Somewhere in Middle America

bunting and dessert tables and photo booths, oh my!

I recently celebrated a friend’s wedding back in New Jersey. The garden ceremony and tented reception took place at the Crossed Keys Inn, a gorgeous backdrop for the happy couple’s simple yet stylish special occasion. Everything was perfect…but not untouchable. It felt sophisticated…but laid back. All in all, a fabulous wedding.

Amy Atlas Dessert Table

This weekend got me thinking about weddings and parties. First Martha Stewart and the wedding blogs that idolize her instilled in us a belief that our big day needs to look expensive and magazine-worthy yet be creatively themed and entirely D.I.Y. Now party planning blogs are encouraging the same for baby showers, birthday parties and other at-home gatherings. Isn’t anybody else tired of bunting, dessert tables and photo booths with fake mustaches on sticks?

Sailing-Themed Birthday Party

Take the above party on the beach, for example. It looks like a pretty big deal with tents and bunting and decorative sails and professional photographs. Um, it’s for a three-year-old’s birthday. Seriously. Maybe I’m out of the loop because I don’t have any children, but this can’t be the norm for kids’ birthday parties nowadays. If it is, what happens when they become a Bar Mitzvah or celebrate their Sweet Sixteen? What happens when they get married? Do they just expect that each party will be bigger and better than the last? How are parents expected to top themselves year after year?

Ferrari race car party

And how about this Ferrari race car party? The birthday boy was one. Will he even remember that his dad drove him around in a remote controlled Ferrari? These types of parties are clearly not for the kids. They are for the parents of the children in attendance. They say something about the parents who are hosting them. “Look at how much we love our birthday babe,” for example.

Please tell me that you feel the same way or that when it becomes my turn to have a baby shower or throw my child a birthday party, my point of view will change.

(top image, middle image, bottom image)

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7 Responses to “bunting and dessert tables and photo booths, oh my!”

  1. Bridgett says:

    As someone who threw an elaborate party for my daughter’s 3rd birthday, I just want to say, for at least myself, it’s something I wanted to do. Not for show or recognition. Was I inspired by Amy Atlas and Tom Kat Studio? Yes, but I wasn’t trying to be them. I love to decorate and plan so of course I go all out, it’s in my nature. If people enjoy doing it and can afford the time to DIY or pay someone else to do it, what’s the harm? I agree there should be an expectation that the child shouldn’t expect a bigger party next year but that’s on the parents to communicate that. Just a thought from a friend who’s on the other side. :)

    • PJ says:

      Bridgett, thanks for your thoughts. You threw a lovely birthday party for your daughter — I think I even commented in it on your blog. I suppose my biggest question is when is enough, enough? From where I sit, it almost looks like party planning has become a competition: Who can do it bigger and better? I worry about competition like that between young children — and between their parents.

      But, like I said, I don’t have kids nor have I been thrown a baby shower or an elaborate home-based party, so perhaps my views will change when it’s my turn.

  2. Stephanie says:

    TOTALLY sick of fake mustaches on sticks! I mean, when were those even funny or clever to begin with?

  3. tiny twig says:

    i TOTALLY agree with this whole post. i would hate if my boys birthdays were subject to scrutiny by the decor blogs…because that means i missed the most important part. celebrating THEM…not ME.

  4. remy says:

    I definitely agree with many points. While I too have no children..!.I cringe when I see parties for others and all the kid wants to do is pick bark off a tree. He has no idea his parents shelled out a grand for everything…and bought an elmo costume bc rented ones are gross.
    And I got married last year but shopped for a good deal. My wedding looked minorly over the top food wise…but it was all included ina very cost effective package.
    I too worry about what the world will expect when I have a child and they are at bat mitz vah and sweet 16 age. I know we can’t afford huge events so will my kid be shunned?

  5. Bridgett says:

    I picked everything based on my daughter’s likes. She LOVES candy so there was the theme and she loves the bounce house. Yes over the top but I’m a stickler on decor and didn’t want to go to a location. Plus my daughter has food allergies so I want control over the food as well so I can relax and know she wouldn’t eat something that could be detrimental to her health.

    To answer your question PJ you know you need to pull back when you see yourself getting caught up in competition or trying to outdo your neighbor. Do what’s within your means and if that means going all out, so be it. If you choose to keep it simple that’s awesome. There should be no right or wrong or hard feelings when coming to celebrating another year of life.

  6. Tishes says:

    I find it ironic that I discovered the link to this article because I was looking for dessert table inspiration for my 2 year old daughter’s birthday. I too have been working feverishly on every detail, and have found it hard to know how much D.I.Y. is enough.

    As someone with a MFA that doesn’t get used anymore, I feel the pull to make everything myself; but as a working mother, I have to face the fact that it is not possible. I wouldn’t say that I’m trying to make a statement to others about how much I love my daughter or compete with other parents. I would say that I’ve found a way to bring creativity back into my life now that I’m a parent with less time and money to make my own work. My priorities have shifted from making work for myself to making something for my child, which feels like a win win at the moment. I hope it makes HER feel special, but I don’t really have control over that; all I can do is keep her interests and age in mind; and hope she has fun.

    I think it is easy to frown upon what other people do for (or to) their kids when you don’t have your own. I do think you’d feel differently if you had a child, especially if you are a working mother. I can’t speak for all working moms, but I never feel like I get enough time with my child, and I always feel guilty about the fact that I can’t afford to stay home with her to watch every milestone. So, I find ways to share the things I’m best at with her as much as I can. I wouldn’t call it a competition; if anything, I’d call it mother’s guilt. I agree that she probably won’t remember this birthday; but as a photographer, we will always have those photographs to refer back to when she’s older; and that is one of the ways memories are made.

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