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Old 04-18-2008, 05:09 PM   #1
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Extravagant Parties For Kids

I think this has trickled down to even parents who can't afford it but for whatever reason(s) spend lavishly anyway. Is it for them or the kids? Even if you do have the money what message is it sending ? That Super Sweet 16 show is highly disturbing.

Five grand for a party for a three year old? Memories have to be expensive?


cnn.com

(LifeWire) -- Two years ago, Stephanie Kaster of Manhattan set out to plan the birthday party of a lifetime for her daughter. Granted, little Sophie didn't have many parties under her belt with which to compare it: She was not yet 3.

"I just thought, 'If I go to another paint-a-ceramic-bowl or stuff-a-bear party, I'll shoot myself,'" says Kaster.

So she booked a fondue restaurant, hired a musical troupe to perform as the Wiggles (her daughter's favorite group) and ordered a four-layer cake. Each guest took home a Fisher-Price guitar and custom CD.

The price tag? $5,000.

"I couldn't believe that I'd ended up spending that much," Kaster says.

Some birthday parties now rival weddings in scale and price -- with some costing tens of thousands of dollars. Maybe it's the ever-growing number of millionaires; maybe it's the conspicuous consumption celebrated on reality shows like MTV's "My Super Sweet 16." Whatever the reason, it's keeping Corinne Dinsfriend in business.

She owns Over the Top Productions in Orange County, California, a full-service children's birthday-party planning company. "We really promote a healthy balance of living year round," Dinsfriend says, "but it's OK to indulge your child once a year, because it's about making a memory."

$1,000 birthday cake

Each Over the Top party has a theme and is run by a team trained in child development, says Dinsfriend. Her events -- from tea parties with fine china to military-themed parties led by former Marines -- usually take six weeks to plan and cost as much as $10,000.

That's small potatoes compared with some celebrations. FAO Schwarz, the New York City toy retailer, rents out its store several nights a week for parties. The base cost is $25,000.

Even more extreme is the $10 million that former defense contractor David H. Brooks of Long Island reportedly spent in 2005 on his daughter's bat mitzvah. That soiree, at the storied Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center, featured 50 Cent, Don Henley and Aerosmith, among others.

Other trends: lavishly sculpted confections like those by Elisa Strauss, the designer at Confetti Cakes in Manhattan, who charges at least $1,000 per cake. Invitations are custom-made.

And the activities?

"You can get cotton-candy machines, jumping castles, you can rent a gym or movie theater, or have a real astronaut come, do it at Yankee Stadium ... you can do anything," says Lyss Stern of DivalyssciousMoms.com. She recently organized a fair where 40 high-end birthday-party purveyors pitched their services to parents at the private Park East Day School in New York City.

Wrong message?

Some parents, however, worry that expensive parties for children result in mixed-up values -- and leave many feeling obliged to overspend.

Last year, a group of five parents in St. Paul, Minnesota, started BirthdaysWithoutPressure.org, which promotes simpler celebrations.

"We are trying to raise awareness that lots of parents are feeling pressured to throw bigger parties than they are comfortable with," says co-founder Julie Printz.

"I have friends who've spent $1,000 on a party and then (felt) remorseful. For me, it was more about the insanity in my head. I'd go crazy trying to figure out the perfect craft, special foods, gift bags ... I'd get caught up in this birthday anxiety."

Two years ago when her daughter Emily turned 6, St. Paul stay-at-home mom Laura Forstrom threw her a birthday party for the first time. Emily invited sixteen friends to celebrate at a Color Me Mine ceramics painting center.

"I didn't think all 16 would come, but they did, and it was $15 a person," she said. Add in the cake, favors, pizza and soda, and Forstrom spent over $1,000.

"After we got the bill I was like, 'Oh my God!' It was more expensive than fixing the dog's broken leg. It just got out of control so quickly," she said. "There are so many other things we could've done with the money. ... We haven't had a birthday party for any of our kids since."

This year, Kaster decided to try a slightly simpler approach. For Sophie's party, she booked a small theater that does plays for children, hand-decorated a sheet cake from the supermarket, and got inexpensive favors from a discount store. The whole event cost less than $500, "and everyone said it was the best party they'd ever been to," Kaster says.

"I want to give my children all I can, but it's not a monetary thing," Kaster says. "A $500 party doesn't mean I love them any less than if they had a $5,000 party, as long as they have a good time. And that's what it's all about."
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Old 04-18-2008, 05:11 PM   #2
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Even more extreme is the $10 million that former defense contractor David H. Brooks of Long Island reportedly spent in 2005 on his daughter's bat mitzvah. That soiree, at the storied Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center, featured 50 Cent, Don Henley and Aerosmith, among others.
Hey, blood money goes far!
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Old 04-18-2008, 05:12 PM   #3
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I don't care how much money that guy has, that is just sick in my opinion
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Old 04-18-2008, 05:14 PM   #4
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The entire story is repulsive.

Although I've gotta say that the trust fund babies I encountered in law school, for the first time in my life, were some of the most fucked up people you could ever meet. Good job there, parents!
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Old 04-18-2008, 05:18 PM   #5
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Originally posted by anitram
The entire story is repulsive
I agree. I never had any birthday party that was anywhere near extravagant, my parents never had the money and even if they did I don't think they would have done it. Personally I would have much preferred some of their time and attention any day of the week. That's what matters and what a kid will remember, even kids of the 2000's.

