(All Photos in this post courtesy of Les Enfants on Pinterest)
These days I seem to spend every Saturday and Sunday carting my two kids to various Birthday Parties at various venues across London. Recently, I had triple birthdays in one weekend: one Sat am, one Sat pm and two Sunday pm. (I had to devise a hierarchy of needs for the Sunday pm parties: whose party do I really need to go to?) Is this what my life has been reduced to? My toddler’s social life being more booked than mine?. I am torn between my egoistical self and my maternal self that needs to provide to my children’s happiness first. Then, for my children’s birthdays, I have to reciprocate and throw a party for all the people who have invited us, whether I want to or not, to avoid personal social suicide and my children becoming social pariahs. This becomes 42 parties a year, and 42 children + 42 parents to invite for a grand total of 84 mouths to feed and entertain (not to mention the siblings that are undoubtedly brought along and the occasional daddy), which equals to exhaustion and unimaginable stress for me for months ahead.
I have always been sensitive about Birthday Parties. This likely stems from my early Freudian (all our issues really are due to our childhoods), traumatic experience when I had only one person (my neighbour) show up to my 6th birthday party out of my class of 30. Granted, I had just moved to a Muslim country 10 days before and didn’t know anyone or the usual customs, where no one seemed to throw birthday parties or go to people’s homes they didn’t know. So, I think I have a good enough reason to be obsessed and fear-stricken about throwing a birthday party and having no one show up. All I ever wanted growing up was someone (anyone) to attend my birthday party to throw a hot potato or play musical chairs with me. Times have certainly changed and children’s parties these days are a whole extravagant, creative and OTT affair competing with Bat Mitvahs and Weddings, but which are a yearly, recurring affair (and sometimes a few times a year, depending on how many children you have).
So where do the famous, the rich and the Notting Hillers celebrate their kids’ birthday parties?
The Notting Hillers
The Notting Hill Mums (as do the Chelsea Mums, Belgravia Mums, South Ken Mums and all West London Mums) all compete with each other to throw a worthy birthday party for their gorgeous, perfect, little angels (or brats). Venues are booked months in advance. Party bags are made artfully from internet websites or party organisers. The catering is organised, kosher, halal, sugar and fat free. For the NHYM chef-wannabes, cupcakes and cakes are made-with-love, gluten free, low sugar, low fat. Favourite venues include church halls for the under 3s, The Commander for standard NHYM great parties, RS Currie for smaller but lovely, well organised parties, and the Harbour Club for active kids. Cinemas are popular with older kids, when the entire Electric Cinema will be booked or one of the screens at The Lounge will feel like a like a private view.
Outdoors, Private Gardens are used to blow up Bouncy Castles and the Princess Diana Playground is taken over by 30 kids running wild. Battersea Zoo is one of the more original and cute venues. If it rains, Private Member’s clubs like Purple Dragon and Maggie & Rose are available, perfectly organised without you having so much as lifting a finger. One NHYM rented out the whole of the Arts Club 1st floor, which is still being talked about at the Arts Club. Then there are the Entertainers and the theme: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Princesses, Superheroes, Pirates, Star Wars in a warehouse, Fireman Sam and the list goes on. Eventually, it is a blurry vision of what the child originally wanted and what a NHYM’s ‘creativity’ and ‘imagination’ runs away wildly with.
The most original party bag gift I have heard of was a goldfish. But, what does one do with a goldfish?! Flush it down the toilet, let daddy eat it or keep it alive by researching ‘how to keep a goldfish alive’ for hours on the internet and then buying 100’s of pounds worth of kit for it to survive? And what to do with the goldfish whilst on holiday? And what do you tell your sweet little boy Max when his goldfish dies? That he went back to his home in the sea? That Daddy flushed him down the drain? All the stress and these questions would drive me absolutely nutty.
Now, the excessively rich all seem to love throwing birthday parties in Hotel Ballrooms. The Berkeley Hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, The Dorchester and the Kensington Hotel all come to mind. We were once invited to an amazing party at one of the above Ballrooms, which happened to be the best birthday party I had ever been to. Ever. Adult or Child. (Forget Adults Birthday Parties, I just want an invite to kids’ birthday parties these days. Actually, I want one of these parties for myself). This was a 3rd birthday party and the theme of the party was ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.’ Every child received an invitation with a chocolate bar and a Golden Ticket inside, which served as the invite, written in golden leaf.
