Monday 16 September 2019

'It was like a wedding... there was even an event management team' - How much Irish parents are spending on Communions

Dave's Wood-fired Pizza
Dave's Wood-fired Pizza
Bouncy castles are a popular item that families rent out for special occasions like parties and communions
Yasmin Khan at Teddy’s Ice Cream in Dun Laoghaire. Picture: Arthur Carron/Collins
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

First Holy Communion celebrations are big affairs for many Irish families, with some parents spending anything over €195 for kids’ entertainment alone.

Magicians, face painters and bouncing castles are all popular choices for Communion after-parties, and that’s before you’ve even thought about food, or the family's sartorial choices.

Pizza vans, ice cream vans, and caterers, all now popular options for communion and confirmation celebrations, and birthdays, are often booked months in advance.

Some parents, willing to stretch the purse strings even further, even opt to have their party serviced by staff.

"I did a rich person's communion party and it was like a wedding,” one entertainer told “There was even an event management team to put the whole thing together."

"The party itself had all the trimmings… A lot of communions have just gone a bit mad," the entertainer added.

Julianne Brogan from Black Sheep Foods, a catering company in Dublin, tells that some of its communion bookings this year were made as far back as last year.

"Communions have definitely turned into a full-on affair. All our weekends for Communions are booked up six months in advance."

"We're non-stop. We had a communion party recently and the people had us booked in from a catering they were at last year. We generally get a booking a year in advance."

"We do barbecues and a kids menu with things like homemade sourdough pizza and sweet potato chips. For adults we do barbecued or grilled meats or big vibrant salads, and desserts like chocolate pudding pots."

"Last week we had a Communion with 45 adults and 21 kids. They've turend into big affairs. They're great fun to do."

"It's a celebration for the children, it's like having a big birthday party. Grandparents, aunts and uncles come up for it so it's a big occasion."

At the higher end of the scale, people can choose to have staff service the event, while others opt to order everything in platters and cut out the staffing costs.

Hamish Urqhart (45), owner of PartyWizz, an entertainment booking website, says Irish parents are spending up to €400 on entertainment.

Increasingly, parties are planned a year ahead of time, and parents who leave their planning to the last minute can find it hard to source entertainers who are free.

“It’s big business. The whole children’s entertainment and party market is worth €1.5 million,” Urqhart says.

“There’s huge competition [among parents]. You have to put on a big show for your kids. If you went to a party with a magician, you might want the same - if not better. It’s very much keeping up with the Joneses.”

Paul Furey from Really Grand Events said magic shows, face paintings, or balloons can cost around €195 for 90-minute sessions, but costs can be higher for larger parties and longer spells of entertainment. 

"Communion business is growing," says Dave Lennon from Dave's Wood Fired Pizzas, who caters at parties for a minimum cost of €600, which provides 60 pizzas for adults and children alike.

"You might have a bouncing castle there. Depending on the crowd and how much people want to spend, people might have an ice cream van there as well. So they have pizza for main, then ice cream for dessert."

"Pizzas are a big choice with kids these days. We do a special, and we do the Hawaiin with pineapple which children like."

"We do an artisan pizza, it's wild yeast not artificial yeast. Each guest comes to the trailer and they put the order in. We have the seasonal special, and people get exactly what they want."

"We drive in, take the order, and provide the oil and herbs to season and taste. The host can actually look after the guests."

"There's a growing demand in areas like Tallaght, Kingswood, and Saggart, for pizza parties. Often people combine together to get the numbers up and we do a menu to suit all."

Meanwhile, Yasmin Khan from Teddys Ice Cream says families hire out their company vans for communion celebrations at a cost of up to €345.

"It's a really popular thing; the 12th of May this year was a really busy day for Communions."

"We've been doing them for six years. For the last two years in particular, communions are really popular for us. People can have ice cream, popcorn and candyfloss. The ice cream is the event, and the child can come into the van so it's interactive."

Meanwhile, other families opt to take their after-party to a hotel. Communion parties at the Red Cow Moran Hotel, for example, are often booked up before Christmas.

A spokesperson for the Red Cow Moran Hotel said: "We have been catering for these special family celebrations for nearly three decades and find the same families returning time and again."

"We actually have three types of ‘celebrating family’: the family who goes for the private event space to host their own party in either the hotel or the Inn, the family who books ahead to have lunch in our restaurant Tom’s Table and finally the third family type who comes in for Sunday Carvery in the Red Cow Inn."

"Party sizes can range from small and intimate (just the family themselves) to larger private events of up to 100 guests who go for our all inclusive packages."

"Our event spaces for the key communion dates tend to fill up very quickly, we usually place advertising in September as the schools reopen and these are more often than not fully booked for private parties well before Christmas."

"The private party is usually the one where all stops are pulled out with themed cake and decorations, entertainment and even a candy cart. Unicorns have proven to be quite popular this year."

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