DD had a bday party with her friends yesterday. I know a lot of people ask about parties on here, so I just wanted to share my thoughts and things I learned/noticed. I held the party 3:30 - 5 pm at a gymnastics studio.
First, the venue only let me come 15 minutes early to set up. I called the day before and asked if I could get in earlier, and they assured me it would be enough time. They were wrong. It wasn't nearly enough time, and I had two people there helping me (as well as their staff) and a relatively simple set-up. My guests started arriving a few minutes early, and it was awkward b/c I was so busy setting up that I couldn't greet them.
The party was just open play, with no structured games. I was worried the kids would get bored with this, but they didn't. They loved playing on the equipment the whole time. We also brought a play list with DD's favorite music, and that was a big hit.
I chose 1 1/2 hours (vs. 2), and that ended up being plenty of time. I didn't feel rushed or have to shoo people out at the end. I did the open play for an hour and then food for 30 minutes.
Food consisted of cupcakes, chips and dip and chips and salsa which was plenty of food for that time of day. We brought quite a few cupcakes home. I made four dozen (for 20 kids plus parents), and I could have gotten away with three.
I was worried about having to ask people to leave at the end, but I had the staff start cleaning up when it was over, and people seemed to get the hint.
I brought extra favors in case people who didn't RSVP showed up, but none of them did. In fact, two people didn't show up so I ended up just under my expected count.
All in all, it was a great event and I was happy with everything except for a few issues with the staff at the venue.
I hope that helps others who may be party planning!