This past weekend we celebrated my baby girl’s first birthday! It was so simple and pretty so I thought I would share with you all in case you’re like me and love planning pretty parties on a budget.
I pretty much knew before we were even pregnant with her how I’d want to do the first birthday if/when we had a girl. I’ve always loved the aesthetically-pleasing parties with the neutral tones and pops of color, natural elements and simple patterns. So from the beginning I was drawn to the idea of a boho themed “wild one” first birthday with white, gold and floral. I wanted actual greenery and wildflower/floral garlands to emphasize the “wild one” aspect.
I already had some greenery on-hand so I just needed to get a couple more garlands. I used some other things I had like a white sheet for the smash cake photo shoot backdrop and a white tablecloth for the gift table. I’m not a big fan of using table clothss because I’d much rather show off the natural elements of a wood table, but since I used my pretty dining table to display all the food I needed an extra one for the gifts. All I had was a cheap plastic table with crayon marks on it so it looked much better with a table cloth over it. I’d pretty much never use any color other than white, because to me using white allows the decorations and food setup to be the focus, so it worked out perfectly.
The party was definitely planned on a budget! The only thing that caused it to go up in cost was the fact that I had to add to my serveware collection. I’ve slowly been building my collection and only had a couple nice ones, so instead of getting a bunch of cheap stuff at the dollar store to “make it through” the party I wanted to go ahead and get the serving platters and bowls that I wanted. Why? Because I know I will use them for a long time and they will last. I LOVE planning and hosting parties and, to me, the food display is only as pretty as the serveware it’s displayed on.
I’m all about being resourceful! I’d rather spend good money on nice things that will last for a long time than on cheap dollar store items that will just get cracked and destroyed and eventually thrown away. So next birthday party or ladies’ brunch or holiday I shouldn’t have to purchase anymore, meaning everything planned from here on out will be done super budgeted. Unless, of course, I get the itch to buy a pretty new platter ;)
I started planning by hopping on Pinterest (of course) to get some ideas of what drew my attention. I pinned all the photos that I liked, and then picked the elements that I wanted to put together. I decided where I was going to have the party and imagined in my head how I wanted it to look. Then I got my notebook out and wrote it down. It looked something like this:
- Greenery/garland for food table, counter and other places
- White and wood serving trays/platters/bowls for food table
- 36in white confetti balloons with greenery stem
- White sheet with gold "she's a wild one" banner
- Simple white smash cake with greenery (I'll do greenery myself)
- Gold "one" cake topper
- Birthday outfit: white/pink with a floral crown/headband
- Handmade high chair banner with a mixture of neutral solid and pretty fabrics
- Finger foods like puff pastry pizza rolls, mac n cheese bites, finger sandwiches, chips and dip, etc
- White plates, napkins, forks and cups
- Clear drink pitchers with Sustain and H2O flavored waters
- Smash cake for Aveya, Carvel cake for guests
After I wrote down all the elements of the party, I wrote an actual to-do list to get the ball rolling. I started planning probably 6 weeks ahead of time, which for me is slacking because with my son's first birthday and baby girl's baby shower, I planned months ahead of time. That's just how I am though, I enjoy it! But planning a party with two kids is a lot different than planning with one kid, so... 6 weeks was pretty good! And by 'started planning' I mean pinning ideas on Pinterest. It really does help get you started, guys, promise!
My to-do list was specific so I could actually check each action off and know that I was accomplishing steps toward the end goal. This may seem anal and you may be thinking, "okay, it's just a kid's birthday, chill," and I don't blame you... BUT it is so much better to be super organized and anal about getting things done so you're not frantically rushing around at the last minute to pull it all together. You might still have to do some of that (not gonna lie, I did!) but it won't be so overwhelming that you want to crawl into the pantry with the smash cake until the party is over.
So my to-do list looked like this. I wrote it on my phone's Notes section because it was easiest for me to quickly write down things as I thought of them, or check them off as I completed them.
As I completed each task I put a check mark next to it and went to the next. I did a small list first for the main things that needed to be done before anything else, and then a longer list that was more detailed and had all the extra stuff that was added in as time went on and I made decisions like what food would be served and what color plates to have.
I ended up making another list in my actual notebook when it got closer to the party. That way I could write down every little thing that I missed, from wrapping presents to picking up the helium tank. It's scientifically proven that when you write things down you're way more likely to remember them. And for me, it is SOOO true!
