Elaina has been five for about a month now! But I'm finally getting around to posting about her birthday. Hey people, I'm going for grace, not perfection. I've been asked about party specifics so I thought I'd share with the group. Secrets don't make friends, remember? 

Each year, we've given Elaina the choice of what her birthday party theme is. We've had a couple "bigger" parties (30-45ish guests) and "small" parties with only both of our families in our home. It usually comes down to how busy we are that year or how much effort I feel like putting forth! Ha! In any case, Elaina enjoys! So far the past themes have been cupcake party, a sunshine party, a polka dot ball party, rainbow/unicorn party, and this year she insisted on a My Little Pony Pizza Party! Actually, she really wanted a My Little Pony, Pokemon (thanks, Daddy) Pizza Party, but I ran out of time to be creative on that end (hence the black and white stripe table runner compromise). 

So honestly, this was one of the easier parties I've thrown for her. People don't always believe me! Ha! And I get it. I did not simply grab plates and napkins and a bunch of cupcakes - though there's absolutely nothing wrong with that! I've thrown so many wedding showers, baby showers, and birthdays; and along the way, I've gathered quite a few party platters, trays, decor, etc. So that in itself makes it much easier to plan a party. 

We decided to go a little bigger this year and let her invite all of her friends as well this year for the BIG FIVE. We're planning on smaller evening family parties for the next few years, so we thought it'd be nice to have a fun one this year. 

I usually design, professionally print and send invitations out. This year, I designed the invitation and kept things easier by starting a Facebook event and attached the invitation there. Easy, right?! I did print some invitations at home to take to school for all of Elaina's schoolmates, but we just took a pile and her teacher put one in each kid's box for us. Easy!

If you're just starting out with planning birthdays and other events, I'd recommend buying supplies that will last even though you may spend a bit more at first. John and I actually registered for Food Network white platters and different kinds of serving trays for our wedding. We received them (thank you family and friends!) and have used them over and over and over. 

These discount tablecloths are a MUST. I wish I would have purchased them a long time ago. I know it seems like a bigger cost on the front line, but it's worth it. I promise, they'll save you money in the long run and you can share them with friends and family. I purchased these this year and spent the same amount I would have spent for two parties on plastic tablecloths. And have already loaned them out to people twice! I now cringe at how much money and waste I threw away on plastic or paper tablecloths in the past. Renting is not economical usually. I bought three or four tablecloths for the price of renting one at our local party rental supply.

I did spend money on table runners at the last minute for this party, but that wasn't a terrible cost. I purchased fabric from Hobby Lobby and cut the runners the week before in "even" pieces and about 6 feet long. 

Younghouse Distributing is our local party supplier and my party store of choice. We have another party supply store in town, and even though their selection is bigger, I can never find exactly what I'm looking for. Younghouse has the "prettier" items that you'd find in a boutique party supply store. And they are absolutely wonderful people. And I think their helium is better too. Ha!

Another party saver - we held the party right down the road from our home at our local Civic/Community Center. It's a new building so the finishes are neutral and nice for a party with windows from floor to ceiling to the outdoors on two sides of the room. You can give them a layout for how you'd like the room set up and they take care of it. We were able to play music through speakers and even had video capabilities. We also had one side of the gym for the kiddos to run and play. We brought a big tub of Elaina's balls and just dumped it in the middle of the gym! It also made for a great place to hit the pinata! The center was such a help. I didn't have to worry about cleaning up my home or having enough room for everyone as we have done in the past. 

Another tradition we began was on her first birthday. Each year, we take a photo of our family with the photo from the previous year! It looks like this eventually... It's so cool to look at it and see Elaina's personality and changes from each year. If you plan to start this tradition, be sure to grab a photo frame that's big enough. Also, it helps to remove the glass from the frame when taking the actual photo. As you can see below, we kind of ended up with some glare. 

Look how old she looks... !!!

So I had planned to make a naked cake or have one made. But we opted for these DELICIOUS cupcakes that we've ordered every year. We special order them from Schnucks with a whipped Strawberry frosting that they have to special order from STL. No extra cost for the frosting - it looks so pretty and shiny like it's almost ready to melt and it tastes like smooth, yogurty strawberry goodness. The chargers and cupcake stands were items that we already own.

