About a dozen or so families from our church and community get together once a year during Memorial Day weekend to have a large group backyard camp out. Our friends have graciously organized this memory making tradition for several years now and I just had to share the how-to’s of a successful event.
You have several decisions to make about your event before you send out those invitations. The following are geared to a party with many families- as in 10 or more- but use your judgement on how they apply to your situation:
- guest list size (if you’re from a large community of friends, like a church, you’re going to need limits). Camping is most challenging for the wee little ones so our event has an age requirement. Invites are sent out to families with children older than 2 years. Families are growing and many have children of a variety of ages- invites include families with children whose oldest is over 2 years. It’s up to the parent to decide if their 3 year old and 1 year old are able to hand it. This worked for us. Not everyone was happy but our hosts also have a bonfire in the fall and invite over 100 guests. Also, take into consideration how big your property is and how many tents it can fit while still allowing for recreation and bonfire.
- recreation. Make available and encourage your guests (via the invitation) to bring balls, mitts, lacrosse sticks, ladder ball, frisbee, horse shoes, etc. Be sure to consider safety too. Our friends have a very large property and we can always find a space to toss a ball with out a little one getting a knock to the head.
- chairs and tables. Do you have them? Do you need your guests to bring their own chairs? Put chairs needs on the invitation but borrow a table.
- movie. We like to project a movie on the back of the barn/garage as a concluding event for the night. Bags of popcorn are popped and pre-made prior to the event for easy distribution to the kiddos. Our kids are all under 12 so we pick a movie with a rating of g or pg and try to find a gender neutral theme. Don’t forget you’ll need a speakers/amp, dvd or blu ray player, and a projector. About 3 families contribute to getting the speakers, movie, projector, and player so don’t worry about asking for help to make a movie happen.
- dinner. TWO OPTIONS. You can choose to have your guests bring their own dinner or you can purchase hot dogs and buns to roast on the fire (just the dogs, not the buns). Either way, always encourage your guests to bring a side dish to share (all food plans should be communicated via the invitation). Be sure to provide condiments, drinks, cups, utensils, napkins and plates. A great way to do drinks is to get a giant jug (like the huge Gatorade container coolers) and fill it with water. Have crystal light single packets on the side. This’ll appease juice and water drinkers.
This year we brought our own dinner and a side to share. (think kabobs, chicken, shrimp, hot dogs, sausage— but someone even brought a pizza!)
6. breakfast. find a few friends to bring their coffee makers (you will need a few) and plan to serve fruit, cereal, milk, OJ, bagels and cream cheese. Don’t forget the coffee, cream and sugar.
7. the expense. $$$$ If you want to foot the bill and are able to do so that’s great. But with such a large group this event could take a toll on the wallet (if you have large numbers). In years past, with 12-ish families, the property host asked for $15-$20/family to cover food expenses when dinner and breakfast were “provided”. If guests are bringing their own dinner, the property host would ask for $10/family. But be sure to make that clear via the invitation. Include a note on the invite “Bring your own dinner and side to share. S’mores, Breakfast, drinks, plates, cups, utentsil and condiments will be provided. To help host our event, please bring $10.00 per family”.
8. rules. Fire is a danger and our group has small children. Decide if you want to include rules on children roasting their own food or even throwing in paper plates and other burnable trash. Kids are drawn to the wonders of fire and once one child starts ‘playing with fire’ you will have many flocking to the flame. As dusk begins, the danger increases. Perhaps setting limits by age would work for your group. No one under 14 years old can roast or toss trash into the fire. Include fire rules via the invite and then remind parents at the beginning of the party (or send out an email just prior to the event)
9. house accessibility/usability. Is this an outdoor party only? Inside only for restroom use? Decide those limits or you’ll not only be cleaning up your property but you might find disarray in your house the next day. You can communicate this via the invite or you can make a sign. Our host has a bathroom right near her side door so she has that door open, others are locked, and the hall that extends past the bathroom is gated off to deter little people from roaming the house.
10. Invite your guests! I love that evite.com allows for messages to guests and even has sign ups for food etc. You can send as many messages as you need too. Sending a snail mail invitation is great but there might be too much information to include.
Hope this was helpful! Now, indulge me as I share some of our good times!