Sometimes when I know a birthday party is coming up I get a little stressed. How many kids should we invite? What is the theme? Should we have it at home or go rent a space? This "celebration" should not be causing so much turmoil. This year we went with an easy solution. We hosted a movie night for a select number of friends for our daughter. Invitees were people that she plays with at school or home. No more than the age she was turning. Six in this case. If she doesn't play with them, then they couldn't come. I didn't want the whole class here just to say that I did it. The movie theme fits all the hoopla and food involved and keeps them busy while each stage of the party goes on. The older kids helped out by working the concession stands and taking tickets.
Lastly we let the kids run all over the backyard before the parents arrived. It was the best party yet. The kids had fun and the adults just went with the flow.
I don't think that the kids noticed that it wasn't a 5-star event. They were happy to be together to eat junk food and play. Maybe parties need to be less stressful and more fun. Oh....and cost under $50. I love that!