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The high cost of children's birthday parties


Children’s birthday parties are no longer child’s play these days. Forget about Sweet Sixteens, the in crowd at these scenes is getting younger and younger.

“You know, pin the tail on the donkey is not that much fun anymore,” says Lexington mom, Beth Sager. She wanted to do something special for her daughter Catherine’s 9th birthday. And it doesn’t get much more special than Princess Sharon , a children’s party planner who specializes in lavish events. The cost? Nearly $1,000.

“Someone said, ‘Oh, you just upped the ante.’ And I was like ‘no, no,no,” Sager says. She won this event at an auction for the American Lung Association. Parties like this one are not unusual for Princess Sharon.

“They’re upscale events. Age appropriate upscale events for toddlers, preschool, tweens and teens,” Sharon says. Recently, Sharon put together a kid’s party at the Ritz Carlton in Boston. The celebration was officially for two little girls celebrating their 4th birthday, but nearly 100 adults attended the soiree in full costume.

“We had an extravagant castle cake, 100-pound candy buffet. We had 30-foot long princess table, and a 30-foot long pirate table with custom centerpieces,” Sharon says.

While Sharon didn’t want to discuss specifics, she did talk some about pricing.

”I have tiers. My parties can run to $700 all the way up to $100,000. I can do extravagant events,” said Sharon.

She says these glitzy glamour galas are not for everyone, and with a background in child development, she makes sure each of her events are age appropriate.

Another popular trend for kids’ parties is a venue like the New England Sports Academy in Westwood. But even the average party has a decent price tag attached to it at $300. For many parents, these prices are outrageous and for those who don’t have a ton of cash, the pressure to keep up can be stressful.

“When I was a kid we were going to Sammy White’s and going bowling, loaded up in the station wagon,” says John Bergantis, owner of Party Favors in Brookline . He’s seen the size of his children’s birthday section grow dramatically over the past 2 years.

“What is the message, is the message I love you more, the more I spend on you?,” ask Child Psychologist Sharon Gordetsky.

Dr. Gordetsky says no matter how wealthy or financially stressed, parents are always communicating important values to their kids. “Parents should not feel pressured or guilty if they decide because of their values or financial situation that they can not spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on a birthday celebration,” Gordetsky says.

While some parents believe you can’t put a price tag on love, experts say when it comes to birthdays, just make sure the focus stays where it should, on your child’s special day.

"Have the good 'ol days of pin the tail on the donkey, with mom's famous homemade birthday cake disappeared? Does it appear the cost for your child's birthday party has significantly increased over the years? Many moms and dads say YES!
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Some photos in this story are courtesy of Kristin Korpos .

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