My number one tip is this: decide you're throwing the thing less than 24 hours in advance. If you don't plan anything, there's no pressure! Whatever works out is great! I seriously checked the weather report and dashed off a note to friends while the kids played at the park, inviting folks to meet us there the following afternoon. Doing it at the park means there is no preparation for the venue beforehand, and only very minimal clean-up afterwards. Plus the kids are totally entertained with virtually no effort on your part. On party day, all I did was pull together some snacks from the pantry and grab the quilt we keep in the back of the car for impromptu picnics. Basically a playdate with benefit :-)
Here are a few tips for packing a party:
-There are so many amazing places to buy cupcakes, you really don't need to bake or prepare anything!
-That said, on this occasion, Princess H was keen to spend a morning baking, so bake we did. (Sort of -- I know some of my sisters would call what we did blasphemy: mix 1 box cake mix according to package directions, subbing a can of pumpkin for the water, and Greek yogurt for the oil. The work/festive-yumminess ratio is amazing! AND we made awesome cinnamon cream cheese frosting from scratch, so that counts for something, right? Right...?) Anyway, if you DO bake your own treats, toss the naked little buggers in a Tupperware and put your frosting in a Ziploc bag. Snip a little corner off the bag, and then put that entire thing inside another baggie. When you get to the park or wherever, pull out your custom pastry bag and frost in situ. So much easier than transporting already-assembled cakelets!
-For years I've kept a "party box" full of fun paper products, decorations, hats, etc. Most of that stuff is in storage, but my mini version had an ample supply of cute little plates and napkins, cupcake toppers and a package of party poppers which I brought and forgot to pull out -- apparently it doesn't take much more than good company and a few snacks to make things feel festive!
-We brought a big cooler full of cold juice boxes, still and sparkling waters and soda. I might not have done quite as robust a collection if Z hadn't been around to lug the thing, but I'm glad I did.
-We grabbed a basket of apples and pears from the kitchen, and snipped up lots of little bunches of grapes. A small knife and cutting board made it really easy to slice fruit for little people who didn't want an entire pear.
-Other snacks included a big bowl of popcorn, some mixed nuts, and cookies Princess H picked out at the store and bought with $5 a cute little granny gave her completely out of the blue (How sweet is that? I love our neighborhood...).
That's it! Our impromptu gathering couldn't have been simpler or more fun. The weather was so glorious and the company so grand that we stayed at the park for nearly three hours! The real reason I loved this little party is that lots of dear friends indulged us and stopped by. The kids ran wild, and the moms sat around the picnic table munching and catching up. I had such a lovely time, and I honestly don't think Princess H could have been happier if I'd stressed for weeks, planned meticulously and spent a fortune on a petting zoo and moonbounce.
But I might try that next year, so I'll let you know....