Plymouth Moms Share Tips for Planning Big, Creative Summer Parties

The Donnay Family

Does your child have a summer birthday and is asking for a party outside to celebrate? The thought of an outdoor party can seem stressful, but we promise perfect (or at least almost-perfect) party planning with the following tips from event planners and Plymouth residents who have put together some fun summer gatherings for their kids.

Set a budget

Setting a budget and sticking to it is one of the first and most important things parents can do when planning a party, say Kathleen Daley-Boeder and Dianne Haag, who plan and coordinate a variety of different events through their special events company, DK Events.

“We want our kids to have a great celebration, but you don’t need to spend excessively to create a great party,” says Haag. “The bottom line is the birthday is a celebration of the child and if you make them feel special, from the involvement in the planning to the day of the event, it will be successful.”

They recommend using space at home or a park to avoid expensive rental fees, creating simple games and making the food yourself, skipping expensive helium balloons, and limiting guest count in order to keep costs down.

Be flexible

Once you have your budget in check, it’s important to stay organized. Daley-Boeder recommends creating a timeline for the party, but not being afraid to deviate from it if you need to.

“Having a lot of activities is a great idea, but don’t feel like you have to do them all,” she says. “This can over-stimulate young kids and make them a bit cranky. You will be able to gauge their temperament during the time of the party and then decide the best course to take.”

You can even work some quieter activities into the party, which might help both young and old guests. “Be flexible,” Daley-Boeder says. “There may be some things that do not go as planned. Relax and make the necessary adjustments.”

Create the party you can handle

Big parties and big events can be like weeds in your garden; they get out of control before you realize it. “Be careful how many kids you invite if you are confined to a small space. The larger the guest list, the harder it is at times to control the excitement and flow of games, eating and present opening,” says Haag. “If you are not used to the energy of a large party of active kids, keep it manageable based on what you can handle.”

If you cannot cut the guest list down, consider getting help before and during the party. Ask other parents or family members to assist with the party, in exchange for your assistance with their child’s party at a later date. Consider asking a party planning company to help coordinate the event so you can actually sit back and enjoy the party. “We want to make sure that the event is worry-and stress- free, and our clients are happy with the results,” says Daley-Boeder.

Putting these tips into action are two Plymouth residents who have thrown large outdoor parties for their children in the past.


A Celebration of State Fair Proportion

Emily Donnay’s twin girls celebrate summer birthdays in grand style. Ava and Mya know their birthday will involve colorful decorations, fun food and plenty of laughter, thanks in large part to the party-planning skills of their crafty mother. “I love getting together with different groups of people and being able to celebrate and have fun,” Donnay says. “I hope the girls remember how loved they felt from everyone who was there and how much their dad and I wanted to make the big day special.”

Donnay started throwing what she calls “big parties” for Mya and Ava for their first birthday. She knew after the girls turned 5, she would start toning down the big parties, so she wanted their fifth birthday to be a special one. Donnay looked to one of the family’s favorite events for inspiration.

Her State Fair-themed invitations boasted face painting, fun, and of course, food-on-a-stick. At the party, guests also got sno-cones and the opportunity to create a “Fair-Do” by spraying hair with a rainbow of colors and plenty of glitter. “Ava and Mya were blown away,” remembers Donnay. “Their eyes were as big as saucers when the petting zoo came.” There were about 100 people at the party, which included family, neighbors and preschool classmates. “I just love bringing it all together so it really makes sense to everyone,” she says. “It’s not a little bit State Fair, it’s all-out State Fair.”

Coordinating entertainment, matching colors and foods to a theme and hosting a party at your own house might sound like loads of work, but not to Donnay, who relishes the creative, outlet that the parties provide. “It’s fun to get the stuff out when the kids go to bed and pour a glass of wine and get to work,” she says. “I love it.”

