This past fall, we were hired to bring a photo booth to 3 different birthday parties that stand out to me as amazing.
They were in the basement of modest homes.
None was lavish or opulent.
Each had the guests entertained the entire night.
One was for a 16 year old boy; the theme was glow in the dark. One was for a 13 year old girl; the theme was movie night. One was for 10 year old twins; the theme was Hawaii.
The parents were well prepared for these parties. Here is what they did to make the party fun last.
EventSmith was hired as the photo booth. For these parties, we set up about a half hour after the guests were to arrive. This was based on budget as well as planning. As I spoke with the parents during the planning phase, I advised them that this was a good plan because when guests first arrive, they typically want to mingle and get settled. They rarely want to jump into fun.
Below you can see the itinerary of these parties.
The first ½ hour.
In the first half hours as kids arrived, the parents had the food out and ready to go. The kids hung their jackets, found their friends, got a snack and took selfies.
The next 1 hour.
For the next 3 hours, the photo booth was available for them to use. Both sets of parents announced the opening of the photo booth. For the first 1 hour, we had a steady stream of kids, even though these parties only had about 30 kids present.
We were able to provide a steady hour of fun because we made sure the props were age and theme appropriate.
At hour 1.5
At the 16 year old’s birthday party, they were still into the photo booth, but mom brought out a bunch of glowing balls and glow sticks and some kids started a dance party- popping up to use the booth when they needed a break
At the 13 year old’s party, after about one hour, the father came down and threw a bunch of glowing and weighted alien balloons. These were hilarious. The kids were bopping them around and using them in the photo booth. Even I was cracking up at the sometimes random appearance of an alien floating down into the pictures.
At the 10 year olds’ birthday, a hula dancer showed up and gave lessons. Then she came to the photo booth and the kids took pictures with her.
At hour 2
At hour 2.5
At the glow in the dark party, mom set up a chocolate fountain and kids still stopped by the photo booth.
At the movie night party, the mom brought down twister and a few other games. This created lots of laughter, but it also seemed to bring new groups of kids together, prompting them to get pics in the photo booth with each other. This is a sign of a good party. New friendships being formed!
At the Hawaiian party, they started a game of Let’s Make a Deal where one child ended up with a foam head, which of course became the star of the photo booth. Still some of the creepiest pictures ever taken in our photo booth, and we do adult Halloween parties!
At hour 3.5
Often times at house parties, I have to tell guests that I am closing the booth. This is because when hosts spend money on a photo booth, they assume that is the only activity they need. While that is the case at larger parties with closer to 100 guests, when you have less than 30, there are only so many pictures you can take.
At both of these parties, none of the guests noticed because 15 minutes before I was to shut down, their next activity was planned.
At the glow in the dark party, these teenagers were happy to just hang and chat with each other in the basement. I heard lots of laughter coming from down there; I can only imagine.
At the movie party, dad came down and set up the projector that took up an entire wall and the kids started a Let’s Dance competition.
At the Hawaiian party, the face painter and caricature artist showed up.
Each of these parent hosts planned engaging and inexpensive activities; I could see in all of their eyes how tired they were. It is a lot of work.
At EventSmith, we are happy to set up activities for kids’ parties. Call us!
Last summer, we launched our paint and/or craft parties, tie dye parties and lawn game parties. Our staff comes to your location, sets up one or more of these activities (we are also open to other activities, let’s plan together!) and we assist the kids.
At these parties, parents are able to concentrate on being part of the fun, preparing the food (unless they have hired us to do that as well) or subtly fading into the background to give the older children the idea of unsupervised fun.
A Relaxed Host Is the Best Host
I may have mentioned this before, I love parties. Going to, planning, throwing, looking at pictures from them. They energize me.
But nothing bothers me more than to be at a party and watching the host cleaning up because the second the host starts to clean up, the guests feel one of two things:
Now---if you are the host and that is the vibe you want or it is a tactic you use to get rid of your guests, then do you. This blog is not for you.
But if you find yourself doing this at a party because you cannot bare to see your house a mess or because you have a small space and you have to clean up phase one in order to make room for phase two, maybe I can help.
I will start with a story. Two of my favorite parties to attend are yearly parties hosted by dear friends. They are my favorite because they are filled with people I love and who I rarely see.
But every year, I would find the wife of each of the couples in the kitchen cleaning, and inevitably there were a few other women in there cleaning with her. These parties mostly take place outside, so these women, while chatting and laughing with each other, are basically removed from the party.
For a while, each time I saw this, I felt terrible walking past them and not helping, like I was breaking some tacit rule: women clean up, men drink beer. But as I mentioned, I love parties.
