Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How NOT to organise a party

A friend suggested to me a while ago we have a baby shower but the idea didn't really appeal to me. While I'm sure it's common in a lot of families, it's not in mine. Shane and I much preferred the idea to get everyone we love together for a BBQ, males included unlike the traditional female-only baby shower.

So about a month ago, we made a list of people we would like to invite. It was a fairly similar list to our wedding invite list, minus those from afar. Its already been nearly 2 years since our beautiful wedding in Rhonda and Hanno's backyard, and we haven't seen some of our friends since then.

As we are on a tight budget at the moment with the baby on the way, we haven't been using our phones other than the occasional sms message. I would normally have called people to invite them to the BBQ, but I decided it would be cheaper and easier to send out an invite over Facebook and a few emails. Facebook is annoying in a lot of ways but its also the main way I keep in touch with friends, so it has its purpose there.

So I set up the invite and emails about a month ago, thinking it would give everyone a decent amount of time to set aside the date in their diaries, and also to RSVP to me. Unfortunately, I have discovered, one problem with Facebook is that invites can came across as impersonal, and also a lot of people don't go on Facebook regularly and might not have seen the invite at all. I did get a few RSVP's, but as we are coming into winter here, a lot of people have sick kids at the moment and told me they couldn't make it, at the last minute. Note to self, best to keep outdoor BBQ's and parties to the warmer months! And also, I've realised its always better to personally call people to invite them to something, or send a good old fashioned paper invite the snail mail way. I used to love sending mail, and I do still send cards, but not nearly often enough. I miss that and will strive to send more paper mail. :-) The problem for me was I didn't get enough RSVP's to know how many to cater for. I find catering for an unknown number quite stressful- I'd have hated to not have enough food, yet cant stand excessive waste either.

Another aspect of this BBQ that I have learnt a valuable lesson from, was the venue decision. A long time ago I had visited the beautiful Roma St Parklands, in the middle of Brisbane's city, and really liked it. Lots of BBQ areas, tables, trees, beautiful gardens, waterfalls, etc. It seemed to me to be a great location for this particular BBQ, as it is central to the Gold Coast, where we live, and to the Sunshine Coast- where Shane's parents and quite a few of our friends live. So Brisbane seemed like a good half-way meeting point.

I hadn't been there in years, and we didn't have time to get there in the week leading up to the BBQ to scope out the venue. So I was relying on a map to work out where we might be able to meet everyone. I also found out that it's not possible to book a BBQ area- they work a "first in, best dressed" policy. So we had planned to go early, grab a table and wait for people to arrive. When we arrived at the garden I was lucky to get a table- it was filling up rapidly, being a warm sunny Sunday. I then realised it would be tricky to let people know exactly where we were, especially if they didn't have a map with them. Also, my phone battery was about to cark it so I wouldn't have been able to talk to everyone on the phone, to explain where we were...

Panic slowly crept in and I had one of my fairly regular pregnancy-hormone-induced-crying-like-a-crazy-woman fits, poor Shane and Shane's parents who were unlucky enough to be there already to witness it. But of course all were lovely to me and I got over it quickly, luckily. Because then miraculously, my family arrived, and then some of our closest and beloved friends arrived too! It wasn't the big crowd I had invited originally, but I was thankful in the end as I had time to talk to everyone, and it was just SUCH a lovely day.

It turned out to be a beautiful BBQ, a very special day for us. But I learnt several valuable lessons there on party organising- firstly, DON'T while pregnant (Haha :-)), secondly- make sure the invites are personal and people know they are very much wanted there and not just 'one of the crowd'- and lastly, KNOW the venue well.

I'm not a party planner by nature, I find it very stressful but I shouldn't- I need to relax and just go with the flow... because even though it seems like a nightmare for me leading up to it, I always absolutely love it when the party gets going! I know a lot of you will be fabulous party planners- please send me links to blog posts of yours if you have written about it, especially on "how to not stress about it"! I need to work on this as I just love hosting parties, I'm just not very good at it yet...

P.s I've just realised I've kind of missed the point of "Wordless Wednesday"s- apologies :-)


  1. When I planned the baby shower for my son and his g/f, I just googled baby shower planning and looked for the most appropriate website for me
    I did do a post on it and you can find it here -

    I found that having some sort of timeline checklist helped tremendously. It did take the stress out of it. So whenever I am planning an event, I google a party planning checklist that is closest to the style party I am having. I also then modify it to meet my own needs and use it more as a guide.
    I also wanted to comment on the facebook invites. I am not a fan of this. Just my own personal thoughts. I don't care to post the whole guest list publicly. It could possibly deter some people from attending, as childish as it seems, but some people can be catty and not attend just because someone else is coming...having the guest list private seems to me to work better. Also as much as I love the new technology we have with the internet and facebook and such, I like to keep some of the old fashioned ways of corresponding to people making it more personalized. A good way to keep costs down, at least here in the USA, is to use post cards. It is a bit cheaper to send. Another way to keep costs down with the invites is, for example, when I invite my aunts and uncles, I sometimes say, please pass the invite to their children/immediate families. Lastly, those that are really close to me, like my closest friends and immediate family, I just phone them with an invite.
    I am glad to see that your party did end up a good day spent with loved ones.
    Have a great day!!!!

