kid Parties
Whether you're celebrating a child's birthday or simply inviting children to your party, you'll need to make special accommodations for the wee ones. Allocate more budget to favors and décor, purchasing kid-friendly decorations and small toys for each child attending. When you select your picnic games, opt for a few games that kids can play, too, such as beanbag tic-tac-toe, Twister, or the ubiquitous Candy Land. Most of the planned menu is kid-friendly, but you'll want to serve something besides Limoncello—pink lemonade, perhaps?

Milestone Birthday Parties
If your guest of honor is celebrating a particularly noteworthy date, such as his 16th, 21st, 30th, 40th, or 60th birthday, you'll want to up the celebration factor and make a slightly bigger to-do of the day. If you'd like, purchase age-appropriate décor; at the bakery, order a cake that reflects the occasion: "Sweet sixteen," "21 and Legal," or "You're All Grown Up." Please, leave the "Over the Hill" themes for someone else; few people enjoy being reminded that they will soon be eligible for a senior-citizen discount.

Surprise Parties A surprise picnic? Why not! Enlist the help of the birthday boy's significant other—perhaps she could take her fellow to the park for a nice walk before an early dinner?—and select a picnic spot that is behind a clump of trees, over a small hill, or otherwise hidden from immediate view. A note about surprise parties: Not as many people like surprises as television would have us believe. Try to get a feel for your friend's preferences, and if you truly believe he would loathe a surprise party, please, don't give him one.

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Reproduced from Plan a Fabulous Party In No Time, by Tamar Love, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing.

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