birthday party decor

5 Tips to Throwing a Low-Stress, Kick-Ass First Birthday Party

By 300 Sandwiches

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birthday party decor

I know a few things about first birthday parties, having hosted one and gone to a bunch more. A few weeks ago, we hosted Q’s first birthday in our apartment. It was better than I could have ever planned. We kept the guest list small, made our own cake and kept the munchies minimal. We sang happy birthday and brought out the cake before the kids got cranky, so the pictures of Q surrounded by her friends and family looked amazing. I had enough toys on hand that the munchkins stayed entertained, and invited enough adults that each child had at least 2 pairs of eyes on them, but not too many adults that the babies felt intimidated. Q had a great time–so much so, she passed out in her party dress afterwards.

I’ve learned a lot from hosting and attending first birthdays, and while every parent will do whatever they feel will make their child happy, here are the things I did to ensure my baby had her best party ever:

  1. Pick the date early. I started planning Q’s birthday party 6 months in advance. I have several friends who’ve all had babies around the same time, so their children’s first birthdays all fell around Q’s big day. I knew I would be going to their parties, and I wanted my friends to come to Q’s. So we parents started nailing down dates early, to make sure no birthday coincided with another. It worked.
  2. Consider the pros and cons of the desired venue, and compare those to the desired outcome of the event. Early on in my planning, I became obsessed about renting out a magical venue, like Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn, located right under the Brooklyn Bridge. I thought it would be a great meeting place for all of my friends and their kids, and would provide a breathtaking backdrop for photos. Then I considered renting out a kid’s play space to throw the party. Most included about two hours of activities, staff to help with setup and cleanup, and some even threw in a cake. But that option cost much more than I planned to spend for this party. And much more than E wanted to spend. He made it clear that because Q would still be too young to remember her party, he didn’t want to spend a fortune. He ended up being right. This year…
  3. The smaller, the better. We hosted the party in our apartment with four of Q’s 1-year-old friends. We had a large area in the living room set up for the kids to play and crawl around in, they had tons of toys, and the parents had plenty of space to sit around them and keep watch. It was low stress for all. Everyone was super relaxed and had a fantastic time. I’ve been to some parties where there are a wider range of kids and adults, and sometimes the young guest of honor gets a bit stressed out at all of the varied levels of interaction–bigger kids may jump or lunge while playing, scaring smaller kids. And babies may get worn out after dozens of cheek squeezes and cuddles by older relatives.
  4. Don’t go overboard on the decor. I quickly filled up a Pinterest board of ideas I wanted to bring to life at Q’s party. The photo booth. The teepeee. The high chair tulle skirt. In the end, I only obtained the teepee, because it was a birthday gift from Grandma. Between the cake, the toys, the random ball or shoe or piece of gift wrap strewn across the floor, the kids were well entertained. I didn’t need to fill the room with high end decor for a party that they won’t remember by the end of the day.
  5. Make the smash cake. Even if you don’t bake, even if you’re scared to bake, try and make your own smash cake for your child on their birthday. E made a delicious version of this beautiful smash cake for Q, but we bought another cake for the adults from a local high end bakery. E’s cake looked just as beautiful as the store bought version, and tasted as delicious. And, it made me feel warm and tingly inside watching Q eat a cake handmade by her own father. I guarantee you’d feel the same.
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