To one of the women I began to say “STOP CLEANING,” and to the other I said nothing. I am not sure why. It was not an experiment, but the results are interesting.
After a few years of my strongly voiced expression, the first woman, hired a person to assist with the party. It changed the whole vibe; she, the host, was different. She was out in the yard, laughing. She was playing with other people’s kids and splashing in the pool. She was introducing guests to each other, strengthening our bounds.
A host who is laughing, drinking, eating, playing and mingling tells guests what they expectations are.
The host is the definite common ground everyone at the party has. People are there because the like the host and want to hang out with them: catch up on what has been going on, share fun stories or shared experience.
An absent host, is noticeable, and while it may not ruin the party totally, it does change the vibe.
One way to become a relaxed host is to hire someone. It is a great idea. Everyone knows that person is being paid so no one feels obligated to help them. It is not awkward at all, and when they are professionals, the guests barely notice them. They also barely notice when dishes are being done, trash is being taken our or ice is being refilled. Everyone can relax.
If you cannot hire someone, there are still things you can do to avoid cleaning while your guests are present.
Now, the answer cannot be leave the mess everywhere. A mess can sometimes feel gross and force some people to feel uncomfortable or to clean, but a host can reduce the mess
Pick the one that works for you.
Remember, parties are about celebrating, strengthening relationships and building new ones.
Photo booths have become a staple of weddings. It is rare to attend a wedding without a photo booth. This is because they add a way for your guests to interact and create memories with something for them and you to take home. It is really a great addition to any party.
However, if you are on a budget, they might seem expensive and so you may be tempted to try a DIY photo booth or selfie station. And that can be nice, but it does not recreate the photo booth experience.
Hiring a cheap photo booth company can also be dangerous for several reasons. Be sure to read their reviews, look at samples of the strip or photo quality and look at their equipment. You want a real DSLR camera. Pictures taken by a tablet are not always the best. You want to make sure they use a professional grade flash and a dye sub printer. And you want to make sure they can and will personalize the photo strip with your information, and I prefer when their website or company name is not on the front of the strip. It is your event. You should be front and center.
If you are looking for ways to save money on a professional photo booth, here are a few ways:
1. Limit the hours you have the photo booth for. Most companies can get through 30 pictures an hour. Remember that is not 30 guests. People use the photo booth in groups!
2. Start later. Most people do not use a photo booth in the first 1/2-1 hour of the event. First, most people do not show up at the exact start time. Then they spend the first part of an event mingle, getting comfortable and getting drinks.
3. Simplify the booth style. There are so many different types of booths out there. There is the mirror booth. The LED inflatable. The trailer booth. All of these are so cool! But you can still have a wonderful time and get high quality pics with a Open Air/Step and Repeat booth.
4. Go with a small business. Larger companies that have multiple photo booths and services have many employees and lots of overhead. Smaller companies most likely have the owner as the operator and maybe a handful of part time employees. The photo booth is probably kept in their house or a small rented space. Plus small businesses are much more personal and easy to work with much of the time.
5. Just digital. Photo booths have the capabilities of printing on the spot and sending it electronically. Typically, sending it electronically costs pennies, but the prints cost a bit more. Can you forgo the print? Your guests will still have the experience and the giggles and a little something to take home--a digital copy. Before you make this decision you need to know your crowd--tech savvy early adopters and green leaning guests will love this option. Older and more traditional guests might not.
Before you DIY a photo booth, call your local photo boother and see if they can think of ways to work within your budget. Remember, asking them or expecting them to lower their price will not win you favor. This is their living and their art; respect it. But maybe they can talk with you about your specific needs and visions and make some suggestions.
The point of cleaning your house for a party should not be to impress your guests; rather it should be to make them feel comfortable and welcome. If you are throwing parties to impress people, I promise you this is not the blog for you. My goal here is to help you enjoy throwing parties that build community among those important to you.
Before the party: Yes, clean your house before a party, but do your closets need to be organized for your guests? NO! Many people avoid throwing parties because the cleaning stresses them out. I clean the areas that my guests will be in.
In the kitchen, I clear the clutter (blender, utensil hold, dish strainer) off my counters. I make sure my stove top and oven window are clean; people do not want to eat food cooked in a dirty place
The bathroom needs to be as clean as possible for obvious reasons. Toothpaste spatter on the mirror and run away hairs on the counter are gross. End. of. story. I always put away what we do not want our guests to use or see. I always put our toothbrushes and waterpik in the closet. I make sure the floor, tub and toilet have been scrubbed. I put our bath bath towels away and display only hand towels for their use. I make sure there is enough visible toilet paper so guests do not have to go on a search and open cabinets where I have hidden my toothbrushes and boxes of tampons.
