If you are a parent of anyone under 12, you’ve been to one, probably several: The Pinterest Party. The Pinterest Party has taken some children’s birthday parties from a simple cake-and-balloon affair to an extravaganza of epic proportions, where homes are all but remodeled to accommodate a 6-year-old’s current obsession with super heroes. The trend has taken moms’ anxiety levels exploding along with it.
To be fair, it’s easy to get sucked into the social media bookmarking site. It has more than 70 million users in the US. Eighty percent of those are women.
I currently have 13 Pinterest boards dedicated to parties I’m planning, have planned or wish I could plan. In my mind, these affairs begin as Gatsby-esque in scope. In reality, I’m a middle-class mom with limited time and money. And it’s in this brutal intersection of day dreams and reality where unnecessary money is spent, oceans of tears are shed and lots of wine is consumed.
You don’t have to look hard to find articles on whether children actually need or want some of these elaborate parties. Any child rearing expert worth their salt will tell you that simple celebrations of a child’s life each year can be quite memorable and meaningful without a high price tag or a nervous breakdown. They would be entirely right.
However, the extraordinary popularity of Pinterest, along with DIY party blogs, points to a desire on some level for modern moms to create a little homespun happiness. So we’ve consulted some of our favorite party people to help avoid some of the most common Pinterest party pitfalls and create happier birthday parties with a personal touch.
Pitfall: All the Things
The thing about Pinterest is that there really is no end to it. You want to have a Lego party? Pinterest can suggest thousands of ideas in hundreds of suggested categories from food to games to décor. Suddenly, EVERYTHING is possible. But just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
Smart Planning: Pick One (maybe two)
Christen Byrd, Director of Camp Lovely, a crafting community based in Central Arkansas, says: “Instead of decorating my entire house in ‘princess rainbow pony cotton candy,’ I focus on one party table or display. Narrow down the theme (princess OR rainbow OR pony OR cotton candy) and 2-3 main colors. Decorate that table up and have your focus and photos there.”
Kelli Marks, owner of Sweet Love bakery, says: “Pick a few elements and ditch the rest. If your kid really likes cake and sweets, spend the time and money on a dessert table. If he or she really likes to play elaborate games, then turn the back yard into a Nerf gun war playground. Pick the thing that your child will enjoy the most.”
Pitfall: Martha Stewart Syndrome
The perfect craft or cake you dream of probably doesn’t exist in real life. Just like Martha Stewart is actually a whole team of people, not just a crafty lady from Connecticut, photos for pins are often staged. The fake children have been drugged or bribed to sit still and look beautiful for the camera. Adjusting real life expectations accordingly avoids so much disappointment.
Kelli says, “Most people have no idea what the background is on the photo they pin. It could be a cake dummy (made of Styrofoam), a cake that has never traveled farther than from the kitchen to the living room, or it could have been worked on for months. A photo of a cake I made went viral on Pinterest. I designed it with a friend who happens to be a professional photographer. The birthday party was basically a photo shoot. They had a blast styling and plating the cake and then provided me with a professional photo.”
Smart Planning: No party exists in a vacuum. Borrow and reuse.
Christen: Make and keep things that are easily reusable. I have a collection of big tissue paper poms I keep on a hanger in a closet. Just keep using them until they fall apart. They are easy to make, good space fillers and are super cheap. Last summer I used the same ones for a family reunion, a superhero party and a little girl outdoor picnic party. I made it work. I do the same thing with banners and buntings.”
Pitfall: Unqualified Labor
Everyone is not a baker, crafter and graphic designer. It doesn’t matter what the well-intentioned bloggers say. Pinterest Fail websites would not be overflowing with hilarious photos if everyone could do everything.
Smart Planning: Know your strengths. Outsource the rest.
Christen: “I know I’m good at decorating. I hate dealing with the food, but my sister loves it. She likes coming up with fun little food for the kids. And they are not going to eat a full meal at a birthday party. Don’t waste your money. Keep it simple.”
Kelli: “Pinterest is a great place for inspiration, but just like anything in life: you are not a model; you are not a celebrity; don’t try to hold yourself to an impossible standard.”