Keeping birthday costs low
"I learned long ago that the birthday party ends up becoming an elder people's party..."
I  learned long ago that the birthday party ends up becoming an elder people's party and it totally defeats the purpose for a three year old's party.

Depending on the kind of friends you have, I send out the invitations and requests that the parents drop off and pick up their kids at a certain time. Initially people will try and make excuses so that they are part of the party and I don't refuse but I tell them that they will be responsible for their bills if we are in a restuarant and they are welcome to stay. Do you think they stay? Of course not. Who wants to pay when you can get everything for free?
When we do have them at home we make it clear that parents are invited but it will be a bring and braai and I will only cater for the kids and of course depending on your circle of friends, it ends up being an enjoyable day for everyone.

My children also have sucrose intolerance so their party packs are very boring according to the kids because they contain all the healthy stuff.

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