I spent time shopping around online for the perfect pieces. I looked on Etsy, Target.com, Amazon, and even some online children's boutiques when I was looking for her birthday outfit. There isn't a whole lot around here for shopping so online is always the best option for me. Plus it's super convenient to be able to hop on my phone and save webpages or add items to a cart.
I found the cutest outfits on Etsy but since I was trying to be wise with my budget I decided to find something a little cheaper, which brought me to Amazon. I actually found THE perfect little dress which was exactly what I had imagined her wearing, and the cutest little flower crown! I'm happy to link those below so you can check them out. They were so inexpensive and actually held up pretty well.
For the smash cake, I went with a local girl that makes awesome cakes and cupcakes. I wanted something simple. Just white with some floral or greenery accents. She made it exactly how I wanted and it was only $30. Remembering my struggles with attempting to make my son's smash cake for his first birthday had me practically throwing my money at her. It was a DISASTER and I didn't even get it finished before it was time for him to dig in. It literally looked like a half done cake, totally bare with hardly any icing and definitely no fondant. I laugh thinking about it now.
I highly recommend going with a local option if you're not used to baking your own cakes. I'm pretty good in the kitchen but baking is one area I'm still super new in. Getting everything timed out right while also preparing all the food is way too stressful for me. I'd rather put all my energy into decorating and cooking!
I found a simple white cake on Pinterest that I really liked because it was simple but still had some texture to it. I had her make it exactly like it. Then I took some pieces of a garland I made for Aveya's baby shower and stuck it around the bottom of the cake. And the gold "one" topper I got from this cute little Etsy shopped. I LOVED how it turned out!
For the decor, I went with simple greenery garlands as I mentioned above. I had a few from my girl's baby shower and previous projects that I used so I only had to order a couple more.
I lined the stairs going up to our apartment with some faux willow vine that I ordered from Amazon for Aveya's baby shower ($14.99 for six). I picked up some gold, white and pink balloons at Walmart to give a little extra color/festiveness, too. I put a little bouquet of balloons at the top of the stairs. Since our front door is downstairs and the party was upstairs it would have been easily forgotten about when decorating. But I knew I didn't want it to be completely bare and boring when the guests walked in so I gave it a little "oomph"
I had a faux rose vine garland that I also ordered from Amazon for Aveya's baby shower so I used that to decorate the counter where I had the drinks, plates, napkins, forks and the dips. I already had the two drink jars, which I am not a HUGE fan of because they have butterflies on them (no offense to butterflies I'm just not a fan of decorating with them, lol), but since I already had them I decided to save money and use them until I can buy some ones I like. The butterflies aren't super noticeable anyways, and I feel like they are simple enough to go with the theme!
The dinner plates I got from Target- white with a gold foil rim. I wanted to have that pop of gold since the cake plates, napkins and forks would all be white. The metal tray with the mason jars holding the napkins and forks I got for Aveya's baby shower, and in fact the napkins were still in there rolled up nicely so I was able to just leave them which was nice. I believe I got the tray from Hobby Lobby!
The confetti is another story... Totally unplanned, as you'll have it. Remember in the notes picture where it said "white confetti balloons?" Yeah. Well. Let's just say that it was clearly not meant for me to have those at the party. I have always wanted to have a party with huge white balloons decorated with greenery stems hanging down instead of ribbons. Since the "dollar store" was going to charge me $19.99 to blow up each 36in balloon, I decided to just buy a helium tank at Walmart for $29. But clearly the person filling those tanks didn't get the memo that it was supposed to be helium because those balloons sunk to the ground faster than a brick in a body of water.
I tried to get creative while running around like a chicken with its head cut off which is usually not a good idea. I tried taping the balloon to the wall. It fell and I got irritated and attempted to pull the tape off the balloon. POP! The 36in balloon full of confetti exploded ALL. OVER. ME. I was so pissed but all I could do was laugh at this point. I cleaned up most of the confetti but decided to use some of it for decoration so it didn't completely go to waste. I sprinkled it on the tables and I thought it was pretty cute.
By the way, I had a 3-pack of those balloons so I attempted to blow another up. It rolled around on the floor like a dang bouncy ball. The kids had fun playing with it, anyways. It later exploded all over me in the kitchen.
