DD's first birthday party went off with a bang yesterday! Oh, not everything went perfectly...I forgot some minor details and we blew up 30 helium balloons the night before...only to read the instructions after that said they last 5-7 hours...rookie error. So we were really scrambling the morning of getting last minutes details and more balloons...
But thanks to your advice, everyone was able to have a good time!
I think the biggest thing I've learned throwing parties is:
1) prioritize what is most important about the party. Make sure those are executed and let other things go if you have to. I'm type A so this hasn't always been easy.
2) keep mingling and introducing people. Several people didn't know anyone else so I would find someone to introduce them to, tell them what they have in common (child of the same age, live in close proximity to one another, work in same field, etc) which allowed me to move on to greet and chat with other guests.
3) keep the party moving and let people know the plan! People were not finished eating lunch but I could tell the kids were anxious to get in the pool (pool party). So I simply readjusted and cut the cake earlier than planned. Which was quick and adorable. About 3/4 of the way through lunch we had everyone gather to sing Happy Birthday, I annouced that there was pinata for the little kids while the cake would be cut, the pool was open, lunch was ongoing and to enjoy whatever they wanted at their leisure. So people really had a sense of what was going on and got to do what they wanted to do (eat, drink,swim) when they wanted to do it. We had a mix of age groups so I took the Bumpies' advice and didn't overdue games; just pinata and they decorated their party favors.
4) Go with the guest's flow. I almost forgot to give DD her cake until someone asked if she had her cake yet. I remembered someone on the board saying their child freaked out with everyone staring at them. I figured that wouldn't be enoyable for the guests to watch either, so this I didn't make a production out of. We just set her up in her highchair and those who were around and interested watched. Others were already in the pool or whatever.
5) If you are cohosting, communicate, communicate, communicate! This is SO important for DH and I. Trying to reel him away from the BBQ to cut the cake wasn't easy. He was cooking for 50! So I had to let him know to time things so that he could step away for a good 10 minutes or so.
Everyone seemed to genuinely have a great time. And I did too thanks to the help of several friends who either came early to help us get ready, helped during, or stayed after to help clean up.
Good luck with party planning!