Lavish Kids' Parties Get Trimmed in Bad Economy

"In past years we've given a favor -- a bag filled with crap, a lunch box, or something else -- worth about $10 to each kid," said Oztan. "This year we'll be spending much less per child on favors."

The days when Oztan arrived at birthday parties with her kids to find pony rides, clowns and face painters available may be gone, she said.

Corinne Dinsfriend, the vice president and owner of party planning company Over the Top Productions in Southern California, said she's also seen business decline in recent months.

"With the economy not booming, parents are thinking outside the box more when it comes to parties," said Dinsfriend.

But the way parents are downsizing is not in the decor or the catered food, said Dinsfriend, but rather, in whom they invite to their parties. This may mean a decrease in the number of people making the guest list cut -- even if the parties themselves are still as lavish as ever.

"The change I have seen would be that the parties are smaller in numbers," she said. "The guest list isn't as big and it's a much more intimate setting."

Parties Mean Parents, Too, Raise Expenses

For those parents who aren't willing to part with their kids' parties, despite their dwindling bank accounts, they must also now be willing to pay for the parents who accompany their kids to various parties.

"Parents are the biggest difference I've seen between parties now and when I was a kid," said Oztan, 36. "When I was a kid, the parents never stayed for the party; now, if it's a drop-off party, it will be so rare that it will be specified on the invitation.

Oztan says she isn't sure whether parents stay at parties now because they're more overprotective these days or just because they want to enjoy the festivities themselves. But either way, Oztan says it adds an expense to an already costly event.

"Not only does having parents at the party add to the stress, but it makes them much more expensive," said Oztan. "If I invited kids over, I can feed them for 20 bucks, I'll get a pizza and cake and be done.

"But if there are parents there, there's more pressure -- we'll get bagels and lox and a fruit plate and a bigger cake," she said. "It all adds up pretty fast."

Not to mention the price of liquor -- a much-anticipated staple of children's parties.

"I've never seen as much drinking as I do at children's birthday parties," said Oztan.

"I'm talking about mojitos at 10 a.m. in the park."

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