I got a small cake and ice cream and a modest gift and had just family there if I had a party at all.

Isn't it really about parents competing with each other? And about their issues?
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Old 04-18-2008, 05:29 PM   #6
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What happen to the days of having your birthday at Chuck E. Cheese?
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Old 04-18-2008, 05:29 PM   #7
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Re: Extravagant Parties For Kids

Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen


Some parents, however, worry that expensive parties for children result in mixed-up values


Some of the things I read about kids on here leave me shaking my head and wondering if I live in somewhat of a cloistered community, or if I just got very, very lucky.

I've thrown many, many birthday parties, and my daughter has attended many more. They were all very modest affairs. Some were at homes, some took place at outside venues, but I seriously doubt that any of them cost more than a few hundred dollars, tops. And the kids had a great time! I should point out also that her friends come from a wide range of economic backgrounds, and there were probably many whose parents *could* afford to throw extravagant parties, but didn't.

I'm also left amazed when reading various threads about kids who are materialistic and only dress in designer labels, kids who bully or experience bullying, kids who are racist or who experience racism, kids who engage in risky or age inappropriate sexual behaviour, etc. My daughter and her large group of friends experienced none of these things. I often wonder if these things are as rampant as we're led to believe, or if, as I said, we were just very fortunate.
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Old 04-18-2008, 05:29 PM   #8
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Quote:
Last year, a group of five parents in St. Paul, Minnesota, started BirthdaysWithoutPressure.org, which promotes simpler celebrations.

"We are trying to raise awareness that lots of parents are feeling pressured to throw bigger parties than they are comfortable with," says co-founder Julie Printz.
And this is how trends like this spread--peer pressure. I do think this kind of thing is considerably more common (and extreme) in big cities and wealthier areas, but yes, kids' birthday parties in general have become much more of a showstopper affair, and when your kids are going to friends' parties where everyone gets treated to fancy food, professionally organized and outfitted games and entertainment, and lavish take-home gifts, then naturally that creates a sense of pressure that your kids and their guests are going to expect that too.
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Old 04-18-2008, 05:40 PM   #9
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Fuck Capitalism.
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Old 04-18-2008, 06:00 PM   #10
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Re: Extravagant Parties For Kids

Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
She owns Over the Top Productions
Well she certainly picked the right name.
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Old 04-18-2008, 07:04 PM   #11
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A few months ago, we received a "save the date" card for our niece's sweet 16 party and the first thing we noticed was how fancy it was for something that wasn't even an invitation.

Long story short, her very wise father put his foot down when the projected cost of the party hit $6000. Instead of siding with him and holding a smaller party with a realistic budget, her mom canceled the party altogether and blamed dad.

And it's not even just the parties, it ALL of the silly, indulgent things parents do and encourage. The big thing in our area is limo rides as a reward. I cringe when I drive past our local elementary school and see a bunch of 3rd graders piling into a Hummer limo because they were the top fundraisers that quarter when in reality, their parents badgered everyone they know to buy the candy or cookies or in some cases, bought it all themselves so their kid doesn't feel bad.

I can only imagine what these kids are going expect when it comes time to pay for their weddings.
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Old 04-18-2008, 07:14 PM   #12
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Never had an extravagant party, never will. Not even if I could afford it. Don't think Maddy's friends have had over the top productions. Though there were a few Bar/Bat Mitvah's last year that sounded OTT. There's one she didn't attend, where the evening party was on a boat that would, apparently, cruise around the marina. And the marina was an hour from here, so they had to hire buses to take the kids to said marina. Glad she decided not to go to that one. Wasn't even a good friend, just a classmate.

When she was a younger, we just had parties at the house, a few at Chuckie Cheese, and that was about it. There aren't many party-type places out here, and we refuse to spend a fortune - it's a waste & doesn't teach them anything
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Old 04-18-2008, 07:21 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by DaveC
Fuck Capitalism.

What exactly do you mean by your statement?

What economic system do you think is better?


Rushing back to topic >>>

MrsSpringsteen,

Excellent post!
I read an article last year on how children's birthdays are turning into major events way beyond the Christmas Tree gifts.
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Old 04-18-2008, 07:53 PM   #14
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I should move my party agency over there
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Old 04-18-2008, 08:13 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by DaveC
Fuck Capitalism.
I guess that's one interpretation you could get from this, although I don't agree.

However, the media intended a couple of different reactions:

1) One, of disgust, like everyone else here.
2) One, of jealousy, to make you feel that you're not a "good parent" unless you can keep up.

The reality, though, is that this story really doesn't even deserve the attention that it has gotten. Guaranteed, the only people who are putting on these kind of lavish parties are those who are raking in upper six figure incomes, if not seven or more. In that case, this kind of money is meaningless pocket change to them, but their wasteful, frivolous spending is certainly welcome to those who provided the services involved. There is some truth to the term, "trickle-down economics," although I would never endorse it as a matter of governmental tax policy.

Much ado about nothing.
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