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The Pressure of the Birthday Party : How much is too much?

Once upon a time birthdays meant a square or circle cake baked by mom, jelly cups loaded into the refrigerator the previous night, return gifts that the entire family sat all night to put the last ribbon on, simple gifts , musical chairs and wishes. Birthday celebrations were all about being with “family and friends” and at home.


Well, Google has forgotten to include this version in their perfect birthday party search and what we have are birthday parties where the essentials of family and wishes are probably missing, the good old days of decorating your home with steamers and balloons may invite condescending giggles and home games have become as rare as birthdays celebrated at home.


Today, there’s tremendous pressure to be an expert crafter – hiring a professional party planner, complete carnivals, taking a gaggle of tween girls to the spa and having the napkin match the birthday cake at your child’s party; and a real level of craziness around it — either because you get pure joy out of throwing a fabulous party or because of peer pressure !




Using the customary phrase “Herculean task” for organising a birthday party will not be all together incorrect and it follows these simple steps –


  • The invitation list should have clear parameters, those have nothing to do with your child. The birthday baby might not even know the names of the children invited. The focus should be on the “mother” – who is she?  The important and the known ones must be accommodated even if u have to change the date ! They get a personal call, a designer invite, a mild reminder and a thank you note. The second batch may get a call or a text. And the insignificant ( probably the people that really matter) can do with just a message.


  • The venue,theme and everything around that is reflective of the host’s social standing. Remember the formula: “The BEST draws the BEST.


  • If you do a particularly good party last year, you think to yourself I will have to do one just as good this year. No repeat themes, not even the colours and completely different from what every other mother has thought of in the year.


  • The return gifts need to be personalised with the child’s name. They may be more expensive than the gifts received – you need to make a real mark!


  • The food spread has to be multi-cuisine (in the true sense) – extravagant dessert tables,  various food sections, a cake over-loaded with fondant and everything to match the theme.


  • There should be enough activities and games to mirror any disneyland – peppa pig world, carrousels,science, arts and crafts, dance, music,and the list can go on.


  • The outfit has to be carefully casual. Not too casual (PTM variety) Burberry Tee shirt and neither the stilettos requiring label. To achieve that is an art. To complement the make up requires class.


  • Make sure you find a way to bump into the people on top of the invitation list so you may get your 2 minutes to organise that play date (even if your child gives u a classic ‘dazed and confused’ expression on the mention of the name!)


  • Make sure your money is well spent. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the 6 digits range. Mommy should make at least one new BFF before the next playdate!


  • Organising takes you one month! Attending them is equally or probably more stressful –  you have to make it to that list when you are invited by a call for the most sought after birthday party! (Don’t forget the BIG gift!)




Have birthday parties become all about the parents and has the birthday baby become just incidental in the same?  Have we really forgotten the pleasure of simpler things and of a simpler time?


Kids will have a great time no matter what theme you choose or what food you serve, as long as they can run around and play together.  Much of what our kids will remember will have nothing to do with whether their mac ’n’ cheese was served on personalized plates. Your parenting skills are not measured by your party throwing skills.


It really isn’t about the amount of money you can spend or who you can invite.Everyone has a different take on celebrating birthdays  – that is something you cannot control. What you can control is your wish to be away or part of the so called ‘Birthday party race”.




By Jyoti Jakhar Dahiya

Professor at the Delhi University and a mother of two. She is an avid reader and writes occasionally.