“Iddy up, orsey!” (child-speak for “Giddy up, horsey!”) is heard in my house at least six times a day, usually as Ollie, my soon-to-be 2-year-old, tries to convince our dog to give him a ride. When we decided to throw a combined birthday party for him and four friends, the farm theme immediately came to mind.
We held the 100-guest birthday-party brunch at Zoomars Petting Zoo in historic San Juan Capistrano, Calif. Guests enjoyed a light brunch, pony rides, hands-on interaction with animals and plenty of games to keep them entertained. Best of all, thanks to some smart planning and a little bit of elbow grease, the five families who hosted didn’t have to break the bank to plan a memorable party.
Whether you live on a farm or in a big city, dreaming of your chance to return to rural bliss, the following tips and printable projects can help you plan your own budget-friendly farm festivities.
1. Themed Invitations
An easy way to get your guests into party mode is to send them a fun, themed invitation. If you’ve got a stash of scrap-booking supplies, you can make these yourself. Otherwise, choose one of Hobby Farms’ free printable invitations and print it on quality cardstock.
2. Easy Decorations
Printable bunting banners can be personalized with your guest of honor’s name, used to highlight food and activity stations, or simply hung along walls or ceilings to add little pops of color and an extra hint of party fun. Coordinating paper rosettes, look great hanging from fences, eaves or trees, and can even be used to create prize ribbons for game winners.
3. Simple Spreads
A roll of plastic, gingham-print table covering paired with an 18-inch-wide craft-paper runner lends is the perfect palette for an array of budget-friendly centerpieces. Vintage stoneware pitchers, tin cans or glass milk bottles make excellent vases for wildflowers. Alternative centerpieces include plants or baskets of fruit or berries. When your party is over, encourage guests to take the items as a favor. At the end of the day, the plastic and paper table coverings can be tossed in your recycling bin, making for very easy cleanup.
Tip: We stamped our paper runner with little custom name stamps found on Etsy to add a personalized touch.
100-foot roll of Gingham Table covering, $21 from OrientalTrading.com; 765 ft x 18 inch Brown Kraft Paper Roll, $24.82 from Amazon.com; Personalized Stamps $10.50 each from Etsy.com/shop/cupcaketree
4. Finger Foods and Snacks
Brunch is an excellent time for a party. Not only does it accommodate little ones’ nap schedules, it lends itself to easy, no-mess, no-heat appetizers and snacks. Pastries, croissants and crackers are usually affordable and easy to buy or make the day before; plus, they keep well in most weather and usually don’t require utensils or refrigeration.
A basket of apples placed next to an apple slicer and cutting board encourages guests to help themselves to some slices without forcing you to waste time cutting fruit that doesn’t get eaten. A platter of pre-sliced cheese pairs well with both the baked goods and fruit.
Stage the food with crates, baskets and dishtowels that color-coordinate and can be re-used on another occasion. Place beverages in a clean vintage cooler or galvanized bucket, or forgo all containers and offer a nice glass of signature drinks, such as lemonade, water with fruit, or iced tea in a large dispenser or carafe.
If you have guests with special dietary needs or are serving food people might not recognize, consider labeling the items. The coordinating place cards available for download with each Hobby Farms party theme can also double as food tags.
Tip: A crate flipped upside down works well for hiding extra food or napkins while serving as a riser for a platter or basket adding height to your bountiful buffet.
No birthday is complete without cake, but bakery cakes can be expensive, and slicing and serving cake can be tedious and time-consuming. Instead, opt to serve cupcakes. They’re pre-portioned, and best of all, you won’t need a bunch of forks or extra plates. Simple white-frosted cupcakes won’t stain clothes or teeth and can be easily decorated with the DIY Cupcakes Picks.
6. Smart Venue and Entertainment
Having a friend play guitar for a fun sing-along is a simple way to add to the party’s ambiance, and activities are a must. Games and other activities can be as simple or complex as you want them to be—take a look around your venue for inspiration.
If horses or ponies are available, kids will love the chance to go for a short ride. Have friendly animals that need to be fed? Prep some baskets of feed and let the kiddos do your chores. If your location is more plant-oriented, set up an activity station where each kid can plant some seeds or start their own mini-garden.
Feature that nice big tree with a classic party piñata. Piñatas are always a hit—pun intended!—but for younger guests, look for a pull-string piñata as a non-violent alternative. Each child takes a turn pulling a ribbon off the bottom and one finally opens a trap door releasing the candy and prizes.
Tip: Lay out blankets first and designate one for each age group to avoid smaller kids getting trampled in the candy-collecting frenzy.
Barn Piñata (pictured), $18 from Amazon.com. The barn doors on it even swing open revealing animals inside.
7. Fun Favors
Continue the farm theme to the end by providing guests with a packet of seeds (packet templates available with each party theme package) or basket of berries. Or consider a favor that can be used during the party, like a bandana or a straw hat.
You can also send little guests home with a coloring book and some crayons. Repurpose old, broken crayons by melting and pouring them into farm-animal-shaped molds. Put together your own coloring book by printing off HF’s farm-themed coloring pages.
Small, personalized containers of bubbles are an affordable favor and big hit with little kids during the party. You can even incorporate them into a fun party activity.
8. Photos and Thank Yous
Don’t forget to take a lot of photos! Try to get at least one photo with each guest, and you’ll have a perfect item to send along with your thank-you cards. (Coordinating thank-you cards are also available for download with each party theme package.
About the Author: Emily Lawrence Mendoza is a graphic designer and mom who loves planning themed parties and going on fun adventures with her family. She lives in Orange, Calif., with her husband, almost 2-year-old son and a new baby on the way.