Your child’s first birthday is an important day that encapsulates a precious moment in time for you and your family. Traditionally it is one of the larger birthday party’s you’ll have in life and people tend to make a big deal about the day. We like to believe that the party is for the baby, but in reality, it’s the parent’s opportunity to show off their newborn and all the growth they experienced over their first year.
Setting up and hosting a birthday party while you are holding a baby is tough, time-consuming and usually takes a couple of trips to the store. Unless you have help with the baby, coordinating all the moving parts is a big challenge for anyone, baby or not.
Here are some pointers to get through this memorable day with ease.
Keep it short
Don’t feel you need to host an all-day party. If there will be other young kids, keep the party short — an hour or two is plenty. The family will traditionally stick around so you can have some quiet time at the end of the day.
Don’t overload yourself
Don’t try to do everything yourself, the amount of time you will spend cooking, cleaning, running to the store and organizing will far outweigh the cost to outsource it to a professional. If you already spending $300-$600 for the party what’s the difference of an extra $100 or so to have it all taken care of?
Consider hiring a sitter
Make sure you have help so you can enjoy the party a little though out the day. Maybe that means hiring a babysitter or asking grandma to pick up the extra work? Regardless, enlist help so you can make sure things go smoothly and if someone needs to make a run to the store, you and your baby are not it.
Take pictures before the party
After everything is set up and the decorations are out—but before the chaos begins—take a keepsake photo with the birthday boy or girl. You will be glad you did because the actual event of blowing out the candle won’t last long and either will that cute outfit you spent weeks picking out.
Serve a special birthday cake
Make or buy a creative cake just for your baby. Your baby will love looking at the cake as much as playing in it. One suggestion we have is keeping the frosting color on the lighter side for easier clean up on those cute little baby cheeks.
Capturing the moment
Pick an open spot with not too much clutter in the background. This way everyone can see and take those precious pictures. Before sitting your baby in place and singing happy birthday make sure you have rounded everyone up and their smartphones are ready. Designate two people to film while others snap away.
Our advice is to keep it simple. Usually picking a theme helps. If your child seems to gravitate to a cartoon character like Micky Mouse make the smash cake in the shape of Mickey’s face and decorate with Mickey Mouse cups, napkins, posters and balloons. Maybe she loves fairy princes so, use that in your party decor with Tierras, fairy dust on the tables and cut clouds out of white construction paper.
What will help the flow of the party is to designate an area for a gift table and a guest sign in, another I call The Special Table. Like the one shown above, place the cakes, photos of the birthday boy/girl, and other decors such as a first birthday banner and balloons. If you want to decorate more of your home read Hosting Your Own Graduation Party which has fabulous party decorating ideas.
Memories and wishes
The day will end before you know it, but we’ve included a few ideas to create memories forever.
Book the party
Purchase a scrapbook and have your guests each write a wish on a page. Make it a point, to take your baby’s picture with everyone at the party for the scrapbook, and then include a copy of the photo to each person when you send out your thank you emails.
Your guests will really appreciate the effort and you will be left with a great book of good thoughts for your baby for years to come.
Grow a memory.
A friend of mine and his wife, Sharon, were looking for a way to commemorate their daughter’s first year. They planted a ginkgo tree in their front yard, and take Elly’s picture by it each year.
Make a mark.
Capturing your baby’s tiny hands and feet are precious little pieces of art that will serve as a beautiful reminder of just how small your child used to be. Doing this prior to the birthday party will allow you to use the prints for the invites and in a frame to display for your guests.
Babies are known for making fists, and for putting those fists in their mouths — two things that aren’t compatible with trying to stamp a handprint. But stamping the print while they’re asleep can prevent them from rolling into the paint or splashing it everywhere.
A bottle of non-toxic fabric paint
A few paper plates
A package of baby wipes
The item or items you want to stamp the print onto
What to do:
Set baby down for a nap in an infant carrier, or transfer to carrier once they fall asleep. Place the carrier on the floor or table.
Spread your supplies around the carrier, all within your reach.
Squirt fabric paint about the size of a large walnut on a paper plate and smear baby’s hand in the paint. Make sure to get paint on each finger, but don’t overload the little hand or else the print will be a smeary mess. Don’t worry if paint gets under nails — it’s non-toxic and will wash off.
Before pressing baby’s hand onto the item you’re about to embellish, try a test print on a piece of paper or another paper plate. You’ll want to make sure you’ve got the right amount of paint to achieve your desired effect.
Press the item onto a flattened hand and hold for just a few seconds. It doesn’t take long for the paint to transfer.
If you’re making more than one baby handprint, you may need to reapply the paint. Just make sure to wipe baby’s palm and fingers clean before switching to a new color.
If you’re transferring the print onto fabric, stretch it over cardboard to prevent the paint from bleeding through.
The food and beverages
According to Matt Green, president of Corky’s Catering, most first birthday parties are held in the early afternoon with a lighter feel to the menu. “Typically, we are catering for the adults at the baby’s 1st birthday, not the baby’s,” states Matt. “Appetizers, sandwiches, fruit & vegetable trays and herb roast chicken are our most ordered.”
Your guests will be expecting the good stuff for dessert. A delicious, rich cake with Buttercream frosting. A simple birthday sheet cake or birthday cupcakes are perfect for the occasion.
Now for the beverages.
Whether you decide to include serving alcohol one thing is for sure when you throw a party, buy ice. More bags than you think you’ll need. It’s better to have leftovers — which keep pretty much forever — than to run out halfway through the party.
Make sure to buy extra cups. Guests are likely to go through not one or two, but easily three or four cups. So buy a ton!
Set up a nice beverage station with water garnished with parsley, ice tea, coffee and something sweet like Lemon Aid.
If you decide to serve alcohol keep it simple. Wine and beer are always easy and guests can serve themselves. Or perhaps an elegant champagne birthday toast. Fussy drinks take a long time to make and it forces you to focus on mixology rather than talking to your guests and having fun. If you’re insistent on serving a fantastic, elaborate drink, make it a punch that you can mix one huge batch of in advance. Try this one:
Chatham artillery punch
1 pound superfine sugar
750-milliliter bottle bourbon or rye
750-milliliter bottle cognac
750-milliliter bottle dark Jamaican rum
3 bottles of champagne or other sparkling wine
Squeeze and strain the lemons to make 16 ounces of juice. Peel the lemons and muddle the peels with the sugar. Let the peels and sugar sit for an hour, then muddle again. Add the lemon juice and stir until sugar has dissolved. Strain out the peels.
Fill a 2- to 3-gallon bucket or bowl with crushed ice or ice cubes. Add the lemon-sugar mixture and the bourbon, cognac, and rum. Stir and add the champagne. Taste and adjust for sweetness. Grate nutmeg over the top and serve.
Yield about 25 drinks
The last piece of party planning advice for first birthdays: Relax! People attend parties because they’re fun, and it should be no different for you as the host. Take pleasure in celebrating your child’s first year…there will be many more birthdays after this one!