Because we ended up saving money by going with cupcakes (and because I refuse to pay $3 per serving for a NAKED cake! Haha!), I went with the extra and easy touch of ordering cupcake toppers by Betnie Bakes . Totally didn't realize that she's been seen on TLC and Food Network until after I ordered (pretty cool!). She did a great job, was very timely and even did a little custom pony to match our decor. They were a big hit with the kids too! Just a helpful hint on cupcake toppers. I ordered the cupcakes that would have toppers to have just a dollop of icing on the middle of them. You don't have to do it this way, but I prefer the icing to not look squished by the topper.

Of course we still needed to blow out a candle...

I love the Cutie Mark fondant toppers and Elaina did too!

Sorry for cupcake overload... I bet you're hungry now.

I did spend time the night before making fresh strawberry lemonade. Try to make it the night before and then put it all together the day of.
The last two years, I've developed an addiction as a result of the girls who make lemonade (with lots of flavors) at the farmers market. I tested and retested my own recipe to come pretty close to theirs. It's pretty easy. I have no actual recipe, but I make it to taste.
Determine how many cups you'll need. Make a simple syrup (boil water and add sugar).
Cool syrup overnight.
Squeeze lemons (I use about one lemon per two cups) and refrigerate.
After syrup is cool, add lemon juice and Torani Strawberry syrup to taste.
 I made several gallons. And we ran out, so I should have made more! When in doubt, always make more. It will go fast! 

We've owned the dispenser for awhile. I purchased the stand in black and painted it gold one year.

I had these glass jars gifted to me after a party years ago! We're still using them! 

A fresh veggie spread is always appreciated. I've found it more cost efficient to purchase fresh and cut up veggies. It's not hard and it's easy to do the night before. I place them in bags and bring extra bags for leftovers! We also bought a couple bags of veggie straws (because we love them and most of our friends do too!) I threw them in this glass jar (which we already owned) for easy grabbing and storage for leftovers.

We kept the tables simple. Each table got a runner and a plant purchased from IKEA. I had grabbed these for our home on our last trip there and thought they'd work for simple centerpieces at the last minute. A trick to make the table seem more colorful and put together (thus making it seem like you put forth more effort) is to set out the plates at each spot. I purchased 50 place setting papers for $3, gold dinner plates and pink dessert plates at our local Younghouse Distributing (I love love love that place!). John and I tagged teamed and put these out in like three minutes! You could also set your utensils and cups out. We had pizza and finger foods so we skipped utensils altogether.

In the very background, you see "Happy Birthday" balloons. These were sort of random. I got them for $3 on Amazon with another purchase and Younghouse Distributing graciously blew them up with regular air for free. They didn't hold air well, but it was easy to just tape them up.

I purchased the "5" balloon from Younghouse and the other colored balloons came from Shop Sweet Lulu. Younghouse blew them all up and my hubby picked them up that morning. I had attempted at a previously party to "save" money by purchasing a helium tank myself and doing the work myself. Will. Never. Do. That. Again. It's just another thing you have to do and figure out heights, etc. Leave it to the pros people. And, a whole month later, the latex balloons are STILL flying, which like never happens. Could have been the great quality balloons from Shop Sweet Lulu, but I feel it's worth mentioning. 

The "Happy Birthday Elaina" Sign is a sign I made over three years ago. I kept it plain and simple with a white background and gold sparkle letters so that I could use it every year. 

For the food tables, each one had a runner and then a leafy garland and little blooms (from IKEA). I cut the stems off of the blooms and placed them randomly. And Elaina's touch - her ponies from home! 

We ordered pizza from Pizza Hut (the only pizza E will eat). I purchased four pizza pans and two stands from a restaurant supply a month before the party. They were a decent price and I use them in my own kitchen now for various baking needs. The pizza went over very well and I was happy to serve an easy meal that everyone would like (and I didn't have to cook it!).

And there you have it! A My Little Pony Pizza Party fit for Elaina! This party was so fun and enjoyable! Mainly because I was mostly stress free that day! Besides a two hour set up, we really didn't feel too rushed from all the early prep that we did.
The reality is, that she's growing up and life keeps getting busier (even with just one child!), so we're beginning to plan special trips for her birthdays for the next few years in lieu of parties to mix it up!