Moral of the story? Don't buy helium tanks from Walmart. Or at least test them out way before the party so you're not scrambling last minute to make adjustments.
Thankfully it held up for the foil "1" balloon! I was happy about that because I wanted her to have that in her smash cake photos. And for her one year photos.
I ordered the "1" balloon, She's a Wild One banner, and "one" cake topper from Etsy. They went together so nicely! But of course she ripped it apart before I got the nice photos :)
I always have so much fun setting up the food table. It's probably my favorite part. I just love setting the platters and bowls out all symmetrically and deciding which food goes where. I don't usually decorate the food tables much because to me the food is decorative enough and I don't want to take away from that, but this time I wanted to add some more greenery and a little lightness to it. I used one of the artificial garlands I ordered from Amazon- I got a 2-pack of faux willow wines, different than the ones from Aveya's baby shower, for $16.99. I weaved it around the serveware. Then I sprinkled some of the white confetti along the table and finished it with a simple centerpiece of two things I already had- battery powered sparkle lights and a big jar. I covered the batter pack with a handful of white confetti.
Now for the FOOD. The party was at 2pm so I had appetizers. Again, Pinterest to the rescue here. I knew I wanted some type of finger sandwich, and I remembered these yummy hot ham and cheese sliders that a family member made once upon a time. So I found a simple recipe on Pinterest and went with that.
For Jedidiah's first birthday I made these puff pastry pizza rolls that were DELICIOUS and so easy to make, so I decided to make those. Then I scrolled through Pinterest for some other ideas and came up with mini mac and cheese bites, because kids love mac and cheese, and baked taco cups. I had to have something healthy so I put together a small veggie tray with ranch dressing and vegetables I already had in the fridge. And I HAD to make my favorite dips- buffalo chicken dip and chili queso dip (those were in crockpot containers by the plates and such). I was able to throw all the ingredients for each of those into two separate crockpots on high while I prepared everything else, about one and a half to two hours.
All in all, everything was super simple to make. But it was definitely more time consuming then I thought it'd be. I learned from Jedidiah's first birthday and Aveya's baby shower that preparing all the food definitely takes the longest, and always longer than you plan, so I gave myself more time to do that this time. But it was still not enough and I was scrambling at the end to get it all on the table before the guests came. I blame that partially on my balloon mishaps, and all the little struggles of trying to get the decorations up, and having to run to Menards to pick up some tacks because they totally slipped my mind. Thankfully my husband was able to step in at the last minute and do the sliders!
I recommend having one or two items that you can prepare the day before and freeze/refrigerate. But don't be like me and forget about them. I made the pizza rolls the day before and froze them so I could save time the day of the party. All I had to do was take them out of the freezer, let them thaw for 20 minutes, slice them and bake them for 20 minutes. Easy! Except I forgot to set myself a reminder and totally forgot until all the other food was on the table...
But when it all came down to it, I realized it didn't really matter. I had guests that were hungry and waiting on me to finish, so I said 'screw it' and had everyone dig in. After I took some pretty photos of course! Then I just added the pizza rolls once they were done. No biggie! One thing I've learned over the last few years is to not sweat the small stuff. I had like 12+ moms RSVP that they were coming to the party, so I was planning on about 25 including kids. More than half canceled the last minute after I had already doubled all the recipes to accommodate everyone and was in the middle of cooking and setting everything up. Instead of get upset and pout and let it set me back - Lord knows that when I'm frazzled I get super clumsy and forgetful and it's usually a mess when I'm running around trying to get stuff done! - I just said "whatever" and continued doing what I was doing. Instead of thinking everything had to go to waste, I figured I'd just send everyone home with a baggie full of yummy food and we'd be able to eat on the leftovers for most of the week. And that's exactly what I did!
So here are my suggestions for planning a party.
1. Start pinning on Pinterest and looking up ideas as early as possible. Some things I typed in were: "boho first birthday girl" "wild one boho birthday" and "wildflower first birthday"
2. Get your theme down. I like the themes that have puns in them. Like "wild one" for the wild boy/girl turning one, and "two-rex" for the soon-to-be two year old who loves dinosaurs, and "young, wild and three" for the little animal lover... But that's just me ;) it makes for a creative birthday invitation, too!
