I have spent years working as an event organiser and so I could not wait to start organising Baby’s first birthday party (back in March 2014!). A low key affair and a bought in cake just were not options for me (not that there is anything wrong with this, it is just not for me).
Even organising a small party can be quite time consuming and it’s easy for the costs to start racking up. I thought I would share my top tips and hope that they help you plan a stress free party for your little one;
- Decide on your budget. This is the first job, as it will impact most of your other decisions. Also start thinking about what is sensible for the age of your child. Does your one year old need an expensive entertainer, or would they be happier with some toys brought from home (and that your friends can bring along too).
- Dedicate a note book to the party planning. That way you can keep all the information in one place, from guest lists to menu ideas and everything else in between. Who doesn’t love an excuse to buy a new notebook!
- Write a guest list. With very small ones, it will probably be your choice and the children will only start having an input as they get older. I write children and adults in separate columns, so I can quickly see how many of each I am catering for. I also make a note of the ages of children, so I can ensure the party bags have appropriate things in them.
- Decide what time of day you want the party to take place. If you have younger tots, this will probably dictated by nap time. Your available budget could also be a factor, avoiding lunch time will save you money. Perhaps serving cakes/snacks in the morning or afternoon instead.
- Theme. Do you want to have a theme for the party? There are so many to choose from and when your child is young what you go for is really your decision. You could get your inspiration from a cartoon, TV show, film or an object – i.e a cupcake party. As they get older they will have their own ideas. So make the most of it being your choice! We went for Alice In Wonderland.
- Pick your venue. If you are having a small number of guests, you may decide that a party at home is fine. Bear in mind the space you have available and the potential for mess and stains (maybe avoid this if you have a light coloured carpet!). Think about your animals also; while they might be o.k with your child, it might be a different story when it comes to a houseful of excitable kids. There are some great cheap alternative’s to a home party. Try your local pub, some hire out function rooms or your local village hall might be an appropriate space. Our village hall gave us about 5 hours for £32.
- Invitations. There are unlimited possibilities with invitations. You can simply buy a packet from the supermarket, or you can create your own. Perhaps use a picture of your child and remember to link it with the theme. You could create an e-invitation and email to guests or go retro and use snail mail. Make sure you include a method of RSVP (plus deadline), clear venue address and the time.
- Menu planning. Now it’s time to decide on the food, you may need food suitable for babies, as well as adults. Think about ensuring the baby food is easy to eat and if your party is over lunch time try to offer high chairs (friends may be able to lend you portable seat type chairs).
- Organise your accessories. You will need serving dishes, napkins, plastic cups, plates, cutlery, tablecloths, big knife for the cake and items to dress your food tables. Always take sellotape with you, just in case any decorations need putting up. Your local Pound shop can be great for bargain decorations, I got some beautiful butterflies, lots of tissue paper, card and lots more bits and bobs, it really is worth a trip.
- Entertainment. This is quite a tricky decision and will depend on the age of the children to some degree. The young ones may find the party atmosphere stimulating enough and may be happy just with toys to play with. Older children may like some form of entertainment. Try asking your local Baby Sensory or Music with Mummy class organiser, as they may offer this service and it will be cheaper than companies advertising as entertainers.
- Party Bags. These can be as simple or as fancy as you wish. You can personalise your bags if you wish or use the same for everyone. Try buying packs of things you can then split up. This way you save money, but the items are still good quality. You may chose to make your own child a party bag, but include something different, such as a small teddy. I think it is a nice touch that they are personalised and include little things that are specifically for that child. I shared our party bags here.
- Cake. If you are not a baker, you could ask a friend to bake it for you or simply buy one. If you can bake you may choose to make it yourself. Either way you will have to decide on what sort of cake will fit in your theme and how many people it needs to feed. Remember they may eat cake at the party and it is always nice to give them some to go home with. So make sure your cake is big enough to allow for this. Don’t forget your cake boxes! This was Baby’s 1st birthday cake; an Alice in Wonderland staggered cake including a top hat! It was SO yummy (the layers were Vanilla, Chocolate and Sticky Toffee).
(apologies for the quality of this shot)
- Decorations. There are many online shops that offer decorations at great prices. Although I find, if you are using a village hall you will spend quite a lot trying to fill it all. If this is the case, homemade decorations might be the way to go. You can make tissue paper pom poms, which can be hung from the ceiling to provide colour and interest. Also bunting is another option, depending on the theme. Quite a lot can be achieved with a computer, printer and a lot of cardboard! Don’t forget balloons and helium, if you want your balloons to float! I made bunting from playing cards (which were three packs for £1!).
- Thank you cards. For anyone that has helped you organise your party, for all the guests who gave presents and anyone else involved in making your party a success.
- Prepare a list of all your guests with a space beside their names. Then as your child opens the presents, make a note of what each person gave as a present. That way you can personalise your thank you cards and you don’t have to remember which wrapping paper & tag was on which gift. For our family members I took pictures of Baby with the presents different people had bought her. Then the pictures were turned into postcards and acted as their personalised thank you cards.
- Memory Book/picture. I am all about making and preserving memories. A great way to do this is to make a birthday book. Buy a hardback blank book and personalise the front for your child i.e Baby’s 1st Birthday. Pass it around the party and ask people to write messages to your child. Then you can fill the rest of the pages with keepsakes from the party and pictures of the day; so they have everything in one place. Instead of a book you could also use a wide picture mount for messages, then add picture of the day and frame it.
- Make a schedule. If you have a lot of things to do, you may benefit from writing a schedule for the week running up to the party, especially if you are attempting a big cake as you will need to give it time to refrigerate before icing.
I hope this helps you plan your perfect party. For us it was important for Baby to have a fabulous first birthday party, as she wasn’t Christened so it acted as a welcome to the world party too!
Do you love organising your child’s parties? Or it is just another headache?
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