  2. Aaaaww, I remember those preggy hormones. Not fun. Digression - but one time I got lost coming home from Preggy Bellies and I SOBBED and SOBBED at a petrol station. Terrible. After that my husband said he'd take me - he could not stand all the crying :)

    Party planning - I love it but find the people side very annoying :) Just being honest.You know my kids' 2nd bday is coming up and I sent out all the invites nearly two weeks ago. post takes 2 days within Jhb. I have had.... 3 responses out of 15. I am VERY annoyed.

    Anyway, I will push on.

    One thing I learnt from last year is to invite more than you want as people just don't pitch!!!

    Here's what I wrote about our party last year

  3. PS how do you get 111 followers in ONE MONTH? (seriously, please share your tips :))

  4. Hi Sandy,
    Get-togethers are often hard to organise for and I am not that big a fan of it either (though I often happen to be the person organising it!). I tend to avoid it (bad though!) personally. I like to catch up with people individually and have proper quality time together. I think the last and only time when I've had to cater for people (therefore RSVPs were v impt) was my 21st. I think that's the one and last time that I will invite large groups of people that I have to cater for. When it gets stressful and awful for yourself from start to finish, then it defeats the whole initial intention of making a happy day happen.

    Also, I think part of the issue is largely because yours/my friends don't all live in the same place and also we're all not part of a tight knit 'see each other every weekend' group. Life would be pretty boring if we all had that one and only group of friends though!!! And so while everyone says 'yeah! let's catch up!' the reality of it is it might make people (like me) anxious meeting up with a loved friend who I haven't met up for a long long long time.

    Speaking of which, Emma @ Frog Goose & Bear seems to be the DIY party queen! Here's a link to all the parties she's held for her 3 gorgeous kids since she started blogging:

    Perhaps a chin-wag with her might be in store :)


  5. To be honest, I have great respect for anyone who tries to organise any kind of social gathering. It's a lot of work, a lot of thought, sometimes some expense...
    Also, you're pregnant. That makes you feel so raw emotion-wise that I think you were ultra-brave to put yourself out there and try to organise an event. :-)

    The invite issue is tricky. When we do family birthday teas for the little ones, I suss out (by phone) the important have-to-be-there family members and find out when they can make it (that's usually how I choose the date and time) and then I send paper invites to the wider circle. I ask for RSVPs but don't always get them.
    My (younger) cousin uses facebook for invitations but I'm never sure who they are aimed at - everyone he is "friends" with? Those who are close geographically? He's fairly mellow so he just takes everyone on the basis they arrive, I think. I often wonder what he would do if EVERYONE showed up for a BBQ at his tiny flat and it started raining... :-)

    I think the problem with general/facebook invites is that people read it more as "We'll be there - be nice if you were too" rather than "We are inviting you". Does that make sense?

    Anyway, sounds like you had a nice day so focus on the fun that was had rather than the lessons that you feel you learned.
    Karen (Scotland)

  6. Sarndra, we had a wonderful time with you, Shane and your various guests. Beautiful weather, great people and delicious food. It was a great BBQ.

  7. I agree with Happy Mamma, find out what date suits the most important people then choose the date from there.
    I also think that as the host you always feel the pressure to put on a good show when what people really want is just some quality time together. And just by providing a time and place you are giving people the excuse they are looking for to stop with the normal chaos of their lives and just catch up.
    Paper invites are always good as they often sit on the fridge where they are looked at on a regular basis.

  8. Hi everyone!
    Thank you so much for your kind comments and suggestions. I'm feeling the love here today :) I'm feeling much better about the whole thing, am already thinking of the next party to plan... Ha! Maybe in about 1 yr for our boy's 1st bday :)

    Great suggestions. Love your idea of post cards Laurie. I think our postage for them may be cheaper here, too. I use the wonderful Vistaprint for business cards etc, I'm sure they do cheap post cards too and I could design my own. Sometimes I've only had to pay for the postage, not for the cards. Its cheaper than scrapbooking in the end.

    Marcia, that is the epitome of me, lately. I'm really trying to be happy so the little one doesnt pick up my sad feelings- I would hate for him to think Mummy is sad because of him!! But I do need to have a big dramatic sob every so often. My husband always helps me calm down quickly, and offers help, like yours :) Its great having Shane there as my rock. I dont know what I'd do without him.

    Hi Jam! Yes u are right about not having the one group of friends- I've never had that really as I've moved aorund so much. I'm really looking forward to your birthday dinner!! Especially as I have a beautiful preggy dress handed down to me by Dana, that doesnt make me look like Humpty Dumpty!! Yay! xx

    Hi Karen! Are u having nice warm weather now in Scotland? Yes u are right, its a good idea to plan around family first. Love your cousin's relaxed view- if only I could be like that! I would have a heart attack thinkinjg what to do if everyone shows and it rains, and i dont have enough chairs, and only the one toilet...etc, etc :-) I think boys have it easier coz they just simply, dont care! "Come if you want, and we'll work it out" :-) Great attitude.

    Thanks Rhonda, cant wait to see you and Hanno on Sunday :-) Xoxox

  9. It sounded (& looked) like a fun BBQ and a great idea for a baby shower! I really feel for you with those pregnant hormones, they continue after you have bub too (not wanting to scare you) but far better out than in! But think of the parties you can organise once bubby arrives, birthdays, christmas etc. I dont know if having a bay kick started a hidden party gene for me, but I just adore having parties for my little girl. Actually a little sad I wont be doing one next week for her 4th, but am consoling myself with making 2 cakes instead :o I will be blogging about it from next week!