There comes a point in most parents lives that a child's birthday party at home no longer becomes an option. Space is the main problem, but also for some the idea of several children trampling through your home can drive fear into even the most easygoing of parent's hearts.
So you need to hire a venue. Here are my tips to finding a perfect venue for your child's birthday party.
Venue finding – The best starting point in finding contacts for venues is the internet. If you just Google halls for hire in your area you will find that many contacts instantly pop up. Another good starting point is your local council's website as they will often have a list of venues in the borough.
Most halls still do all their bookings by phone although increasingly many have email addresses and websites. In my experience people who deal with hall bookings either respond to your booking enquiry straight away or will take ages to respond. Therefore my top tip is that if you haven't heard back from an initial enquiry within 24 hours try them again. Most people dealing with hall bookings are volunteers and may have other jobs so try them at different times of the day to catch them around.
Cost – How much you can expect to pay for a venue can vary dramatically. In my area of Guildford halls start at as little as £10 per hour right up to around £30+ per hour so it is definitely wise to shop around. As a general rule (as with most things) the closer to the town centre the more expensive a venue is likely to be. There is quite often very little difference in facilities and town centre venues can quite often have less parking.
Some venues offer a morning or afternoon booking where you pay a set price for several hours hire. This can work out very good value, for example one venue local to me can be hired for a whole afternoon (4 hours) for £30. Also Village Halls will sometimes give a discount to village residents and some schools will give discounts to parents of the school. Do check with a school booking whether they charge a caretaker fee as that can make it a more expensive option.
So definitely shop around!
Facilities – When booking your hall first decide exactly what you need most. Are you planning to prepare a lot of food at the venue? If so a decent sized kitchen with utensils is a must. If you are planning to prepare most of the food at home and are either plating it up or putting in food boxes then probably just an area to make tea and coffee will suffice. Check that the venue also has enough chairs and tables for the amount of guests coming. Make sure you know where light switches are as they are not always in the most obvious places.
Do check also the acoustics of the hall. If it is very echoey when you are having just a normal conversation then just imagine how loud it will be when there are 20 of so children inside. And don't assume that because a hall is relatively new they will have this sorted. The worst acoustics I have ever encountered was in a new build hall, so definitely check it out if you haven't been there before.
Many parents get very concerned about the décor of the venue. In my experience most venues can look great once you have a few well chosen decorations up and can be transformed into something magical depending on your budget, time to prepare and creative flair. So as long as the venue is clean, dry and safe you can make even the most drab décor look great.
Check how you are expected to leave the hall and where all cleaning equipment is. Also make sure you are aware of entry and exit procedures, where you collect keys from, any security codes and always make sure you have an emergency contact for the venue who is contactable on the day just in case. I have been standing outside venues with parents frantically trying to get security codes to work, alarms going off and with no contact number to call for help – a stress you don't need on the day.
Parking – You will have lots to unload on the day. If you have hired an entertainer then they will also have lots to unload. It is therefore essential that your venue has suitable parking directly outside. Both you and your entertainer will probably have several trips back and forth to the car to get everything you need in and parking more than 25 metres away can drastically increase set up time.
Most guests will also travel by car to the party unless they are all very local and if there is inadequate parking this can delay the start of the party as people try to find parking spaces.
Timings – The majority of children's parties are 2 hours in length. For a 2 hour party I suggest booking the venue for at least 3 hours to allow half an hour set up and clear up time either side. Do check with your entertainer though how much time they need to set up and take down and also ensure you have helpers to help hang decorations and clear up etc so that you don't have to hire any extra time.
Size – This very much depends on the type of party you are having. If it is an active one then a larger space will be required and certainly one that is clear of too many obstacles. For smaller children too large a venue can be quite overwhelming for them and it can also be difficult for the entertainer to set boundaries for the activities. If in doubt check with your entertainer the amount of space they need.
Do ensure that any areas that the children aren't allowed in (e.g. a stage or a room not hired) are cordoned off.
When should I book? - As with anything to do with a party as early as possible to get a good choice. Always contact your entertainment first and check their availability and then venues, as their tends to be far more venues that entertainers to choose from. Bear in mind that Church halls may not hire out on Sundays so that may reduce your choice too.
If you have any tips for finding a great venue do share in the comments below.
If you are looking for entertainment for your child's party then do take a look at the wide variety of themes and types of parties we have on offer at Act One Adventures