It’s a party for little kids. How about a $75,000 budget?

One hundred people RSVP for William VI’s birthday party, which was held in a Los Angeles park on a March afternoon. By 12:30 p.m., the fire station-themed event was in full swing, with energetic attendees trying to grab their bags of fire hose, gleefully rolling down slides into a large custom ball pit, detailed with flames and the slogan “Let’s Start Higher.” .”

Preparation for the event began three months ago when Sabrina Maldonado and Melissa Mueller of Stay Golden Design began working with William’s mom and 14 vendors to hammer out all the details.

On the morning of the party, the planners installed a 20-foot-wide wooden backdrop that looked so convincingly like a fire station that one kid tried to open a one-dimensional acrylic door. With permits from the city, they closed off street parking for guests and a food truck, and propped up more than 40 feet of balloon garlands. Guests sat under canvas awnings at long wooden tables, and painted ceramic fire trucks. (A real fire truck eventually showed up, fresh from a party in Brentwood.) There was a drinks station with custom drink stirrers and signature cocktails for the parents, including one called “What the Fire Truck.”

The birthday boy, who was periodically followed by a photographer and videographer, stood next to his mother, eating watery snow (frozen dessert) from a vendor’s cart. He said he didn’t know what his favorite aspect of the party was, but his mom, Katie Provenziano, 39, suggested it could be water ice. “I was the first customer,” said William proudly.

If not all the details were appreciated by the children, the adults would certainly have recorded them.

“The details never cease to amaze me,” said Maisie Basia, a mom in her 30s who has been snapping pictures of the whole thing. She came with her husband, Rich Radford, 49, and their 4-year-old daughter, Harlow.

Mr. Radford mentioned that the level of production had actually changed from William’s fifth birthday party, which was hibachi-themed and featured real chefs and pyrotechnics. “For example, there are no fire dancers today,” he said.

Aga Green, 40, who was waiting in line for the food cart, said about half of the birthday parties she attends with her kids were just as tasteful. “I feel like people celebrate their children more than they celebrate themselves.” Mrs. Green’s 6-year-old daughter, Milla, ran out holding a plush toy from Your Own Dalmatian’s Hay Station. (“Friends!” said Mila, from what she was enjoying the most.)

William’s birthday party represents a level of production that is becoming increasingly popular among a sub-group of Angelenos that organize birthday parties for their children. Or, more often, hire professionals to throw those parties.

Instead of a table in a pottery-painting venue or a backyard bounce castle, the level of decor and the amount of planning involved in a toddler’s celebration can rival that of a wedding.

“It used to be seen as overrated, but now over-praised,” said Lisa Zelkin, founder of Send in the Clowns, a party-planning service in Los Angeles.

Ms. Zilkin got her start 30 years ago, when she supplemented her income as an actress by dressing up as a clown at children’s birthday parties. (she still remembers the birthday boy’s grandparents refusing to be extravagant) in 2005, In the age of cupcakeshas expanded to include decorating and decorating services, which these days seems strange.

Every event Miss Zilkin organizes involves multiple vendors. Their consulting fees start at $350, and soup-to-nuts planning packages start at $14,500. “For an event you just booked, we hire furniture, an artist, a glitter tattoo station, a craft station, a pie artist, a party manager, and a lifeguard—because we have a pool and we have to make sure we don’t have a very average-sized party,” she said.

The escalation of expectations may have something to do with the pandemic. Parents were pinned down for two years and emerged wanting a major breakthrough for their children’s accomplishments.

Then, of course, there’s Instagram. “Social media does the school gossip business,” said Joshua Castillo, a Los Angeles-based parenting consultant. “There was always social media, he used to be the guy who found out what something cost, maybe took a picture, and showed you the bag of goodies from the party.”

And it’s impossible to ignore the influence of the Kardashian family, whose events have introduced new standards for what it means to party. “By the time Kim threw a party for her first child, and it was something that was featured in People Magazine, something changed,” said Ms. Zelkin. (“KidChella,” as this party was called, featured a Ferris wheel and an ill-advised American Indian headdress). “People had this impulse to get to the same level, or to get close to it.”

