Right from the beginning I'm going to acknowledge that this is going to be a different recap of the same party than Lisa's (if she writes one). We had basically the same goal for the party, but the way we saw it will be quite different. The party we had was to just invite people we don't see very often to come and hang out with us and have fun. Pretty simple, because it includes just about everyone we know.
That's where the problems began. Who do you invite to this kind of party? We've had the family birthday parties and we're even starting the friend birthday parties soon, but who are our friends that we need to invite? Lisa and I decided on a list of people who we don't see that often but we'd like to see more, negating some of the other options. For example, our Bible study group has two get-togethers over the summer, so we figured we'd not invite them. And Lisa has some cousins who tend to be invited to the kids' birthday affairs, so we did not invite them to another party. I see the guys from my baseball team a lot over the summer, so we also took them off the list. We were left with about fifty guests we invited.
Invitations: Lisa sent emails with an RSVP. We've tried the more conventional snail mail verson with little success. However, just as with actual mail, only about half RSVPd via email. That's pretty sad. Note to everyone: if someone invites you to a party and wants an RSVP, it's still common courtesy to reply, even if it's an email or Facebook invite. If you don't reply, it just implies you don't care.
Anyhow, we got enough responses to indicate we'd have over 30 guests. Now we had to plan the party. Since it was to be family-friendly, we needed to have enough for the kids to do. However, we have some friends who like to drink a bit, especially if some of the non-RSVP guests were to have shown up. Side note: if anyone (even your best friends) say that they might make it, take them off the list. A maybe today is a definite NO, and the people who say maybe should just say no as a matter of good manners. Besides two, all of my friends were maybes or non-responses.
Lisa had better numbers from her side. She had a number of yes responses, including some fairly big families.However, we once again way overplanned a party for the people who attended. Our goal here is to help you with your own planning and help you to avoid some of our yearly mistakes.
Since we had families with all ages, we needed to have all kinds of activties set up, and I think the kids were pretty happy with their choices. However, after further review, adults could have had a bit more to do. As for the kids, their main attraction, suitable for 2-8 year-olds, was the obstacle course. Yes, a second-grader will get bored with a little kid obstacle course pretty quickly, but it intrigues all kids for at least a few minutes, and some kids will continue on the course for over an hour. Our course started with a slide, then through a tunnel, into a tent, onto a trampoline, and through a swimming pool filled with pillows. Most kids who did not have a built-in sand box at home seemed to love the sand box. Many kids shot hoops on the six foot basketball rim. Still others rode the toys on the driveway or threw balls around.
Basically, think of it this way: have every possible toy and game ready for every possible age group. We put a baby seat swing back up on our swing set and it got used. We got every riding toy and ball out of the garage. The kids had fun. You could tell because they weren't really bothering us. If you don't have that much stuff for your yard, ask guests to bring something along to share, like one of those remote control helicopters.
Lisa's friends like good conversation. Several of my friends like good beer. We were ready for both. The garage had lotsof chairs, but the yard is shaded. If you want to throw a big party, you have to have a way to provide shade, even on a day in the 70s. I tried setting up an old canopy tent that my parents had from the 80s, but I couldn't figure it out. I think new ones are relatively cheap, especially if you live in a new suburban hood with no real trees.
We once again had more the twice the amount of food we needed. Several people showed up late and had already eaten. Also, because they were having fun outside, it wasn't just a food fest. Lisa does not want to be the hostess who sends everyone home sick, so we do have a couple of food warmers. One that is especially useful is a food warmer tray I picked up at Menard's, but they have everywhere. I pre-grilled the brats and hot dogs, and set them in the tray to stay hot.
Just a few notes on conversation. If you don't want to offend people you barely know, make some assumptions about their religious and political views before the party. I have fun offending my own friends, and I think that made one of the other guests uncomfortable. I probably should not have done that, but it is fun to rip on a friend. However, even best friends with opposing viewpoints can get in heated debates at parties, so it's a good idea to keep the convo to hobbies and things like that.