3. Decide where and when you're having it. Indoors? Outside? At a park? Pool? Do you have to reserve a spot/room? Get it lined up before anything else. The worst is when you tell everyone when and where the party is and then change it last minute because you didn't secure the location.
4. Make a guest list. Write down all the moms and kids so you can get an idea of how many you will be serving/entertaining. Also keep in mind some places may have a limit on how many guests you can have. The nice part about having it in your home is that you can invite however many people you want.
5. Make or buy a digital invitation. I opted to make mine because I know my way around photoshop a bit and I would rather create something unique while saving $15. BUT if you don't want to make an invitation or aren't crafty in that area, no worries, Etsy has the cutest invitations for whatever theme you want. You can purchase a digital one where they fill out all the info with your info and send you the pdf, and you can either print it out and hand them out in person or do what I did and create a Facebook event and use the invitation as the event photo. Also you don't absolutely HAVE to have an invitation, but I feel like it helps people to remember the event coming up rather than just a "hey we're having a party at this place and time, hope you can come!"
6. Send the invites. Facebook, email, in person, whatever floats your boat.
7. Order the smash cake (or regular cake/cupcakes if it's not a first birthday).
8. Decide what decorations you will have. Write down what you already have and what you will need to order or get from the store. Take into consideration shipping times and stores running out of certain items. Start looking/shopping as soon as possible.
9. Decide on a menu. Write out all the ingredients for the entire menu into one long list. Go through the list and put everything in order, combining similar ingredients so it's not written more than once. Put a check mark next to things you already have.
10. Order/buy birthday gift(s). In all the party planning chaos, don't forget to actually get the kid a present!
11. Order/buy the birthday boy or girl's birthday outfit if they're going to be wearing one. I wanted my girl to be wearing a special dress and flower crown for her smash cake pictures, but not everything wants or has to do that.
12. Plan any activities for the kids if there will be any. You can find ideas online and pick out 1-3 that you want to have. Maybe you'll have a craft station, or a classic pin-the-tail on the donkey type game (for my son's Where the Wild Things Are themed first birthday, I had the kids pin the tail on Max), or a water balloon fight, or a photo booth... It all depends on the kid's age, the type of party you're having, the theme, where you're having it and how many kids there will be. I opted for no activities this time since we were having it in our little apartment and the kids were all pretty little.
13. Shop til you drop! Get all the grocery items and anything else you haven't gotten yet. I like to do this two days before the party just in case there's anything I forgot or left out, and there usually is, then I still have plenty of time to go back and get it.
13. Don't forge the last minute stuff! Some things I added to my list last minute were: helium tank, thumb tacks, birthday candles, twine and clothes pins for the 1-11 month photo display, print pictures out, gift bags and wrapping paper, plastic wrap, cooking spray, and aluminum foil.
14. Don't be afraid to ask for help! It would have been nearly impossible for me to get everything ready if my kids were home. It's hard enough for me to keep up with regular household chores, let alone detail cleaning the whole place, decorating, and cooking a whole party menu! My neighbor took them the day before the party for like 6 hours and I got so much done, then she took them again the morning before the party so I could set up, cook, decorate, literally everything. I could NOT have done it otherwise!
15. If you're having it at your home, clean the day before so you don't have to worry about it the day of! Just a side not, I'm totally not worried about it being messy when people come over, but when it's a party I'm the type of person who wants everything perfect. I want it to look clean and smell clean and just be super inviting and comfortable. I cleaned the day before while my neighbor watched the kids and then I kept them super distracted the rest of the evening so they wouldn't dirty it up again.
16. Let loose and have FUN! The day is all about your kid, so don't get consumed with all the things you "HAVE" to do. They most likely don't care and just want to be with you anyways. But if you're like me and love planning and hosting parties, I totally get it. It's easy to get carried away and stressed out. Just don't let it ruin your and everyone else's fun :)
**Tip: It's easier on the budget to spread things out over a few weeks or so instead of buying everything at once. As an example, maybe one week you pay for the deposit on the party room, if that's the route you're going, and the next paycheck you buy some decorations, then the next one you get the birthday gift(s), then the week of the party you get the cake, food and last minute items.
Now go enjoy planning your party! And don't forget to take pictures to remember another milestone. It's always nice to get a couple polaroids in addition to all the digital photos. I love how these turned out