“A large part of my Instagram feeds are parties,” said Elena Chulbaev, a 31-year-old lawyer. For her son’s first birthday, which she combined with a birthday celebration for herself, she executed an Italian theme. There were lime-patterned tables, blue-and-white Italian-style ceramics, and a boxwood mural wallpaper.

“When I see stuff on Instagram, like crazy parties in Beverly Park, or Mindy Weiss,” she said, referring to the Kardashian family’s event planner, “I get those ideas and suppliers.”

She is not the only one. MESH, a company known for etching custom balls, has been so successful since their first brush with the Kardashians (Kim and Kourtney) that they had to hire a mechanical engineer to develop color-sorting technology for the 40,000 balls they use every weekend. . And after Jamie and Moy Andrade from Balloon and Paper, A.J Balloon Art CompanyCreate a broken Instagram Balloon tunnel in a custom shade of brown for a baby shower hosted by Khloe Kardashian — or “Chloe,” as Ms. Andrade calls her; Even those in the industry who haven’t worked with them tend to use Kardashian’s first names — 70 percent of their company’s business has been children’s parties.

Parties for the wealthy can run for $75,000 or more (some families don’t have budgets, Ms. Zilkin said), but other parents who hire professional planners may spend anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000.

Mrs. Chulpaeff estimated that her son’s Italian-themed birthday party, which she planned herself, cost $16,000. Did not regret the expense. “Every time I look at the pictures, I smile,” she said.

Ms. Chulpaeff grew up in Los Angeles, but even the big stints within her Russian Jewish community didn’t match what she’s seeing at parties now. “A lot of people have been baited the same way I was, that you have all these produced parties related to your wedding, and it sets a new standard.”

From there, she said, it was Pandora’s Box. “You can’t imagine a party without food, a professional photographer, or a beautiful backdrop that everyone can share on Instagram.”

Before the pandemic, Ms. Zilkin said, a perfectionist was driving moms. “The mothers wanted to do it all,” she said. “They wanted to have the best house, school, and throw the best parties. They didn’t want someone else to throw it for them or to look like someone else did. But during covid, moms and dads had a lot more on their plate. Now it’s okay for them to say, “I can’t do this.”

Both planners and parents agree that one thing that hasn’t changed is the celebration of a child’s interest—”Frozen,” sushi, waste management, and mermaids—with a theme.

(Or it could be a parent’s desire for what the child’s best interest would become. Custom-planner Frannie Hudson threw a Ruth Bader Ginsburg-themed party for a 1-year-old in which doilies were placed under balloons to mimic Justice League’s iconic collar.)

Ms Mueller said party professionals also stress that parents usually want the party to make a distinctive visual note. “Everyone wants that sweet moment on Instagram.”

And those moments, according to Ms. Castillo, are eventually noticed by children, and she said she can start asking for features they notice at other parties as early as 5 years old.

“They start saying, ‘I’m going to ask my mom a jumpy house, I want a magician too,’” she said. “They’re boutique shopping — all of a sudden they see what’s available. These kids quickly learn, “These are the status symbols I have to have.”

Ms. Castillo, who has worked with families of all income levels and is the author of Surviving Kids’ Birthday Parties: How Moms and Dads Can Stay Sensible and Still Give Their Young Children Happy Birthdays, notes that she often notes stress or overt anxiety as a lack of Joy among parents who are planning birthday parties. She said these celebrations can be great for strengthening community, but are also seen by some families as networking events.

“There’s almost this awkward social contract that parents think they’ve signed within the group they’re surrounded by,” said Ms. Castillo. “They seem to be under pressure.”

Bridget London, 41, recently brought in a temporary tattoo station, a face painter, a light-up ballroom, and Milo the Unicorn (an Azteca horse with a colorful mane and horns) for her daughter’s fifth birthday. “Los Angeles is so different,” she said.

Mrs. London notes that many schools require that the whole class be invited to a party, which means that it tends to get big quickly.

But there may be something else about the city, too. “I think a lot of people want to make magic for their children,” said Mrs. London. “LA is a place where people come to create fantasies, right? Everyone is some kind of imaginative thinker.”

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