In Defense of the Basic Birthday Party

Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about birthday parties. My daughter just turned 6, and to her, the birthday party is the pinnacle of every year. She spends months talking about who is invited, who is uninvited (typically me for doing something so mean), and what gifts she’s hoping to receive. For us millennial moms, however, party planning gets a bit more complicated. That she-devil known as Pinterest has upped the ante in nearly every aspect of life. Kids’ birthday parties did not escape unscathed. Let me first say that if it brings you great joy to plan the party of the century, I’m not judging you. I’m just not that mom. 

The basic birthday starts with a no-frills location. The most obvious place is having the party at your house. It’s free and simple! But if you aren’t into the clean up before and after, I totally get that. Most of the parks in the area have covered pavilions or even air conditioned rooms that can be accessed for free or rented for a small fee. I love park parties because the entertainment is built in, and the kids leave happy and tired! 

When it comes to decor, simple is great! But simple doesn’t have to mean boring (but if it does, that’s fine, too!). If you have a theme, things like plates or napkins can be part of the decor so that you don’t have to add a ton of other items. Another great tip is to recycle decorations from past parties, borrow from friends or use items around your house. A fabric banner that was first used at a friend’s baby shower has been passed around between us for several birthday and other parties. Decorative jars can serve as utensil holders and vases filled with candy look great on a table. I also like making simple cake toppers by cutting designs out of paper or fabric and attaching them with a string to lollipop sticks or paper straws. Easy, cheap and cute!

All of the table decor was either borrowed or something I already had in my house.

Cake and food are two of the most important elements of any kid’s birthday party. They are also two of the easiest things to go overboard on. When it comes to cake, I love making homemade cakes or cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday. And when I say homemade, I mean out of a box, in my home. There’s nothing like the taste of a box cake to remind you of your childhood! It’s easy and cost-effective, and the birthday girl or boy can even get involved and help with the baking! If baking isn’t your thing, there’s no shame in a basic grocery store or cookie cake. The food you provide depends on the time of the party. We generally like to have mid afternoon parties which means that snack foods are perfectly fine! If you’re party is closer to a traditional meal time, $5 carry out pizza deals or making a few trays of sandwiches are a simple crowd-pleasing food option. There are lots of fun and easy side items that work great for parties. My daughter’s birthday is right after the 4th of July, and for her 3rd birthday she wanted a princess party. I found some star shaped marshmallows, stuck lollipop sticks in them (apparently I have a thing with lollipop sticks) and made edible wands! Paper cups filled with fruit and veggies can also do double duty as food and decor. 

Party favors are an area where many people have strong opinions. I’m firmly on team #partyfavorsareunnecessary if I’m being honest, but I also understand that they are often expected. My go-to party favors are things that can be eaten or used up. Popcorn, cookies, candy, seed packets, and coloring books are all simple ideas. This year, my daughter wanted a piñata for her party. It was perfect because hitting the piñata was a blast, and the goody bags of candy and treats made great party favors!

When I think back on my childhood birthday parties, I never remember any fancy decorations or food. My memories are of laughing with my friends, eating cake & ice cream, and opening presents. I miss the simplicity of getting friends together without the pressure of Pinterest Party Perfection. I know that there are moms who love planning over the top –  parties for their kids, and I respect that level of commitment. Yes, I do occasionally splurge on a venue or “real cake.” But for me, the basic birthday party is where it’s at. 

Ashley S
Ashley grew up in Joplin, Missouri and attended the University of Arkansas where she earned a degree in Finance and Insurance. She met her husband, Jason, in Fayetteville and they have one daughter, Etta Mae. They moved to Baton Rouge in 2013 for Jason's job with the LSU Tigers. Ashley is an extroverted introvert who loves Ted Talks, following politics on Twitter, and figuring out how to get the best deals on everything without paying shipping. If it were up to her, she would get paid to read books and take every college class so that she could learn everything about everything, but instead she pays the bills by working in recruiting for a multinational tech company. Ashley is blessed to have a daughter who is at least as stubborn as she is and a husband who is laid back enough to put up with both of them.


  1. I love watching what the kids enjoy at parties (and noticing that they overlook all of the unnecessary extras) to rationalize my “simple” (re:slackermom) approach! One of my favorites from a friend’s birthday party was the plain, undecorated cake, which the kids decorated together with little figurines, candles and sprinkles. They had #somuchfun! And what a special memory for the birthday girl 🙂

  2. Ashley, you are speaking to my soul! I love to go all out for the cake because it’s a passion of mine to bake and decorate myself. But beyond that, go outside and play! What happened to just bringing home a balloon from a party? I always tell my guest that the party favor budget goes to the wine for the adults so we can make it through these things!


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