As you arrived into the Ballroom, Giant-sized Oompa Loompahs welcomed us with giant lollipops. The Ballroom was decorated as a Chocolate Factory, with chocolate fountains flowing with marshmallows on sticks to dip them in. There were cotton candy machines, ice cream vans, and popcorn machines everywhere you looked. There was a giant bouncy castle almost touching the ceiling of the ballroom with a slide coming down into a ball pit. There were small rides of cars, train carriages, spaceships, and a merry-go-round. All for free! M kept asking if I had a pound coin to put in the rides, and when I told her we didn’t need any and she could go as often as she wanted, she didn’t know what to do with herself or where to go. Her eyes kept getting bigger and bigger as she looked at all the rides and sweeties for her to devour. This was Disneyland in a London Hotel! There were entertainers and balloon sculptors, face-painting and a magician. There was a an entire table full of cupcakes, candy, and chocolate bars. (Hello caries and dentist visits, goodbye our bank accounts when M was going to request a party like this). Then as we left, after having had the time of our lives, guilt and shame hit, when we looked into the party bag and realised it was more expensive than the gift we had bought the child.
Another, rather ridiculous, super-rich birthday party across the pond in the US was thrown for a 5 year old on his parent’s private jet. But the private jet was parked in a hangar! What’s the fun in that? At least give us a ride! Let’s take this baby for a spin! Although this was a drop off party, somehow, most of the parents decide to stay and oggle at the jet, while the owners happily showed off their dripping, nouveau riche, wealth.
It’s not about Wedding Crashers anymore, welcome the Kids’ Birthday Crashers. One upcoming Summer Birthday Party I would like to go to, is a 1 year old Pool Party in the South of France this July. The children will go cherry, lemon, and fig picking, all out in the back garden, before jumping into a lovely salt-water, heated pool. I hear they may even have pony rides organised in the garden after the freshly baked Tarte aux Pommes. (My address is included below should you want to send me the invite). In the meantime, I hear there is ‘lightning’ party happening this weekend at some ballroom in London…
The Super – Famous
The famous also have their own way of throwing parties. It may not always be what you would expect:
1) The A-List Actors: You receive a phone call 2 hours before the party and are asked: ‘Are you X’s mother?’ Two hours later, after ditching the hierarchy of needs and the other party your child was invited to, you find yourself in a massive Dorchester Suite surrounded by other Hollywood Actors and their progeny singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to their exceptionally beautiful and charming children, friends and entourage.
2) Rock ‘N’ Roll Royalty: To go against the grain, the Rock ‘N’ Rollers throw their party at Bramley’s, which is clearly a rebellion against the excess of the other rich and famous crowds. Their famous friends are too cool to even say ‘hello’ to you, even after an introduction by the R’N’R hostess.
3) The English ‘Golden Couple’: For their child’s 15th Birthday, the whole family and friends (20 of them) have dinner at Nobu Park Lane. I am not sure whether this is a good thing or not. I just hope the child managed to have a teenagers party of booze and hookups instead of choosing lobster tempura or which roll to order in a restaurant full of ‘old’ people.
I have to admit that I admire the creativity, energy and effort the party planners will go through to create a perfect event which will last all of 2 hours. What a great way to make a living, spending other people’s money to create every child’s dream. To have a fantabulous NHYM Birthday Party, Popular Party organisers are as follows:
– RS Currie: Bespoke, local, home-grown party planner, by Tom the owner of RS Currie. http://www.rscurrie.com
– Twizzle Parties: A go-to for good, standard, reliable party planners and organisers. http://www.twizzle.co.uk
– Les Enfants: For ‘Beautiful, stylish, and fun inspiration for children’s parties’ aka those parties at the Mandarin Oriental and the Dorchester, look no further to make your child’s dreams turn into reality: http://www.lesenfants.co.uk
But what happens the following year, when you are competing against your own amazing party in a Hotel Ballroom? And what will these children expect for their 16th Birthdays (One boy has been promised a Ferrari for his 16th but still doesn’t have his driver’s license. Really?!)?
What has been your most extravagant birthday you’ve thrown or been invited to? What do you think about the craziness of the Birthday Party phenomenon? Good or Bad? Share your thoughts!