All out: Xavier Montano at his first birthday party. No expense spared: Victoria Montano with her son Xavier at his first birthday party. Photo: Mama Privee/mamaprivee杭州龙凤论坛m.au
Pocahontas was there, and plenty of teepees too, and a balloon artist and a face painter and a petting zoo with 35 animals. There was a cowboy and Indian photo booth, and craft stands, and Wild West-themed snacks, plus oodles of “gorgeous champagne and incredible food” for the adults.
When little Xavier Odillo Maher turned one recently, his mum spared no expense.
“For me hosting any party is about doing things beautifully,” says mother Victoria Montano, co-founder of parenting website, Mama Privee. “Throwing a beautiful party, where no detail is missed is basically just an extension of how I live my life.”
The cost? “Well, let’s just say that it was an amount that would make people feel uncomfortable,” she says. “But it’s hard to put a price on the first birthday of your only child.”
From Humvee limos to harbour-front high teas, kids parties aren’t what they used to be, with bobbing-for-apples giving way to chocolate fountains and design-your-own-muffins.
“It’s become like weddings now,” says children’s performer Andre Pech, of Sydney company Superheroes Inc, which does 50 kids parties a week.
“You know how you have bridezillas who want everything because their best friend had it? We now get people calling and asking what their friends had for their kids party, and then asking for the next level up. If their friend had two entertainers, they want three. If their friend spent $2000 they want to spend $3000.”
Pech even provides a kids movie-making service. “It’s a portable green screen movie-making studio which we bring to your house,” he says. The cost: $2685 for four hours.
“We’re definitely moving away from old-fashioned parties to the big event,” says kids’ caterer Anya Webbe, who recently helped at a party for 25 four-year-olds in Camden. “It had a Frozen theme, and the mother had a stylist come in and do the whole thing, with really elaborate draped decorations and themed cakes and lunch boxes.”
Webbe’s fee was $1400; the stylist cost another $3000. “Parents are time poor,” Webbe says. “And they don’t spend as much time with their kids as they used to, so when they do they want to make it really special.”
One-upmanship is also a factor. “People see what other people are doing and they want to emulate that.”
Parents are also having fewer children and having children later, with lucky kids subsequently occupying a more exalted status than ever before.
“With the Frozen party, the mother had tried for 25 years to have a child,” Webbe says. “So every year at her birthday, she counts her blessings.”
Those blessings now extend to the Park Hyatt, where a friend’s eight-year-old daughter was recently taken to high tea ($49 a head; $65 if you want champagne with it). And while you’re at it, why not get a limo to drop the tots off?
“We do lots of kids parties,” says Hathan Naamo, a driver with Wow Limos, which charges $1000 for four hours in a 20-seat Hummer. “We’ll take kids to the movies or to the playground or bowling. We give ’em lollies and soft drinks. They put the music up – they love that.”
But such extravagance is “a bit grotesque”, according to Lane Cove mum Hilary Heffernan. “There is something wrong with our generation, where everything has to be micromanaged and bigger is better. And we have more money now than our parents did – our parents could never have afforded the $1000 kids party – and that means you can do the ‘prestigious’ thing, along with getting the 4WD and having two cars in the garage.”
Hefernan recently threw her five-year-old, Joe a birthday party,paying $239 for a Superhero to entertain the kids for an hour. “That means I have time to talk to the adults,” she says. “Also, Joe is my third child, so I am a bit over pass-the-parcel and musical chairs.”
Joe, she says, would be happy with just a few friends and some basic games. “They really don’t care if the party is elaborate and expensive.”