Over-the-Top Birthdays

I have a confession: I love, love, love birthdays. I love celebrating. I love making the day of someone’s birth extra special for them. I do not, however, feel like you have to spend a ton of money doing it. I read this story on CNN about over-the-top birthday parties for small children and I just could not believe it.

Two years ago, Stephanie Kaster of Manhattan set out to plan the birthday party of a lifetime for her daughter. Granted, little Sophie didn’t have many parties under her belt with which to compare it: She was not yet 3.

“I just thought, ‘If I go to another paint-a-ceramic-bowl or stuff-a-bear party, I’ll shoot myself,'” says Kaster.

So she booked a fondue restaurant, hired a musical troupe to perform as the Wiggles (her daughter’s favorite group) and ordered a four-layer cake. Each guest took home a Fisher-Price guitar and custom CD.

The price tag? $5,000

Seriously? What kind of message are we sending to our kids when we feel like we have to go to such lengths for a birthday party? Sure we all want to celebrate and “spoil” our children on their big day, but isn’t dropping 5K on a three-year-old’s party a little silly? I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. I know most parents have to think long and hard about spending money on “big” presents like an xbox 360 or something, forget about the party itself.

I guess I understand the people who say that if you have the means, why not do it… but how many people can really afford these things? People are defaulting on their mortgages, putting everything on credit cards. I don’t know. The last birthday party we went to was at Jake’s friend’s house. The kids designed their own t-shirts using foam stamps and fabric paint. We played games outside (potato sack race, pass the orange to the next kid without using your hand, hold the balloon between your legs and make it to the finish line without dropping it). My friend used those star-shaped cupcake molds and each child had his or her own chocolate star cake to eat. It was simple and so much fun. The kids played. The adults got to chit-chat. I guess I just wonder why people feel that is not enough? Why do you need to spend hundreds of dollars on a cake? Forget about saving money for a minute… wouldn’t it just be more fun do make it with your child? (They’re not going to care if you’re not an experienced baker, and really anyone can open up a Duncan Hines box.)

We’re already planning Jake’s 6th birthday party, and we’re going to do it at home, as always. We’re going to invite a few of his school friends. Drew is going to do a magic show for the kids, we’ll have plenty of outside games and they can run around. There will be some snacks, and Jake already asked me to make him a robot cake. (He picked it from a cake decorating book I have.) He’s totally excited about it all, and it’s not going to cost a lot of money. Money doesn’t make it magical. The people do. I think this country would be a lot better off if people would understand that.

This entry was posted in Newsy.


  1. Amy says:

    I agree completely. We’ve been to several dozen birthday parties for preschool classmates over the past three years, and only two—one of which I held—have been at someone’s home. All the others were at venues where the party packages cost $300+. Those kinds of places are limited in number, tho, and so our kids have been to the same three places over and over again. I always wonder if some of the parents would prefer having their parties at home but feel like they need to ‘keep up with’ the other parents who shell out big bucks.

  2. Angie says:

    I totally agree. Fun, and simple, has always worked for us. Those huge birthday parties are slowly creeping in to our culture too, which is strange as NZer’s are a nation of DIYers, and have not opted for over the top birthday parties for kids.

  3. Dawn says:

    Two words: GAG ME.

    So then, for little Whatsherface’s 13th, do they have to spend $50,000? Because her 13th has to be 10x as special as her 3rd, right? I guess they’ll have to have her wedding on the International Space Station, or maybe at the bottom of the sea?

    Luckily for me, my soon-to-be 5 yr old will be psyched if we put up streamers. Long live the cheap thrill.

  4. Steph says:

    Amen, sister!

    It seems like everyone we know has to have a “bigger and better” party each year. Our kids have them at home, too. I make the cakes (that’s my favorite part!) Adam’s 2nd birthday was last Sunday and I made him a Cars cake, we had family over and he got 2 presents. All he cared about was his balloons!

    My daughter will be 5 in August and we’re going to invite 2 or 3 little friends over for a pool party.

    I think more people (I hope!) are leaning towards simpler parties – we got an invite to one for this weekend at the park. No bounce house, no clowns, no magician. Just kids eating cake and playing at the park! Sounds like a great time to me….

  5. sherry says:

    I was thinking the same thing as Dawn, you’re always going to have to top that big party. And then they’ll be sitting around wondering why she’s a screaming spoiled bitch.

    Have you ever seen that sweet sixteen video on youtube where the girl starts screaming about how her life is ruined and she hates her mother because she was given a Lexus for her birthday but she didn’t want it until the day of her actual party? That’s how that happens.

  6. Liane says:

    So true! One of the best birthday parties I ever had for a kid was my oldest son’s 4th birthday party. I had three of his little friends and their moms (my friends) come over to play. We had an inflatable pool, a swing, some balls, some bubbles, and cake and ice cream. A great time was had by all!

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