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Hosting a Joint Double Birthday Party for Kids and Friends

Considering a big gathering for your child and a pal (or sibling)? Here's a how-to guide to handling planning, decor, food, location – and, of course, cost.

Looking to simplify your child's birthday party and save money? Consider having a joint birthday party!

These tandem-style events celebrate two or more kids whose birthdays are near each other. Usually, they're held with classmates or other children who have the same friends. They work well for small kids – because, at this age, you often invite the entire preschool or kindergarten class to parties.

"More parents are starting to have joint birthday parties with other families for their children. This growing trend is the reverse of the 'Let's Outdo the Joneses' mentality," says Jodi Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, a nationally noted firm based in the Boston area. "Parents are returning to sensible and reasonable parties, instead of excessive parties."

These shebangs can cut down costs and reduce the workload – if you divide the tasks between families. Another benefit? Families only have to attend one party versus of several soirees. Hurray!

Wait: Should I do it?

When considering a joint birthday party, first, Smith advises considering whether the birthday kids like each other – and get along. Now, they don't need to be best friends. But should enjoy each other's company and have similar interests.

In a parallel vein, Smith says the next question parents should ask is, "Do I think I can work with at least one of the other parents?"

Realize that when you host a joint birthday party with another family, you'll be giving up some control over the party. "Accept that the party does not have to be perfect," Smith reminds. "Your kids will be happy with 'good enough.'"

Another variation is the sibling joint birthday party – typically, if your kiddos' big days are within a few weeks. Since children have a higher tendency to be jealous of siblings than friends, though, make sure that both kids are on board before chugging ahead.

Also, be sure to point out the perks of having a shared party – like having the party at a fun location instead of at home, for instance, or being able to invite more friends because of the slimmer costs.

Plan the essentials

After you've decided to go for it, sit down with the other family and discuss the party details. One of the most important topics is, of course, budget. Figure out both the overall tally and limits for specific items – such as how much to spend on the invites or decor.

Remember, Smith says: One family's idea of a typical birthday treat might be to hit a specialty bakery and drop $150 – while another may pick up a simple sheet cake from the grocery store.

Next on the agenda? The venue and theme. Smith suggests a neutral location, like a bowling alley or park. This helps both families have more-equal say – and one family isn't bearing the brunt of the setup/cleanup grunt work. Make sure both kids agree and are excited about the theme.

Another important topic is the invitation list. Families should agree on the mutual friends to invite, such as the entire class or group of neighborhood kids. For tandem parties, each child often invites an extra child or two, such as a cousin or neighborhood friend. Smith recommends dividing the costs for the joint invitation list; then, each parent contributes on a per-child cost for any extra kids.

A few words on gifts

Talk openly with the other family about the best way to handle presents. If the party is for two children, then it's fine for guests to give presents to both. However, if a guest wouldn't have attended one of the child's parties, then they do not need to bring a gift for the child they don't know. If the party is for three-plus kids, you may want to have guests not give presents at the party, period: At that point, the piles of gifts can get overwhelming.

Smith recalls a joint party for four boys where each guest was asked to bring only one present for an 8-year-old boy – and the birthday boys each went home with a few presents.

Because of the time involved opening presents – and the fact that the kids will be getting different gifts – Smith suggests not opening presents at joint birthday parties.

The big day is here!

During the party, be sure to introduce any guests who do not know each other and encourage everyone to mingle.

Consider having a separate cake for each child. This allows each kid to choose the cake that he wants – and have a set of candles to blow out. Be sure to sing "Happy Birthday" twice so that each kid gets a song!

After the party, both families should help with cleanup duty. However, the funds should not be settled during the party. Instead, try to square-away money as quickly as possible after the party. Smith recommends parents pay each other with checks instead of cash so that that the money is clearly exchanged, and there can be no question about the amount paid.

"I highly recommend having joint birthday parties," says Smith. "It is a wonderful way to celebrate your child's birthday while watching your budget."

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