Parties for Grandparents' Birthdays

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90th bday party - conflicts about money & planning

March 2011

Our large-ish family would like to have a birthday party for my grandmother who will be turning 90 in May. Grandma is thrilled. There will be 80-100 guests attending. One daughter-in-law has spearheaded the planning, but tensions are arising about how big a production it should be, how much it should cost, and who should pay how much. How do families figure this stuff out? There are 6 children (grown up, obviously) with large disparities in income, but DIL has suggested that each of the 6 contribute $800. But all of the grandchildren are adult as well; shouldn't they contribute? So really, how do we keep the peace and balance the vision of the party--some want an elaborate catered affair, some want a potluck at a park? (By the way, the party will be in So Cal, so suggestions for local resources won't help!) Loving granddaughter

I was on my Grandma's last birthday 94years old, what I remember is everybody was in the party outside; I was the only one was with her sitting in the couch drinking her favorite drink and celebrating her birthday. They made sure to have what they like to drink and eat, but they forgot to do it special for my Grandma. I suggest the money has to be pay per family and have on mind is HER birthday. If was your's what would you like to have in Your party? I wish her happy birthday. Dora
We had a 100th birthday party for my Gran two years ago. It was a blast! Gran lived in Kentucky near Aunt C, one of her 3 children. She had 18 grandchildren, 28 great-greats, plus a couple of G-G-Gs.

Originally, Aunt C was going to host an informal birthday party at her house for whoever could come, since only a few of our family lives within driving distance. But it turned out that everybody wanted to come. All but one of my 18 first cousins came, and they brought all their spouses & kids, many of whoom have their own kids. It was about 60 people total.

Aunt C booked a banquet room at Gran's favorite restaurant, one of those Chinese buffet chain restaurants. It would not have been the first choice of any family members under the age of 65, but that was Gran's first choice and it was also more affordable. Aunt C proposed this idea, and insisted on footing the bill herself since so many people were flying their families in from the west coast, which was a big expense. Nobody in the family is wealthy, and some live very modestly. She and her husband are pretty comfortable compared to the the rest of the family. A couple of the grandkids suggested a 2nd event at Aunt C's house on the day after the birthday party, since most of us were staying for a few days. So we chipped in and arranged for a big load of meat and side dishes from a local BBQ joint. (yum)

My Gran just sat on a comfy chair at both events and had her food brought to her, while everybody took turns paying court and getting their picture made. She had a great time and mentioned several times about how happy she was to see all her west coast granddaughters wearing make-up for a change. It was fun to see all the teen cousins hanging out, some of them meeting for the first time, and just enjoying the family. We all had fun even though like many families there are numerous long-standing disputes and various warring factions. The fact that Aunt C did all the planning really did make it much easier for all of us to enjoy ourselves and not squabble over the details.

You said that for your party, one person is doing most of the planning, and wants each sibling to chip in $600. I would be inclined to let the party planner have the biggest say, assuming that Grandma is happy with the plans, because the planning part takes an enormous amount of time, especially with that many people, and not everyone agreeing. I think the other siblings should feel free to say they can't afford the $600 if they can't afford it, and perhaps an email could go out to the grandchildren asking them to pitch in if need be. On the other hand, if the siblings had to fly to Kentucky for Grandma's birthday, which surely they would want to do for her 90th, it would cost a lot more than $600!! It might be one of those things where everybody should graciously bite their tongues and go with the flow in the interest of family solidarity. G.

I've organized large events & small events long-distance (including a wedding for 500) and it's a pain. Here is my hard-learned advice:

--There is no such thing as ''fair'' in these matters. Really. Truly, you can't make everyone happy. And you'll never have the ''perfect'' option. Aim for something that everyone can live with that won't create a long-term grudge.

--A potluck at a park is a LOT more work than you think & impractical for out-of-towners. Plus you have to get the reservation, rent chairs, hope the weather is not too hot or too cold, arrange restrooms, etc .... all kinds of tiny details that are lots of work.

--The more people, the more detailed coordination is involved and no way to divide the work evenly. Keep it simple. Have it at a casual restaurant or entertainment venue that has the staff, menu & flexibility to easily accommodate different ages.

--The person doing the most work and taking the lead knows the most about your options and has the most enthusiasm. Her or his opinion should carry a little more weight than the rest.

--However, those 6 of you footing the bill are entitled to set reasonable boundaries on the price, food & venue so all attending can be accommodated (if not perfectly). If Marvin is kosher, offer fish as well as ham; if Susan hates Chinese, pick mac & cheese over chow mein. (Past 3-4 vetoes, you're dealing with a control freak who can't be pleased.)

$800 times 6 = $4800, which is $48/person for 100 people. (Trying to get the grandkids to pony up as well is not practical.) That's more than enough. At a Chinese banquet, $48 gets you a sit-down 9 course meal, with lobster. There are thousands of caterers and restaurants in the Los Angeles/Orange County area that can serve a lovely meal for less than that. Think Mexican, Thai, Indian, Chinese, barbecue, deli, Greek ... really, you've got LOTS of options.

If the number attending may fluctuate at the last minute (''baby's sick!''), opt for a buffet rather than a sit-down meal and you'll probably get a better price (and fewer hurt feelings). See if you can get a place that will offer a private banquet room or reserve a full patio for you for a more intimate feel.

As to where, pick up a Zagats for your area. Also, log onto, pick your area, and ask for recommendations. You'll get lots of advice and it's more reliable than Yelp.

My advice: Don't make it formal. Make it fun & festive and easy. Take LOTS of pictures! They will be an eternal treasure ... Been There

80th birthday celebration

Oct 2008

It'll be my dad's 80th birthday next month and he wants a nice dinner with the family. We're not a big family and one of us is a three year old, so any recommendations for a classy, fun, special child-friendly place? We'd do it at home but we're going to be all cooked out from Thanksgiving happening at our house 2 days prior to the big birthday. Would Bay Wolf be a good choice? Thanks, J

Bay Wolf could be excellent, or Jojo next door, though its coziness can make one feel more self-conscious about little kids. You might try Bella Nico in Glenview. I met the owner at swim lessons (he has young kids). He says his restaurant is family friendly and they get rave reviews. (I can't wait to try it!) Finally, Spiesekammer in Alameda is a festive place and great with kids. (German cuisine) Good luck! Hilary