scorecardA kids' party planner for the rich shares what makes or breaks a children's bash and the outrageous asks she's gotten
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A kids' party planner for the rich shares what makes or breaks a children's bash and the outrageous asks she's gotten

Mark Ellwood   

A kids' party planner for the rich shares what makes or breaks a children's bash and the outrageous asks she's gotten
Careers5 min read
Duron and Christine Harmon with their son, Cobe.    Ferdinande Fotography
  • Christine Harmon founded her own events company, ChrisFête, after her wedding didn't go as planned.
  • She specializes in high-end children's parties that cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000.

By her own account, Christine Harmon's wedding in 2016 was a "disaster." The arrangements were wrong when she saw the flowers on the tables, but it was too late to swap them out. Then the start time for the ceremony was delayed by the late arrival of the chairs, which were delivered with minutes to spare.

"They had to go all the way across Philadelphia, on Memorial Day weekend, in the middle of Friday traffic, and get the rest of them," Harmon told Business Insider. "It was a mess."

The misfires actually inspired Harmon. "I'm very type A, and I didn't think it was as good as what I could've done," she said. "There was a coordinator on-site, but I learned the hard way that you're just a number to them." Two months later, she set up her own events company, ChrisFête.

The mom of five sons quickly identified a smart, lucrative niche: high-end children's parties. Her team of nine throws at least one party a month, and the budgets start at $10,000, but some clients have spent $30,000 or more, even for parties with just a few children.

Harmon throws parties for families across industries, but she has a word-of-mouth client base within the NFL through her husband, free safety Duron Harmon. Many of her husband's teammates have the budgets for bigger children's bashes and seek out her services.

Harmon got her start at the Plaza Hotel

Harmon studied hospitality management and worked as an events assistant at the Plaza Hotel where she first encountered wealthy children and, more importantly, their parents. They often questioned every aspect of the parties Harmon and her team were hired to handle. The offspring could be just as demanding.

Now planning events alone, she spends around two months prepping each party, but some parties have been requested within the same week. She works between 20-40 hours a week, depending on the complexity of the event and whether travel is involved.

The themes align with the child's — or parents' — interests

a birthday party for a 5 year old with a Toy Story theme
A "Toy Story"-themed birthday party.      Leosage Images

Harmon likes to meet and understand the whole family before suggesting a theme.

The ChrisFête team has thrown a five-year-old's "Toy Story"-themed party, complete with Buzz Lightyear-adorned cupcakes and cow-spotted balloons, as well as a party for a Hot Wheels-loving three-year-old, with an inflatable truck-shaped slide.

A one-year-old's Hole-in-One event, though, was likely as much about the parents' desire to produce a future Masters pro as the baby's interests, with its own mini putting green, ball pit, and 19th Hole-style refreshment station.

a photo backdrop for a baby
Cobe's 1st birthday party.      Ferdinande Fotography

She said she likes to host unique parties for her own children, as with her son Cobe's first birthday party. "When he smiled it just reminded me of a baby koala, so I took that and created a koala-themed first birthday," she said.

a baby on a blanket at a birthday party
Cobe's 1st birthday party.      Ferdinande Fotography

The theme for his second birthday was Itsy Bitsy Spider. "There wasn't anything online I could draw inspiration from. I had my graphic designer make his invitation and gave it to all the vendors to execute their elements — we created our own customized Itsy Bitsy Spider pieces."

a backyard pool with a bouncy castle in the yard
Cobe's 2nd birthday party.      Kim Hymes Photography

There's one aspect of any kids' party that matters more than everything else

The key to any successful children's party is simple. "You have to entertain the kids for it to be fun for the guest of honor and their friends," she said. "I hate going to a kids' party where all they do is run around, and then it's time to cut the cake and say goodbye."

a kids birthday setup with a Sing theme
A "Sing"-themed birthday party.      Fuertes Photography

A ball pit is the best distraction for younger kids, and a bouncy castle will occupy even pre-teens. Magicians are a staple, and she even once hired an exotic animal handler for an Australian Outback-themed party, who showcased small reptiles and a baby alligator.

A trick when hiring face painters is to ensure one child is ready-painted when the others start arriving to inspire the rest of the attendees to ask for it, too.

Scheduling is crucial and always built around naptime, usually from 12 noon to 4 p.m. or so, and no longer than that. "They'll get bored, and if you want to get good photos, you need to work around naptime."

It's also important to ensure any entertainment is programmed until at least the final half-hour of the event. "Otherwise, a child might go up to get their face painted at the end, and they've gone," she said. "Now they'll cry, and it's all your fault."

There's no request that's too outlandish

a table full of white cakes with pink decor
A cake spread at a 1st birthday party.      Haley Rynn Ringo Photo

Harmon's crew occasionally receives an outrageous request. One client had a pet emergency and requested backup. "She said, 'My dog poop people didn't come this week, so could my staff go around and pick up her dog's poop?'," Harmon said. "I don't have dogs, so I'm not picking up anyone's poop. But one of my girls was fine with it — she's a team player."

Last-minute food requests are commonplace and irritating — one client asked for donuts during set-up, Harmon said, and so the party crew offered to drive to collect some and risk the party starting before the backyard décor was completed. A family member instead was able to pick them up.

There's always a bar for parents since the younger kids she typically caters to will be accompanied instead of dropped off. The adults can be trickier than their offspring. "One time we had a mimosa bar, and someone asked for coffee — I said 'There's no barista here'," she said. "But our hostess was so sweet, and she went to make them coffee."

Every party should end the same way

Every event ends with a rousing round of "Happy Birthday." "It's the cue, the unspoken time to exit, so typically, we do it right before the end. When we do the cake and remove everything from the dessert table, guests know it's time to leave."

Even though the parties only last a few hours, guests pay for the memory of celebrating a milestone. "If you're hiring us to do a first birthday party, you know the child won't remember it, but I'll guarantee the parents do," Harmon said. "It's more to us than just a party, it's something that will be passed down to your family for so many years."