We threw Remy a fun tractor inspired 3rd birthday party for our farm loving boy. Complete with a petting zoo, bounce house, yummy treats and loads of fun. I’m sharing all of the details on how I start the planning process for a big event, what sources I use, and my overall thought process. Plus, answering a few questions that y’all sent me over on my Instagram stories.
First off, let’s talk about the planning process timeline. Ideally I start planning 3 months in advance. I like to come up with my theme, in this case tractors, and from there I work with Caroline of Sweet Caroline Designs to come up with an invitation design. Once we nail down the invitation design, and party details (date, time, etc.) we can start planning out all of the other small details to coordinate. I usually order beverage napkins, luncheon napkins (bigger ones for food), cups, koozies and cookie favor tags to match the overall invite theme through Caroline. This is something a bit more custom that she does for me. So, another talented friend I use is Tammy from Sequins & Lipstick. She can match any design.
I like to have the invites in the mail 5 weeks prior to the event date. So, I typically order the invites two months out to give us plenty of time for printing, assembling & getting them in the mail. Once we order the invitations we then place the order for the other paper goods.I kind of estimate how many of each thing I’ll need, and usually increase everything by about 20%. So, I did 50 cookie favor tags, 100 beverage napkins, 75 luncheon napkins (people always use more than one, but don’t want to have too many left over), 50 koozies, 40 cups. I think about what items adults will be using vs. just kids.
As a side note, I’m big into little details going a long way. So, I always LOVE having Acrylic Stick drink stirrers at any event. The girls over at Acrylic Sticks have so many cute designs (especially for the holidays coming up), but they can mimic any invite detail with a simple PDF. They need a little bit of time, so I also place this order once the invitation design is complete. They were sweet enough to give me a code LKW15 for 15% any order. Yay!
One of the questions asked was how do I pick a theme. Remy is now getting to the age where he tells me what he likes. So, I feel like this may have been the last year that I could really pick out the theme. His 1st birthday was little Alligator inspired, an ode to our Florida Gator roots. The colors were white, navy & incorporated a little baby alligator into everything. Year 2 was party animal themed. The animals came two by two to celebrate Remy’s 2nd birthday…that’s what the invite said. Remy was, and is, obsessed with animals. So we kind of made it into a little animal/carnival theme. I was inspired by one of the Beaufort Bonnet prints from last year. I actually ordered the Jon Jon for him in March of 2020, and his bday is in September. But, it was the cutest little elephant with a party hat on. So, that’s what inspired the overall theme.
This year we went with the tractor theme because Remy is currently very into tractors, diggers, and trucks. So, it was easy to pick. I made it a bit of a cowboy vibe on the farm with the hay bales, petting zoo and wording for the signs. For instance, “Grazing Station” for the food, and “Watering Hole” for the drinks/bar. It was fitting with the zoo & everything being in our backyard. Additionally, since we did the party a week later, and in early October, I thought it would be cute to incorporate pumpkins, which can be an easy & inexpensive decoration that goes a long way beyond the party. Pinterest can be a great resource as well! In fact, I’ll include this blog post there because I do use it as well.
Budgets are tough. I find it easiest to get an idea of number your inviting, and how many you think will come. From there, brainstorm food options, decor options, invitation costs and anything additional you may have or need. Most of the time you can reach out to companies (balloon arch companies, bounce house companies and get an idea for food) to help plan for costs. Also, you can cut costs by doing things on your own. For instance, I always do the flowers, and get them the day of at Trader Joe’s. They are beautiful & very inexpensive. Food is another thing that can be easy to do. We just do beer, wine, water & juice boxes at our parties. We always buy way too much, so don’t over think it or overspend there.
Caroline is amazing and does all of the signs for me. I then had the large ones printed at a local printing shop on poster foam board, and nailed them to a yard stake. The smaller signs I usually just frame and place throughout the house…one by the favors (cookies), one by the food, and one by the cake. I purchased the plain white frames from Target & Amazon for Remy’s 1st birthday party, and have used them every year since, as well as for baby showers that I’ve hosted at our house. Just a simple way to add additional decor & detail to any event. Plus, you can use them over and over again.
