|by Janet Bihun
From Robert Lynd’s book, The Peal of Bells, comes a beautiful quote on birthdays: “Most of us can remember a time when a birthday – especially if it was one's own – brightened the world as if a second sun has risen.”
Robert Lynd’s words evoke the emotions many people feel when reflecting upon birthdays, past and present; the sense that the whole day is brightened and better, just because it was your birthday.
It is an emotion many strive to share with others. One way to succeed in doing this is by planning a party that celebrates a loved one’s birthday.
While birthday parties are memorable events, every host wants to make sure their event is memorable for the right reasons. Because of this, hosts often experience some apprehension during the planning process. Whether it is a first birthday, a 100th birthday celebration, a birthday for your teenager, or a 90th birthday for yourself, there are similar guidelines to follow to make sure it’s a joyous day for everyone - including the host!
Step One: Secure an Event Venue
Traditions often come with drawbacks, including the common one of having family birthday parties at home. Consider a few downsides, such as:
- If it is a surprise party, having it at home can make it difficult to keep a surprise.
- If expecting a lot of guests a smaller home can suddenly feel cramped.
- If living in an apartment, townhouse or condo, there can be limited or no parking for your guests.
- In home events, create more work for yourself. You have to prepare your home for the party then clean it up afterwards and convert it back into a family dwelling.
A meeting room rental is an easy alternative to hosting in your own home. Meeting rooms for rent can easily be found using Google or other search engines, like Yelp. Key things to keep in mind are affordability and location.
Community centers are an affordable option when comparing similar rental spaces to hotels and other event venues. The Mercer Island Community and Event Center (MICEC) prides itself on being a modern, central, superb and affordable rental venue.
- A hotel in Bellevue, Washington offers rentals based upon the purchase of the food. For a 30-person party, costs would run to $1000, at a minimum. Food must come from the hotel kitchen, but prices include the cost of the room.
- A hotel in Seattle, Washington offers a room for $300 (plus fees and tax). This rental prohibits any outside food being in the room, and there is no media or AV in the room. All food must be purchased from the hotel’s catering for an additional cost.
- The MICEC’s meeting rooms are $60 per hour with affordable a la carte options that suit the needs of each unique event. A two-hour rental of a meeting room with all options, for instance, is only $244 - not including a fully refundable $50 deposit. A la carte options include setup and breakdown of all meeting room tables and chairs, cleanup, use of AV media equipment and more. In addition, you can bring in any food you would like, just like you would at home! You are not locked into specific caterers.
An additional stress-relieving option is to consider utilizing rental options your community center may offer.
When breakdown and cleanup is added to a rental contract, it can make the checkout process a breeze! These options may be available at other community centers, and it is recommended that the planner call in advance to confirm. From there, you can concentrate on the fun part: entertainment!
- The MICEC offers setup and breakdown of the meeting room tables and chairs that come with the room rental.
- The MICEC offers a combined cleanup and breakdown option for only $50.
Step Two: Entertainment
The next step in planning your party involves entertainment. Many classic party themes exist, but modern themes are also a fun alternative to consider. Some ideas – both modern and classic – include:
- A performing clown or magician.
- For an enthused Elvis fan, an Elvis impersonator could be a memorable life experience.
- Frozen – a birthday party that would be sure to thrill many younger children; there are even Queen Elsa impersonators that can perform at your event!
- Cars – this can be tailored to fit younger guests or more mature ones.
- An elegant tea.
If renting, it would be wise to make sure that there are no restrictions. For instance, some venues do not allow bouncy houses because they can be an insurance liability.
Also, if serving alcohol, state required permits must be obtained in advance. Every venue is different. At the MICEC, the Reservations Coordinator is able to clearly assist renters in knowing what is required to serve alcohol.
When hiring performers, it is in your best interest to find out what media requirements they have. For instance, how disappointing would it be to find out the specialty band you hired cannot use the media or that there are no media hookups in your rental space? Prepare a list of questions before contacting a venue to get the most out of your inquiry.
If you are planning a Do It Yourself (DIY) children’s party, consider a few simple activity ideas such as:
- Arts and crafts
- Stuffed-Animal Dress-Up
- Treasure Hunt
- Basketball or Soccer
- Wacky Relay Race
One benefit that community centers have over other event venues, is that they often offer recreation programs.
Consider timing your event so that during the party, everyone is able to participate in Open Gym basketball, badminton or Indoor Playground. If recreation programs are not available during your event time, renting gym space to set up a game is a possibility. Gym rentals are offered at the MICEC, dependent upon availability. Gyms are popular rental rooms, so the best way to find out if gym space is available is to speak with the MICEC Reservations Coordinator.
Step Three: Décor
These days, it is so easy to go Pinterest crazy, and feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of beautiful, themed DIY birthday party décor options on the internet. While many “pins” assure viewers that they are easy to make, oftentimes these projects end up looking more like the “fail” photo than the successful, beautiful “pin.”
One of the best, and most unsung aspects of renting a meeting room is that a smaller space requires less décor. An intimate setting truly allows one to apply the philosophy of less is more. In a meeting room, your decorations will truly stand out, and if you did succeed at any Pinterest crafting, your work will garner the praise it – and you – deserve.
Step Four: Food and Beverage
The last piece that you will need to make any event a party is food. Do not forget the birthday cake or cupcakes!
While finger food is always a hit, depending on the time of day, a more substantial meal may be expected.
For instance, for an elegant, evening birthday party, you may wish to hire a caterer to serve a plated meal. While this certainly relieves some stress from the host, make sure your event venue allows caterers. Some event venues have a list of preferred caterers that you must work from, and others require that all food comes from their caterer or kitchen.
The MICEC does not have such a list or any restrictions. Event planners find this aspect to be very accommodating, compared to other event venues.
Venue, Entertainment, Décor, and Food and Beverage. These four elements of building a fun and memorable event are not the end all guide on how to plan a birthday party. However, when followed, they can help any host plan a successful birthday party that brightens the day of that special person.
The MICEC is an ideal event space for birthdays in the Seattle area. With four intimate meeting rooms and a large banquet room, it truly is modern, central, and superb.
For more information or a personal tour, please contact:
Phone: (206) 275-7840
Mercer Island Community & Event Center
8236 SE 24th Street
Mercer Island, WA 98040