Party spaces should be clean and festive, but take into consideration that these will get messy again. I have hardwood floors which I clean regularly. For a party, I just vacuum them. I do not scrub and wax them because I am just going to have to do that again the next day after everyone has worn their shoes, spilled wine and dropped food. While I take care of my floors of the reg, I do not dust. But for parties, I always dust. First, some people are hypersensitive to it. Second, no one wants to eat in a place with cobwebs on the wall nor do they want to grab a wine glass from a dusty shelf. Similar to what I do in the kitchen, I do in these spaces- declutter. The book that is always on the end table next to my reading chair, gets put away. The stack of mail, gets hidden. I take the dog bed that is in our living room, and put it in a room that the party will not be in--this is a for my guests but also my pup--he may want to retreat to a quiet space after saying hello to everyone. Basically, anything my guests see is party related or functionally necessary.
During party cleaning is a hell no. First, maybe this is why people hate throwing parties. If you are cleaning, you are not partying. The host sets the tone for the party, so if the host is stressed and preoccupied the guests will be as well. If the host is relaxed and jovial, so will be the guests. Second, when people see you cleaning, they feel obligated to help you clean, so now you invited people over to clean? Make sure there are trash cans and recycling bins around so people can see them. Most adults clean up after themselves. A few empty beer bottles on the table is not going to ruin anything. As Elsa says, "let it go." If your party is big enough or if you do not want trash cans around, HIRE someone to do this. This is not tacky or ostentatious. These professionals will make your guests feel far more welcome than you running around and picking up their plates. Plus this person will also help you replenish your food and keep the drinks flowing. It is worth it.
After party cleaning is the worst. There is no way around this. If it is a late night party, I only do what is necessary to not be gross or destructive before I go to bed. This means wrap up the food, make sure the fire or candles out and bring in any electronics we took outside. Then I go to bed and save the rest for the morning (or afternoon depending on how late that party went). But yes, next day clean up sucks. You are tired and possibly hung over. If you are me, you have moved furniture a bit and hidden your coffee pot which you desperately need first thing in the a.m. However as I move about the house, dumping half empty beer bottles and trying to identify the owner of left behind belongings, I think about all of the moments I helped create the night before and I smile; then I get out the Swifter.
I like parties. I like to attend parties, and I like to throw parties. There are a few reasons I like parties so much. Yes, of course, it is more fun to drink with others than alone (for me, no judgement. I partake in both styles of drinking).Moreover, I love community. I love building and finding communities. I think this is why I enjoyed teaching so much. I also like to organize, plan and create (another reason I liked teaching). But you see, while throwing parties and teaching have much in common, throwing a party does not require cajoling teenagers to read, grading papers or explaining to parents why their child is failing. Nope that is the sole domain of teachers.
Each year my husband and I throw a chili cook off. I am a vegetarian, so for me this has nothing to do with food; it has everything to do with building community. I am a wonderful corespondent so I still stay in contact with friends from different states and time periods of my life. This chili cook off is the one time a year my brother's high school friend, my college friends, my cousins, my husband's cousins and so on can get together and get to know each other. It is a whirlwind for me, and it usually flies by, and when everyone has gone, I am left drunk, awake and alone. I have been energized (which is great because...cleaning. Please stand by on my post regarding party cleaning).
I also enjoy organizing, planning and creating. The chili cook off is not the only party we throw throughout the year, but it is the only party we through with such a big guest list. The rest of the parties are small and a bit more intimate so the first thing we do is plan the guest list. Some parties are for a certain group: our families or our neighbors. But others we construct the perfect guest list. Who would be a good group for a murder mystery on NYE or who would like to drink wine and have good conversation on the deck. This is the first stage of planning.
Then comes the theme. I think if I were richer, my themes would be amazing. But since I am always on a budget and really hate waste, my themes are not necessarily themes; sometimes they are feels. What is the feeling I want for this party. Typically, it is comfy and relaxed. But sometimes I also want it to be fun and excessive. I have found reasonable ways to create a theme: lighting, table clothes and taking things off your walls and hanging other things there. In a later blog I will talk about how we turned our house into a casino.
Food- this is rarely my domain. My husband is the cook. But putting the food out, that is all me. And I start thinking about this the day before. I look at my menu. I look at all of my serving plates and bowls and then I get the sticky notes out and label what each plate/bowl will be used for. Then I begin to place out where each will go. These decisions are based on a variety of things to come in a later blog.
I like parties.
I write this blog to combine my 2 favorite things- writing and partying. I believe parties are meant to bring people together for fun, and really nothing else.