24 Parents Nail How '80s & '90s Birthday Parties Were Different From Today's

As a kid, I loved my birthdays. I remember inviting a handful of friends over to my house, and we’d play musical chairs and eat my mom’s homemade chocolate cake (with the same ballerina cake topper on it every year). These days, kids’ birthday parties often aren’t what they used to be… to put it lightly. There’s a lot of pressure to make them elaborate and Gram-worthy — and even more over-the-top the next year.

We asked our Scary Mommy readers on Facebook what they remember about their birthdays in the ’80s/’90s compared to kids’ birthdays today — and it brought us back to our childhoods.

Keep scrolling for their nostalgic and spot-on responses.

Writer Sarah Bourassa poses in front of her homemade birthday cake at her sixth birthday party.

Sarah Bourassa

The venue was usually (*drum roll, please*)… your house. Or McDonald’s.

“When I was growing up, it was a special treat to be allowed to have a birthday party at all. They were ALWAYS at home and not the least bit extravagant.” — Christine Abitabile

“When I hit the double digits, I started having at-home parties. All of my friends would come, my mom would grab some pizzas and pop, and my grandmother would play bingo with us.” — Felicia Williams

“I had my birthday party at McDonald’s. All we needed was McDonald’s PlayPlace and a Happy Meal toy.” — Patricia Anderson

The food, decorations, and entertainment were a bit more “homegrown.”

“My birthday parties consisted of pizza, a big jug of fruit punch, and homemade sheet cake. We would play some games (like musical chairs and freeze dance) and call it a wrap!” — Liz Ryan

“Crepe paper in the ’90s… Pony rentals today.” — Donna Kawa Hall

“Back then, if you had themed plates and napkins, it was high-end.” — Crystal First

“When I was a kid, we could have played Barbies for two hours and had cake and pizza — and I would have been thrilled. I feel like that wouldn’t be enough nowadays.” — Christy Scott Schwager

“I got to choose what Mom made for dinner, had birthday cake for dessert, and got to open my present after cake.” — Scott Olson

“For my birthday, I got a sheet cake and a piñata in the park … Nowadays, it’s a little over-the-top, like the time we rented out a hipster mini-golf park, ordered a golf-themed cake from a lady who’s won Food Network baking contests, and had an open bar for the parents.” — Amy Ro

“It was definitely more homegrown … The best parties were at our house, painting each others’ nails, having some pizza, and watching a movie …” — Sarah Conlon

You opened gifts at the party in front of everyone.

“We opened the presents at the party instead of the parents wheeling them away to take home still wrapped … Kids love to see the presents. Let’s change this!” — Angela Lennox Gant

“I like how most of the parties now don’t make a big fuss about the gifts [like they used to].” — Ashley Bungard

Goodie bags weren’t really a thing.

“Now it seems like every parent has to out-do the next with … a goodie bag filled with toys for each kid to take home.” — Lynda Sorensen

“Gifts were only for the birthday kid. No one got party bags. When and where did that even start?” — Karen Woodruff

You didn’t invite your entire class.

“I remember inviting three classmates to my 7th birthday. When my kids turned 7, I was told by their teachers it would really be best to invite the whole class or none.” — Christy Scott Schwager

“My kids have never been invited to a party with only a handful of kids. When I was growing up, parties would be five or six kids, not 20.” — Patricia Fairbairn

The parties weren’t nearly as expensive.

“Growing up, I don’t remember having a party every year. If we did, it was just having a few friends over … Now, for my kids, I’m spending $400 (easily) on a themed party at a venue.” — Jana Lavoie

“For one of my daughter’s birthdays, we hired a caterer, entertainer, and ice cream truck. Ridiculous and completely unnecessary!” — Liz Ryan

“Gone are Capri Sun pouches, hot dogs, and Slip ‘N Slides. Now you have to spend hundreds for parents to even entertain the thought of bringing their kid.” — Kayla Marie

“Parties have gone from a $50 limit to thousands!” — Colette Garcia-Palacios

There was less pressure and less competition — and more focus on just having fun.

“Based on what I’ve experienced, I feel like there is pressure to ensure that all the guests have a good time … and to make the next year’s party bigger and better.” — Crystal Culp

“At ’90s parties … there was not a beige backdrop or hashtag in sight. They were memorable, cheap, and for the kids.” — Heather Evans

“My mom didn’t give an F what anyone thought and didn’t post about it on social media because it wasn’t around then.” — Claudia Celina

“There wasn’t an emphasis on perfection … for social media. Kids just played and had fun.” — Jennifer Murphy Robertson

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

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