We also came up with the idea to put the food for the kids in little pre-made boxes. This was great & super easy for the parents to grab for the kids. In each box we had Chick-fil-a chicken nuggets, small fruit cup, apple sauce pouch & snack bag of popcorn. I think those are all things that most kids like. Big hit & all of the food was gone. That NEVER happens. For the adults, I just grabbed a chicken sandwich platter, wrap platter, kale salad, and small platter of nuggets. I also made a corn dip for people to nibble on while outside. I kept the food inside, and all of the boxed dinners together. It’s super easy to place a catering order with Chick-fil-a, and pretty reasonably priced. Can’t go wrong with their Tea & Arnold Palmers either.
Okay, back to the timeline. Once I get the theme I come up with the guest list. From there, I like to start getting everything else in line. I try and guess, or come up with a rough estimate of people coming, I then order the cake, favors, food, tables, chairs & linens. I use a local cake decorator, Dulce Designs by Suli. She is very talented, and her cakes are always SO yummy. She can literally match any invitation design & theme, and has knocked it out of the park for us time and time again. I always do cookie favors, and use a family friend for these, Nancy of Nancy’s Cookie Creations. She too is so talented, and can match any theme/design. I like to get on their calendars about 3 months out. Same with the tables, linens & chairs. I recommend 3 months out. Just because peoples calendars can get so full. Suli & Nancy don’t really have websites. So, I’ll include contact info for everyone below.
I used Peachtree Events & Tents this year. Since we didn’t have the food catered, and just ordered from Chick-fil-a, I didn’t need a full catering company. Peachtree Events & Tents was very responsive, affordable, and great to work with! They provided all of the linens, as well as the three round tables in the back yard & chairs. However, in the past I’ve used Avalon Catering and loved. It really just depends what you’re going for, but regardless, definitely need to get on their calendars/get an idea on pricing well in advance.
This year I ordered a bounce house through Luxe Bounce House, which is based in Atlanta. I wanted an all white bounce house, and did the big balloon arch over it. The bounce house was a big hit for the kids & adults. It was also nice that they came and set it up and took it down. If in Atlanta, ask for Maria. She was great! I’ll include her email below.
We used Balloons Over Atlanta for the third year in a row. They did all of the balloon archs, and the fun tractor balloons around the cake table. Again, you’ll want to get this all lined up about 2 months in advance as well.
By far the biggest hit was the Petting Zoo. Remy was so happy & surprised by all of the animals. Every kid LOVED it. I booked it through Cricket’s Mobile Petting Zoo. The reviews were great, and we were very happy with them as well. We had 20 animals! Pigs, rabbits, pony’s, ducks…you name it.
As far as other small details go. The small signs, and banners I had done on Etsy. The pumpkins and hay bales I got at a local nursery. You can really do as little or as much as you want here. But, start planning in advance because, again, anything custom takes time. I ordered all of these little details 3 weeks prior to the party. The last question that I get asked is how much of the decor I do myself….sadly, I’m not super crafty, but if you are, I think the banners, small signs, and things like that could be a DIY project.
And..for the kids outfits. Big thank you to Ann Reeves for the cutest outfits. She designed them to match the invites, and they were perfection! My dress is from Doen, and hat is by Freya. Both Remy & I’s boots are from Miron Crosby.
Oh…and how can I forget…how do I keep my house from becoming a total train wreck, ha! So far my trick has been keeping the party primarily outdoors. But, with Sutton’s Birthday being in December, it will mainly be inside, so…we’ll see how that goes ;).
I hope this helps in planning your next big event or child’s birthday party! Timeline breakdown & contacts below:
Photos by KVC Photography.
Party Planning Timeline:
1) Theme – start planning 3 months out
2) Invitation Design – start planning 3 months out
3) Guest List/Order Invites – finalize 2 months out and order
4) Get estimate/book (if needed): Food/catering, chairs/tables/linens, Order cake, order cookie favors, get quote/order balloons or any details you may add such as flower arrangements – start this 2 months out
5) Send invites – 4-5 weeks in advance
6) Order paper goods: napkins, signs, food tents, koozies, cups, acrylic sticks – 4-5 weeks in advance
7) Order additional party decor: banners, table decor, cake topper, etc. – 3-4 weeks in advance
8) Confirm number of guests for food – 2 weeks in advance
Balloons over Atlanta – Gayle – firstname.lastname@example.org
Cricket’s Mobile Petting Zoo – Jesse – email@example.com
Dulce Designs by Suli – Suli – firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy Duralia – cookies – 561.302.7915
Peachtree Events & Tents – James – email@example.com
Sweet Caroline Designs – Caroline – firstname.lastname@example.org