For new parents, celebrating a child’s first birthday is huge. You made it through a year with no sleep, spit-up stained shirts, and forgetting to brush your hair before leaving the house. It’s time to celebrate, but you’ll need to treat your child’s first birthday differently than others for it to be successful.
First and second birthday parties are in a category all their own, because your little one is not likely to understand or participate in much. Your baby may even be put off by the noise and extra people in your home.
Budget-wise, I went all out for my twins’ first birthday party. Here are a few things I’m glad I did, and a few I wish I knew.
1. Nap > Party.
Plan. the. party. around. the. nap. I can’t stress this one enough. Maybe 10 a.m. doesn’t seem like the perfect party time to you, but for this party, it is. Your guests will have to be flexible, but don’t worry—your comrades in parenting will understand. If your child gets tired and cranky during their party, you’ll need to nix the timeline and get creative.
My twins were at the end of their ropes by the time presents came around, so we let them open one each (which they weren’t very interested in, anyway) and then put them down for a nap. We opened the rest and got rid of all the packaging—like choky twist ties—before they got up.
2. Keep it Short.
The vast majority of one-year-olds are not up for a marathon event, and you probably won’t be, either. Keep your party short and sweet, two hours or less. Your adult friends can always hang out for the after-party once the kiddos are napping or in bed.
3. Take Photos before Guests Arrive.
Plan for your photographer to arrive 30-60 minutes before the party, but after everything is set up. I suggest starting with family and kid photos first, before spit-up and spilled drinks happen, and while everyone is still in a good mood. Then, your photographer can photograph all of the party details you’ve worked so hard on before your little one(s) and their guests enjoy them.
4. Take off the Pressure.
Give yourself a break. It’s hard to do anything on top of parenting a one-year-old. Plan things you know will be easy for you to do, or assign them to someone else. One thing I’ve learned from working in the event industry is that most guests will never notice all of the things that “went wrong” at an event. If something is causing you stress, leave it out.
I wish I had done a better job of this at my twins’ first birthday party because I was running around town like a chicken with my head cut off the morning of the party and getting snippy with my relatives—not fun for anyone.
5. Give Opportunities for Quiet Time.
New objects in the house, new people, new sounds…a first birthday party can be pretty overwhelming when you’re one year old. Even if your child doesn’t need a full nap during the party, they may need a break from the stimulation. Designate a quiet place for young kids to relax. This is also a good space for diaper changes and nursing if you are inviting other parents of babies.
6. Smash a Cupcake.
Smash cakes are all the rage in recent years. But if you have ever purchased a cake from a professional bakery (not talking about Target, even though I love Target), let me warn you, they are expensive. I purchased a 10″ round for my twins’ first birthday party and spent over $100. There was no way I was going to buy two additional cakes for my kids to smash, so I had the bakery whip up a couple of cupcakes instead.
I was especially glad I made this decision when both twins didn’t know what to do with the cupcakes and poked at them for about 15 minutes before finally eating the frosting and leaving the cake. Money saved and less wasted food = win/win.
7. Get Help.
Raising a child takes a village, right? And on your child’s first birthday, you will be doing all of the regular child-raising activities plus hosting a super awesome birthday party. Invite friends and family over the morning of your party or even the night before for any last-minute tasks like furniture rearranging, balloon inflating, gift wrapping, or crafting. Bonus if you throw in wine for your helpers at night or coffee in the a.m.
8. Safety First.
A lot of party decorations include elements that are not safe for one-year-olds. This could include small items, pointy pieces, or anything with glitter that can be rubbed off and rubbed into their eyes. Also, think about things like tablecloths that can be grabbed and pulled down along with everything on top of them. If you really want to use some of these things, set them up for your photos and keep the baby in another room. Then, take them away until you’re ready to use them or hand them out.
9. Don’t Splurge on Entertainment.
Clowns, magicians, and princesses are expensive to hire. Chances are, at one year old, your child will be indifferent to them, or even scared of the makeup and costumes.