A giant poop emoji cake, a DJ, a sundae bar, a mini mani-pedi salon set up for the kids; an oyster bar and endless champagne for the adults. That was the party one New York City mom last attended — for a five year old. She guesstimates it could have cost the girl's parents a cool $50,000, maybe more. Not to mention the party bags, a kids’ one filled with Dylan’s Candy Bar goodies and a mommy one with tiny jars of essential oils and high-end makeup in travel sizes from the well connected mom’s beauty PR pals.
The guest, Lauren, who wants to leave her last name out of it for fear of the other moms banning her from every party ever, says she's now been shamed into spending more money on her own daughter’s upcoming sixth birthday in March, which was meant to be a fun pizza lunch with arts and crafts in the party rental room of her Upper West Side building — but forget it now.
“It’s like these moms are throwing a wedding, not like the kid even remembers, or cares, about this kind of thing. It’s all about upstaging the other moms,” she tells Personal Space.
It has become a bit ridiculous, especially in places like New York, where kids party planners' CirKiz even offer the services of an 11-year-old DJ named Alden, who “likes to color outside the lines.” He’s been working the turntables “his entire life,” or since he was six, and had his own first birthday party at Cielo Nightclub.
Now husband-and-wife team and nightclub veterans Jesse Sprague and Jenny Song plan kid-centric daytime dance parties, and hire professional dancers, and serve juice boxes for kids’ parties. And in case your child didn’t know the horrors and shame of a V.I.P. area, they offer a roped off space for their premium, or “celebrity,” option. Yes, that’s for kids. Who complain and cry and stomp their feet on the floor, much like celebrities. A photographer is also provided for an additional fee.
Man, remember pin the tail on the donkey and ice cream cake? Well forget it because those days are over. Chuck E. Cheese? It puts the cheese in cheesy birthday bash.
Little Miss Party Planner Seri Kertzner says she finds the people who go really overboard, "it’s their first kid or only kid, or maybe they had a hard time getting pregnant."
"They tend to go over the top," she says. "First birthdays, specifically, that’s the bread and butter of the business. When you’ve made it through the first year of being a parent, it's an accomplishment; it’s really for the parents, they’re celebrating themselves in a way. I had a total blowout with my son, it should be called 'we survived our first year' party. There’s lots of booze."
Kertzner says that once parents get to the second or third or fourth birthdays, it becomes a lot less about the parents and more focused on the kids. "It’s much tighter friends from school or the neighborhood, it’s about the kids."
But for that first year she usually helps parents pick [everything from] cool venues to catering, to all kinds of entertainment, and of course, huge dessert tables.
"One thing I have found is there is really a distinct scene. Not necessarily the kid has shown their interest — but if they have they definitely make it feel like a kids' theme even though it’s for the adults. I’ve seen where there are staff to come in and help with the kids.For the most part if anyone is there with a same-age-range child, the parents have this celebration as a team. Everyone is dealing with their kid. Definitely people have a glass of wine or two, no one’s getting drunk, there are kids there. Having other people to share the experience with, friends, or family members, is fun."
When it gets out of control is when it becomes as big as a bar mitzvah — or too competitive.
"There’s a level of competition where everyone wants to outdo each other with these parties, more because the parents see things on Instagram and Pinterest," Kertzner says.
Over on the west coast, in Los Angeles, the pre-party is just as important as the main event. A company called Five Diamonds Limousine specializes in chauffeuring children to birthday parties in a Cadillac limo for $150 an hour.
All of the extravagance pissed off one mom so bad, she wrote to Scary Mommy that she stopped throwing birthday parties altogether. Then when her son turned eight, she threw him a reasonable one in her own house.
“We all went low-key for a few years: a store-bought sheet cake and takeout pizza at home with just our family became the birthday celebration norm…Necessity and my personal sanity required a level of simplicity that forced our whole family to scale back. Will I continue to throw big birthday bashes for all the kids from now on? Maybe yes, maybe no. If they ask for one, then yes, I will do my best to make that kid feel like a star for a day, no matter the amount of work and inconvenience. On the other hand, if they are happy with going back to our small family celebrations, then that is fine with me too.”
But if you are into spoiling your kid for their next birthday, or messing them up for life, there’s always Red Carpet Kids, an event company in New York that recreates awards shows and live action films for your kids party. For a (large) fee, they can provide a movie crew, special effects, costumes, stylists, a VIP Screening Room, your own Grammy Award ceremony complete with music stage, costumes, props, and, wait for it, back-up dancers.
They of course also include a red carpet upon entry and photographers.
“Is your 4-year-old already writing her Oscar acceptance speech?” they ask.
“Held on five floors of a swanky Upper East Side brownstone, the affairs start with a red-carpet walk (including interviews and photo ops), followed by costume selection and hair-and-makeup styling in the wardrobe room. Next comes filming in the green-screen room, then a wrap party (a.k.a. lunch and cake). The finale is a screening of the seven-minute flick they just made, viewed from the comfort of former Radio City Music Hall theater seats. There’s popcorn and candy, Oscar statues and acceptance speeches, even swag bags and autograph books. And for parents: a first-class cocktail lounge.”
Perhaps the parents are the ones who need the attention.
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