I am a strong believer in the birthday week. Or even month, if you are so lucky. That way, you don't have to stress about one big celebration. You can spread it out. Have the family birthday cake, the friend dinner, the work happy hour.
Josh's weekly "family dinner" turned into a dual birthday celebration a few days after his birthday proper. Josh and his friend Elise each got to choose a favorite entrée. Josh chose jambalaya, which was thick with shrimp, sausage, and chicken - and spicy, almost to the point of too spicy, but not quite. Kind of a daring tastebud adventure. Elise chose timpano (cheesy baked pasta with sausage). Paired with lots of seasonal salads and crisp, cool wine, we were full and happy. Even the hot weather and mosquitoes couldn't tame our jolly spirits.
After the large meal, we had two desserts. Sure, we were already full. But our friend Kira handled the desserts, and since she is a trained pastry chef, we found the room. Josh chose donuts, Elise chose a chocolate cake with an inner boiled frosting, chocolate frosting, and raspberry sauce. Now I can't wait till the next birthday.