The Beauty of Backyard Birthday Parties

by | Jul 7, 2013 | Birthdays, It's Party Time, Things I Think, What I Wore Sunday | 17 comments

I love backyard birthday parties. That’s what we had when I was growing up, and that’s what we throw for our own kids now.

Anita jumping for joy at her 4th Birthday Party, held yesterday in the lovely Chicago backyard of my generous in-laws (we’re visiting for the summer)!      

Back when my kids attended our neighborhood preschool, the vast majority of the birthday parties we were invited to were “destination parties” at gyms or skating rinks or kiddie playlands. My kids always had a lovely time, and I am grateful for the generosity of the families who invited us. But I always left those parties feeling like I didn’t know that family any better than I had before. They hadn’t invited us into their home. They hadn’t prepared food to share with us. They weren’t even running the party, that was left to a couple of twenty-somethings in bright blue shirts.

And, wow, it seems crazy to me to spend that much money on a birthday party.

I understand that many people feel like their homes aren’t fancy enough or tidy enough or big enough for a party, and they don’t want a bunch of kids tearing the place apart. But that’s the beauty of a backyard party. You just have to clear a path from the back door to a bathroom. Other than that, you can keep people outside. They don’t see your mess, and they don’t add to it. But you’ve still invited them to your home, and offered them your hospitality, and that’s what counts.

But more than that, I’ve learned to relax more and give people more credit. When I throw a party, people seem happy to be invited to my house. They don’t seem to care if it’s spotless. And they don’t come expecting more than something to eat and for their kids to be entertained for a bit. That’s not too hard. A few piles of things here and there just let people know that this is a real home where real people live. 

Honestly, I am personally LESS comfortable in a perfectly clean house. I’m worried I’ll mess it up somehow, or put my drink down someplace where drinks aren’t allowed, or sit in a chair that’s not for sitting in. But maybe (probably) that’s just me.

I’m always grateful to be invited into someone’s home, even if that home is small or modest. It’s something that bonds us together in friendship. To see where a family lives, to sit in their chairs and eat their food is a meaningful thing. To sit and chat with them at Chuck E. Cheese is nice, but our relationship won’t have progressed much as a result.

I like at-home parties the best, but for people who don’t have a yard at all, going to a party at park nearby their house is a close second for me. It still feels like I’m getting to see a part of how their family operates, since they will have planned and executed the party themselves, rather than being just another guest at the skating rink, just like I am.

We live in LA, which means that backyard parties are usually an option even for my December and February babies. But if it rains we just move the whole thing into the garage. When we lived in Chicago, we hosted winter birthdays in the basement, and no one ever complained.

Some moms feel overwhelmed by the idea of being in charge of a party, or they think they don’t have the Martha Stewart-ness to pull it off. But I say: anyone can do it. You can do it. I do it. I do it six times a year.

And I’ll tell you exactly how I do it . . . tomorrow, because it used to be right here, but great googly moogly it was a long post. So come back tomorrow for a step-by-step guide to Tierney-style at-home birthday parties and ALL the photos from Anita’s Super-Adorable Owl Party.

Since it’s Sunday, here’s what I wore to Mass today and the party on Saturday, because: maternity clothes, living out of a suitcase, and if an outfit works, why bother to think up a new one? If you must know, I also wore it out to dinner on Friday night.


Mom’s dress: Target maternity maxi dress (I wore a sweater with it to Mass, to cover my shoulders)
Girls’ dresses: homemade owl dresses especially for Anita’s birthday from her Nana
hat: J Crew
Mom’s shoes: had to buy from Zappos this week to wear with this dress because it will be too long on me for at least another month or so
Betty’s shoes: Old Navy
Anita’s shoes: God
Bump: 19 weeks (it really is there, you just can’t see it in these pictures!)


Thanks to the ladies at Fine Linen and Purple for hosting the What I Wore Sunday blog link up. Head on over to see what everybody else was wearing.

And check out this guest post written by my friend Monica from Equipping Catholic Families on the same topic over at Great minds think alike! Or, should I say slightly-muddled mothers-of-many minds think alike?


  1. Falling Owl

    I am hosting a back yard birthday party this coming weekend. Last night I was feeling overwhelmed about having so many people at my house and entertaining them. However I love your perspective on a backyard party. Thanks!

