Over-the-Top Birthday Parties


Frieda Schweky 


I’d like to start off by reintroducing myself. My name is Frieda Schweky, and I’m a wife, mom, photographer, and part-time writer. Although my work life mainly consists of photoshoots and events, I like to write this monthly column to help keep a pulse on the community I’m living in and servicing. Each month, I, along with the help of my Instagram following, have been choosing a light or semi-light hot topic for this column. Then I use my social media platform (again) to crowd-source different opinions on the month’s chosen topic. Now, let’s get into it: 

I don’t know if I could pinpoint exactly when birthday parties started getting so “extra,” but I’d say that pop culture and social media have a lot to do with it.  


My Personal Perspective 

From a parent’s perspective, I feel blessed that my children’s friends have thrown very understated and modest parties that my kids really enjoyed. If they went “all out” I think I would feel pressured to do the same, even if it wasn’t in my budget. Also, my kids may feel there was a lack in whatever I put together because kids, just like everyone else, compare.  

As a photographer, I attend many extravagant birthday parties. I feel as though that’s what my clients can afford and/or that’s what their friends and family do as well, which it usually is. I say, “Live and let live.” Everyone has different standards of what seems normal to spend on a car, a house, clothing, and yes, events too. (Even events that seem frivolous and optional such as a child’s birthday celebration.) I also know that throwing extravagant parties definitely creates a lot of business for the events industry, which primarily is made up of small businesses such as mine. So, that’s not a bad thing in my book!  

Let’s see what some of my followers and fellow community members have to say. 


Adele Franco 

I say, “Do what makes you happy.” You gave birth and raised your children – you should be able to celebrate them any way you please. We shouldn’t shame people who go extravagant, just like we shouldn’t shame people who bring ices to a park and call it a day. Some of these events look wonderful. No one should judge extravagant parties if the parents want to do that for their kid. No one should count somebody else’s money. 


Elior Navon 

Can we just go back to normal regular kids’ parties?! Kids are happy with whatever you give them, like cartoon-themed napkins and plates from the dollar store. They don’t mind one bit. Also, let’s talk about the swag bags. Why does everyone need personalized merch now? What happened to the kids’ goodie bags with a juice box, a snack, and stickers? I definitely feel the pressure to always make an extravagant party. I literally feel like I have to go all out for all of my guests. It doesn’t even become about the kids anymore! It used to be just feeding the kids pizza, French fries, and cake. Now I feel like I have to make salads and a whole adult menu, as well. I apologize for the rant. I just miss my childhood when things were simple, affordable, and easy.  


Joyce Cohen 

Having an over-the-top birthday party can be really exciting and memorable. However, these parties can also be really expensive and stressful to plan. You might feel pressure to make everything perfect, and it can be hard to manage all the details. Additionally, it can be tough to keep up with the expectations you set for yourself, especially if you’re trying to outdo previous parties. 

Another potential downside to having an over-the-top birthday party is that it can sometimes feel like you’re putting on a show for other people instead of enjoying the day for yourself. It’s important to remember that the party is about celebrating your life and accomplishments, not just about impressing others. Ultimately, it’s important to find a balance between celebrating in a way that feels meaningful to you and not putting too much pressure on yourself to create a perfect event. 


Casey Dweck 

Planning a child’s birthday is a big deal for many parents. It’s a day you brought a life to the world and you want to celebrate it. It also gives a reason to have a get-together with friends and family. I’ve realized over time that the party you end up with ultimately all depends on your budget.  

I personally see lots of stunning parties that I would love to duplicate for my own. But when I saw the prices of all these over-the-top things, I realized it just wasn’t fitting into my budget. As a single mom planning my child’s first birthday, I had a bunch of ideas saved on Pinterest and Instagram, which I collected from time to time over the months. When the time came and I started to price out different vendors and options, I realized that this over-the-top party wasn’t something I was able to afford. Even if I was doing some things myself, I knew it wouldn’t look like how I wanted, and I preferred to avoid that stress. So, I went with a smaller party and a simple theme and I tried to make it as beautiful as I could.  

The truth is, I know regardless of how big or small the party is, it’s the memories that will last. 


Gayle H. Setton 

These birthday parties are getting pretty ridiculous. The parents may not intend for this, but ultimately extravagant parties place unnecessary pressure on others to do the same. It’s not fair to the parents or the kids. The kids see it and they want the same. If the parents can’t afford it or maybe even don’t have the brain capacity to throw such a large-scale event for a simple occasion like a birthday, they’re instantly disappointing their child or embarrassing them if they throw a simple modest celebration.  

I can’t decide who I feel worse for in these situations, the parents or the children. Either way, I think it’s a lose-lose situation. 


Henriette Sasson 

Short and sweet – I think if you have the means for a fancy celebration, for sure go for it. Nothing wrong with it. Yes, it can make other moms feel bad or jealous, but if it makes you happy to do an over-the-top party for your kid, go for it. I’m sure a lot of parents will say, “But my kids are happy with Dollar Tree decorations!” And, I’m sure that’s true, but that is still no reason not to have a crazy party if you can and you want to. And it’s no one’s business! If it makes someone jealous, that’s really their issue… 


Rena Golden of Bashes by Rena 

Every family has the right to throw themselves an “over-the-top” birthday party, which I like to call a “dream” party. Each one has their own version of what their best party is, and I work with the whole community to plan each family their ultimate “dream” party. I plan a variety of different kinds of events that have different themes, including dance parties, petting zoos, bouncy houses, magic shows, spa day, sports, and more. These parties can be in a variety of venues including a client’s home or backyard, a local dance studio, or sports facilities. My goal is to create and accomplish each client’s individual “dream.”  


Parties are unique to each client and can have it all, and I have done it all. However, in my opinion the most exciting and fun parties for participants and the birthday child are the ones where the children themselves are the focus. I am proud to say that the parties I plan are “all about the fun,” whether they are “over-the-top” or not.  


The more I worked on this article and thought about this topic, the more pro – any kind of party I became. We shouldn’t focus on what sets us apart and who has more or less. I don’t believe young children should do that either. I’ve thrown children’s birthday parties for under $100 that my kids and their friends have loved. And some years I feel the urge to put more money and effort towards a party and those, too, are memorable and enjoyable.  

We should all do what feels right to us in the moment. We’re all blessed. Some with skills, some with money, and some with both! If you really want a giant balloon arch for your kid’s birthday but can’t spring $400+ to have a professional do it, there are countless video tutorials on YouTube that can teach you to “DIY” (do it yourself) on a smaller budget. Whether you hire a professional photographer or snap a few pictures on your phone camera, the important thing is making memorable family moments. Just like we don’t want our kids judging each other on what kind of backpack or snacks they bring to school, we should set an example and not judge or comment on how much or little someone spent on a celebration.  



Want to help me choose next month’s topic? Follow along on Instagram @friedaschwekyphoto.