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Can a baby’s birthday party cost more than a wedding?

February 1, 2013
logo by Christine Hepner

Short answer, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, absolutely it can, if you let it. And I’m not talking an over-the-top pony and circus party at a country club, either. I’m talking crappy tater tots and reheated frozen pizza in a faux retro diner setting. But in Manhattan, it’s all about the scarcity of space and the amount of money parents are willing to spend to outdo each other.

Here’s my opinion about weddings, parties, and occasions of all sorts: If you can write a check for the total at the end of the night without borrowing, mortgaging, or otherwise going into debt, go for it. Have the most amazing occasion you want. But I can’t think of anything more foolish than going into debt to finance a party. We had 60 guests at our wedding luncheon at Keens, and then an “after party” with cake and margaritas at the Rodeo Bar. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say no one left our wedding thirsty. There are stories for another time…shoes were lost…coats and handbags caught fire….women tried to throw panties at the band. Shockingly, none of these things involved the bride, due to her strict “NO TEQUILA” policy that day.

So when it came time to plan the little guy’s first birthday party, we wanted to invite all the people who had been so kind and wonderful to us during his first year, and we wanted to have adult food and beverages as well as cake and baby-friendly food. But, it’s hard to invite a large group of people to our small apartment. There are four flights of stairs to climb, which makes it not only hard for some of the guests, but also hard to stock up and get all the party food and drink upstairs beforehand. We have one bathroom.

On the other hand, we have a beautiful roof deck where we’ve had parties before. Then again, what if it rained? And the roof deck is up 2 additional flights of stairs. And still only one bathroom, only now you have to walk back down two flights to use it.

Why not have the party out somewhere? I spent the month of May scouting the neighborhood, and even though I thought I was prepared for Manhattan prices, I was still appalled! Here are just two examples:

  • For $2,000, the local craft store had a private party room where you can invite up to 30 guests to make and decorate clay pots. They don’t even throw in the pizza, you can have it delivered or cater in all your own food and drink. Now, yes, the invitation might just be worth it, “Join us for F’s first pot party,” but I was not impressed.
  • The local kid-friendly diner had a party package, all a-la-carte choices. For about $50 per person, you pick 3 “entrees,” i.e., chicken fingers, pizza, or mac and cheese. Then add $2 per person for milk and soda. Adult beverages? Well, for $25 per person for the first hour, you can have an open bar. Bring in your own cake? Sure, for $2.50 a slice, they’ll plate it for you! By the time I added up the cost for a food, drinks, and cake at this place, it was getting close to $80 per person! I’m not cheap, but $80 a person for tater tots? Nope.

All of this left me wondering why I’m not in the kids’ party business on the Upper West Side? Seriously. Every single place I looked at was almost fully booked for these parties! There were place sold-out for years in advance! And there are no shortage of empty storefronts on Broadway. Anyone want to back me?

In the end, once again, my family and friends proved to be great sports. We had the party at our apartment after all. We hired a server to help us schlep food and drink up to the roof deck. It didn’t rain, although it did threaten to from time to time. We had food delivered from all over the neighborhood: sushi, pizza, chicken wings. The hit of the party was the cake, made by Colleen!

Colleen's Elmo cake!

Amazing and delicious Elmo cake made by Colleen!

Everyone has been so generous to our little guy that day and every day. And I promise, we’re working on being in an elevator building by his 2nd birthday…or maybe his 3rd.

© Copyright 2013 grayhairedmom

  1. Oh no! We all want the moon for our babies, along with the sun and stars too! It is easy for things to add up but it really boils down to the people there and the memories you have forever! (unfortuantely not for the baby)


  2. The cake was delicious. And it was a BEAUTIFUL party and day, Up On The Roof!


  3. Christine Hepner permalink

    Only if you allow it! My theory is that a 1, 2, 3 year old isn’t going to remember all the hoopla. I sure don’t. And I know my parents did a lot for those b’days. It’s more for the Adults. Just sayin’ …:))


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