    • Kendra Tierney

      Well, if you happen to want to throw a Tierney-style party stay turned for tomorrow's post. It will tell you exactly how we plan for and execute a birthday party!

  2. Anonymous

    I love your outfit….especially the hat. You look great!

    I love backyard/at-home parties as well. That's what we always do…some years they've been indoors (two of my kids have Feb. birthdays), some years they've been at a local park or the beach(because we didn't have a backyard and just had a small house) but I like doing them at home the best. And, that is so true about the bonding that goes on when you are invited into someone's's totally different from always meeting in public areas. I used to get nervous about inviting people in, until I realized that OTHER people have messy houses and piles of clutter as well.

  3. natalie g.

    I completely agree with you about the at home parties. Inviting people into your homes is a level of love and welcoming that you can't find at a Playground World or Chuck E Cheese. Having a party at your home says I care about you enough that I invite you into my home, a reflection of me and my family.

  4. Erica Saint

    Backyard parties are the best! 🙂
    The girls dresses are very cute. Your new shoes are cute, too!

  5. Bonnie

    I definitely agree about parties in people's homes but I don't always love a backyard party. Bugs! Heat! Humidity! Lack of shade! I'm high maintenance.

    • Kendra Tierney

      But you have your new patio slab! Perfect for parties!

      We really lucked out with the weather yesterday, it was low eighties with a bit of an overcast, and not buggy. It was a great day to be outside.

    • Bonnie

      Also, I recently realized that all those themed party pictures I see online and in magazines tend to have one thing in common: MONEY. Those perfectly executed themed parties are perfect because the women throwing them bought X off Etsy, Y from the local bakery, and Z at the party supply store. "Ain't nobody got cash for dat!" I feel a lot better about my themed parties which look a lot cheaper because they are a lot cheaper! My kids don't care if the Sodor "grass" is a green $1 plastic tablecloth from Wal-Mart and I'm not going to pay for actual sod.
      I look forward to hearing your ways, Kendra!

  6. Rosalie Shiffler

    I love your dress! It's so fun and vibrant… I may need to keep an eye out for something like it to stash with my maternity clothes for next time I need them!

  7. Monica McConkey

    Thanks for referring to my birthday parties post at CatholicMom and my gallery…where I'm collecting my birthday posts. I know I usually get carried away…and even by an hour before I'm thinking (why do we do these at home?), but I never really stopped to think how it's a little friendlier…and gives the opportunity to really get to know families, better than the out-of-home parties. Great post, as usual, Kendra! Looking forward to tomorrow's! (…and I wish we lived closer so we could attend each other's parties!)

  8. Rosie

    We've got a backyard birthday party planned for next weekend 🙂 But my (almost) 4-year-old won't decide on a theme!!! I'm pretty sure the theme's going to end up being "Things We Found At the Dollar Store…"

    Also, every time I see a picture of Anita I can't help but smile – she's just the most sparkly, adorable girl!

  9. Anonymous

    I love that your outfit even matches the girls' outfits! Adorable. One of the best things about backyard parties is that after you've fed the little ones all of that sugary cake, they can run around and get all of their energy out. And then you can just hose them off! There really is a level of bonding that happens at those parties that you just can't replace. 🙂 Can't wait to hear all of the details!

  10. Wrapped in Engaged Bliss

    As a young women who hasn't had the blessing of children of her own, however has 6 nieces and nephews. I can honestly say I prefer backyard/basement/garage/at home parties. In your other post I saw your decorations and I thought they were amazing! I hope one day I have the energy to give my kids memorable parties. In the end it is not about the presents, decorations etc. but about how much fun they had, ( I think! )

  11. KAbb

    I love your candor about your outfit and repurposing it during the weekend — thanks for being so real!

  12. Theresa

    Thanks for this (and the post that explains how you do back yard parties). It gave me the courage to try it for my 6 year old this Saturday — her very first "real" birthday party with friends and not just family. I didn't think I could do it, but I love your reasoning and your simple ideas. Our is going to be VERY simple, but I know my daughter will love it.

Submit a Comment

Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

If you’d like to learn more about what Catholics believe and why, and to be inspired by saints from every era all over the world, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of how to teach your kids about the faith in a way that’s true, engaging, and lasts a lifetime, we can help!

➡️ Get my liturgical living checklist for free when you join my weekly newsletter. Sign up here.

This blog contains affiliate links and sponsored posts, for which I receive a commission. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.