She recommends starting the planning process a few months in advance. She doesn’t rely on Pinterest or other craft outlets, but prefers to come up with her own ideas. “Pick a theme where you can do a lot of different elements,” Donnay says. “You have food, décor, and entertainment. With some themes, it’s hard to pull all three off.” Some themes can get expensive, so she recommends always having a budget and sticking to it.

Just Glow For It

Stefanie Fesenmaier has four children and the experience of several creative parties under her belt, but one of her favorite parties was her daughter’s 9th birthday party. She had asked for a party at home. “She didn’t want a girly-themed party and she wanted something that would last longer than the typical two or three hour party that most kids her age have.” She thought that between the hours of 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. would be appropriate for a summer party and started planning from there. “I thought it would be fun to make it a glow party,” says Fesenmaier.

“We rented an inflatable foam pit, an inflatable slide, had music playing in the backyard and a variety of glow-in-the-dark, flashing and light-up accessories for the kids to have throughout the party, which in turn became party favors.” When the sun went down, laser lights moved to the beat of the music and kept the party going for a fun birthday memory. “The best feature was by far the foam pit. It was something new most kids haven’t seen and it was simple to use,” she says. “It wasn’t messy, and the kids loved it.”

Fesenmaier likes to hold outdoor parties because it means there’s no space limitation. Her large Plymouth backyard is ideal for inflatables, tents and guests. The biggest disadvantage of course, is the possibility of rainy weather. “There have been rain showers where a tent still doesn’t quite cut it, so you have to come up with fun on the fly,” she says. “The kids would still have fun outside of the tent, but those that don’t like to get wet are stuck under the tent or the party splits off to some people in the house and some outside.”

Even though you’ll have to conquer challenges including the weather, space or adding a few people to the guest list who might have been previously overlooked, she stays motivated by remembering the reason for the celebration.

“The party is ultimately a celebration for your child and you should enjoy it,” Fesenmaier says. “Don’t plan something that requires a lot of hands-on work for you throughout the party. If you need help, ask for it, and if family offers to do something for you, take them up on it.” The preparation might get overwhelming, but Fesenmaier says that glimpse of the joy on a child’s face makes it all worthwhile. “It makes the work worth it.”


Party Planning Checklist from DK Events
— Decide location
— Choose date
— Chose guest list
— Pick a theme
— Pick menu
— Plan entertainment
— Send invitations
— Pick favor bags
— Assign a photographer
— Send thank you notes

Party ideas from DK Events

Circus OR Carnival Party

  • Red and white striped items
  • Carnival food like popcorn, pretzels, peanuts and sno-cones


  • Pick-up-a-duck: Fill up kiddie pool with yellow ducks. The child who pulls out the duck with “winner” on the bottom wins a prize.
  • Clothes pin drop: Let children try to drop a clothes pin into a glass bottle: give each child a bottle and clothes pins as a party favor.
  • Tattoo booth: Let an older sibling help with animal or carnival tattoos.
  • Old fashioned fun: water balloon toss, bean bag toss, basketball shoot.

Pirate Party

  • Red, black and white striped items; use a roll of brown paper as a tablecloth, with each child’s pirate name and a treasure map drawn on top.
  • Give food pirate-themed names such as Captain Hook’s Bounty, Pirate Loot and of course, Pirate Punch.


  • Fast ship: Fill a small pool with water and let each child compete by blowing their decorated ship across the pond.
  • Treasure hunt: Have children follow a treasure map, follow clues and find pirate booty like a bandana.

Special thanks:
Kathleen Daley-Boeder and Dianne Haag, of DK Events, for providing items and styling.

The Donnay family including Ava, 5; Mya, 5; Ivy, 2; Jeff and Emily Donnay and the Fesenmaier family including Nadia, 9; Montana, 8; Dahlilah, 6; and Diesel, 3 and Stefanie and Matt Fesenmaier for modeling.

Special thanks also to Highway 55 Rental for use of their Big Mouth Baseball Toss game (pictured above). Check out their website for this and other games to fulfill your party entertainment needs.