Counting the cost of 'perfect' children's birthday parties.

By Mark Rigby

You love your children and when their birthday rolls around you want to give them a party better than any other, but how much can the dream party cost?

If you ask people who work in the industry the answer is — a lot.

Have your cake and eat it.

Michelle Foord bakes and decorates custom made cakes for weddings, events and, increasingly, children’s birthday parties.

“Birthday cakes now are a centrepiece, a real focus of the birthday party,” Ms Foord said.

She said some parents pay up to $300 for a three-tier cake with a handmade topper, all for a child’s first birthday.

“The handmade elements of the cake is where the cost is involved and that’s a lot of what parents want now — those intricate, handmade, special things on top of the cake,” Ms Foord said.

What is perhaps not surprising is that when the time comes, children seem to eat cake at the same breakneck speed, no matter how it is decorated.

“It doesn’t matter how expensive or how elaborate the cake is, it still goes and it goes just like that,” Ms Foord said.

“Happy Birthday is sung, the cake is cut and, as much as I don’t like to say it, the kids take a bite, throw it on the grass and jump in the pool.

“It’s surprising the amount of money [people spend] and that’s just one element of the party.”


Counting the costs.

  • Custom-designed cake: $150-$300
  • Children’s entertainer: $200-$250
  • Balloons and decorations: $100-$250
  • Other costs: $100-$200Total: $500-$1,000

Entertaining the masses.

Stephen Spiegelhauer has been performing at children’s events and birthday parties for more than six years.

He said, in his experience, parents with only one child were more likely to blow the budget.

“I find they’re willing to spend more money once a year, whereas if they have three or four children then things tend to be toned down or combined,” he said.

In recent years Mr Spiegelhauer has frequently been crossing paths with other performers while on the job.

“People who work birthday parties usually don’t run into each other because they [parents] are only really hiring one person at a time,” he said.

“I’ve started to run into two or three others attending parties, and at anywhere from $200 a piece it’s becoming very expensive.”

As for why children’s parties are becoming so elaborate, Mr Spiegelhauer believed parents were subconsciously competing with each other.

“Someone might come along to a party and go ‘Wow! They’ve got a ponies and a magician, I’ve got to do something’,” he said.

“It might be a form of involuntary competition when you take your child to a birthday party and it’s so extravagant that when you hold one you might feel that you have to [compete].”

Balloon madness.

Balloon artist and decoration supplier Teigan Dennis is convinced the competition between parents is far from subconscious.


“If parents have just been to a party that had farm animals and a jumping castle, when it’s their kid’s birthday they feel like they need to match it, because that’s the going thing,” Ms Dennis said.

She said while her business was more focussed on decorating adult events, some parents spend hundreds of dollars on balloons and decorations for a child’s birthday party.

“If they’re having a pirate party there’ll be a big pirate-ship balloon on the table as well as some matching latex balloons.

“[Sales] have definitely diversified and increased significantly and, instead of just getting that one bunch for the table, parents are getting 10 bunches to go around the whole room.”

Aside from competition between parents, Ms Dennis believed celebrities and social media played a huge part in driving parents to spend up big on birthday parties.

She said when parents saw the extravagant decorations celebrities put on for their children they wanted to emulate them.

“Pinterest and Instagram are very visual mediums, so parents can just jump on there for an hour an find a theme that they want to do,” she said.

“The particular photo they’re looking at looks amazing and they want to recreate it.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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