This article was first published in the April 2015 edition of Ottawa Magazine.
Call them rites of passage, milestone celebrations, or just a big bash with friends and family, parties can be amazing — and stressful — occasions. In this five-part series, Ottawa Magazine looks at today’s birthday parties, proms, weddings, retirement send-offs, and funerals; sources the best caterers, venues, flowers, and more from across the city; and offers tips on modern party etiquette
WITH FILES FROM Amy Allen, Cindy Deachman, Matt Harrison, and Dayanti Karunaratne
FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY BY Christian Lalonde (PhotoluxStudio.com)
PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY BY Jessica Deeks
WITH PARTY PRO Danielle SoucyJennifer Mostrey, left, plays the part of Belle in Danielle Soucy’s party company. Photo by Jessica Deeks
Danielle Soucy is the owner of Fêtes en Boîtes – The Sparkling Party Company, a local business with stores in Gatineau and Ottawa. The business works on two levels: parties can be held in the store in one of the themed party rooms (Captain’s Cabin for pirate-themed birthdays, Royal Tea Room for budding princesses, etc.). Or, if you’re keen on hosting the party in your home, Soucy can send princesses, pirates, and other characters on house calls. Either way, the bash comes complete with invitations, costume rental, and 1½ hours of games and other entertainment with your special guest. (Drinks and tableware are provided for in-store parties.) She got into the business in 2004 when her daughter turned five. “I wanted to make it very special. I couldn’t be a princess — I was 40 years old at the time — so I was a beautiful witch called Chlorophylle.” Her green dress, magic potions, and suitcase filled with surprises were a hit with the kids, and she started to get requests to visit other birthday parties. Soon parents wanted other characters, and Soucy found a charismatic young man at a local gas station to be a pirate. And though she tried to resist offering Disney characters, the demand for Cinderella, Jasmine, and Ariel was huge, and by 2010, the troupe had ballooned to around 30 — including Jennifer Mostrey, above, who acts as Belle. She specializes in igniting children’s imagination, keeping young creative people employed, and making sure your house doesn’t get trashed. Her top tip is to give her a call. “I can help organize a scavenger hunt or give tips for games and crafts. I do it all the time. It is free and I do it with pleasure!”
Celebrating the Years
The Gifts If the invitation says “no gifts,” don’t show up at the bash with a brightly wrapped present. Some party hosts shun gift-giving entirely, while others get creative by asking guests to donate to a charity that’s special to the birthday girl/boy. Karen Wood of Knock on Wood Communications & Events recalls a “puppy party” that saw friends of the 10-year-old birthday girl donating to Loyal Rescue. The local foster-based rescue brought a few of the adoptable dogs in their care to the party and told the children how each one came to be a part of the Loyal family. The Ottawa Humane Society also offers birthday party packages. (So if your kid is asking for a dog, this could be a good compromise.)Photo courtesy FunHaven
The Decor Got time? Got money? Whether you prefer the more time-consuming DIY approach or the click-and-buy option, decor is a big part of children’s birthday parties today. Streamers and balloons? Nope. Think pennants and pinwheels (in the party’s theme colours, of course). For harried parents too busy for crafts, check out local Etsy paper artist Julia Badgley of Cards by JeweleighaB. In business for almost five years, Badgley produces cards and banners with a rustic vibe, but she is open to working with people to create paper products tailored to their theme. She will also provide materials for DIYers. All Badgley’s items can be mailed within three days after ordering or picked up at Badgley’s home.
The Venue More and more often, birthday parties are held outside of the home. The reason is simple: kids make a mess. Top choices for Ottawa kids include Cosmic Adventures, for the super-active preteen set, and Funhaven, which is perfect for keeping everyone happy because it offers rock climbing, laser tag, and bumper cars in addition to bowling and arcade games. The Canadian Museum of Nature has great flexible options for nature lovers.Photo courtesy Clownatec
The Entertainment Send in the clowns! (Or the crocodiles, if you prefer getting up close and personal with cold-blooded creatures and/or are afraid of clowns). Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo has become renowned for its educational, hands-on kiddie events. Clownatec offers a range of age-specific birthday packages (“artistic animations” for those under three years of age, magic shows for older kids) that engage and entertain. For a high-energy event that will amaze and astound, check out the guys at Busker Birthdays. They also offer circus-training sessions — what better way to show your support of their big-top dreams?
The Rules Loot bags are curated creations. Invitations are volatile. (Did you hear about the British kid fined £15 for failing to show up after he had RSVPed?) And at what age can parents leave their kids at the door? As birthday parties become more fussed-over events, etiquette and programming creep into the mix. For example, if the party is held at a venue that has been booked for two hours, you might not want to stop the action to open presents. Some say guests will be disappointed if their present isn’t opened in front of a captive crowd. We say: you’re in charge. If you’d rather keep the party going and open the gifts at home after the sugar rush has subsided, then do so.
EXPERT EDIBLES from Winchelsea EventsPhoto by Christian Lalonde – Photoluxstudio.com
Tired of serving hotdogs and pizza? Gently branch out with kid-friendly (and healthy!) ingredients combined in exciting ways.
- Spanish sliders. Mashed potatoes and ground beef with shredded lettuce, sour cream, and crumbled feta
- Volavanes. Light, flaky pastries filled with tuna, mayo, corn, and peas, with radish garnish
- Mini tres leches cakes. Light cake crowned with whipped cream and fresh berries
Winchelsea Events, 157 County Rd. 31., 613-808-9258 thewinchelsea.com