Ok here is the first thing I will say. When I surveyed other Moms – online and in person – about first birthday dos and don’ts, I got VERY conflicting feedback. So I think the most important thing to consider when planning or hosting a 1st birthday party is to know your audience. That being said, here are some of my personal tips and tricks to make it fun for everyone (and ideally less stressful for you).
Timing – First of all – schedule around your baby’s nap. You don’t want them asleep the entire time, nor do you want them tired and cranky, so aim to start right when they’re getting up and refreshed. Timing is also a perfect example of “know your audience”…..will a lot of older siblings be there? Do you want everyone to be present for a cake smash or some sort of live entertainment? In this case, make the party short, 1.5-2 hours, in the late morning/early afternoon. Other side of the coin – are you the first one of your friends to have kids? Mostly adults coming? Afternoon/evening is fine, and make it longer if you want people to hang out and mingle. At the end of the day, for one year olds, it’s really a party for adults. You have the next 17 years to plan a party for the kids, so don’t fixate too much on “stuff” for babies. They are…..babies. They will not remember this. But the parents will!
Another thing to remember about timing – baby birthdays are always a “come and go as you please” type of experience, whether it’s your intention or not, given the complication of different baby schedules. So if your party is 1-4 PM….don’t assume that all of your guests will be there from 1-4 like they might at an “adult” party. I 100% guarantee that will not be the case.
Themes – My personal opinion is, again, you have years ahead of you where your child will demand a Frozen or Paw Patrol theme. This is probably the only birthday where your child has zero opinions, so make your theme (if you even have one) something simple and broad – something that won’t be overly complicated for you to execute and will allow you to use things you have. Work with your environment! We had one of Teddy’s parties (yes he had two, he is BICOASTAL after all….) at a waterfront house in a quint New England town – a nautical theme just made sense. A few great ideas I’ve seen that fit these parameters – Rainbow/Sprinkles/Confetti, Fruit (or a specific fruit like lemons or peaches), Jungle/Animals/Farm, Nautical/Beach/Ocean. Even just a color is great – everything blue, everything purple, etc.
Decor – A few simple ones work great – pictures of the baby at each month strung on twine, balloons, the baby’s name in big block letters (you can get online or from Michaels). Pinterest is your friend here people.
Food – Simple simple simple. Finger sandwiches, chips, pizza, etc. If you want to go all out – a taco truck is an efficient and fun addition to a party. Make sure to have something for the little ones – but again, don’t overthink it. Setting out a basket of pouches and juice boxes does the trick.
Drinks – I got SO much conflicting feedback on this one. From “if you don’t have booze you’re just being mean” to “absolutely never have alcohol at a child’s party”. Mkkkk…so this one is a PERFECT example of know your audience. Of the bazillion 1st birthday parties I’ve been to, it’s been about 50/50 on alcohol. Rule of thumb – it’s it a morning party with tons of little kids, maybe skip it. Afternoon/evening party with a mix of kids/adults or more adults – let the cup floweth over. We did beer and signature cocktails at both of Teddy’s parties.
The Cake – Smash cakes are the trendy thing to do. They are also really expensive and usually go to waste. My suggestion (learned the hard way) is to get either a small regular cake or a cupcake to use for the “smash”. A regular cake is great if there are lots of older kids (or people who you think will eat cake). Otherwise, skip a cake an opt for other desserts – one of my favorites at a jungle-themed 1st Birthday was a banana split ice cream bar!
Entertainment – I do not think any entertainment is necessary at this age. However, if that’s your jam, you go for it sister! If you’re going to have a musical guest of some type for the kids, make the party short, so none misses the entertainment. If older kids are coming – set aside an area for them to play in, or have them be in charge of a game. Essentially, give them something that will keep them entertained. If you’re tinkering with the idea of more extravagant entertainment (pony ride, bouncy house, etc) – I suggest waiting for when your child is older and will actually appreciate the gesture.
Favors – One year olds are a little tough for favors because you can’t exactly give them a goody bag with treats (and come to think of it….I’d be scared to give kids of any age bags of candy – I feel like parents these days would object to that). Some fun and simple ideas – bubbles/bubble wand, mini board book, a sand toy. Again this depends on your audience – I gave the guests at Teddy nautical party a savory treat because it was mostly adults, so we had adult favors.
Gifts – I’m hesitant to set a rule of thumb here. Depending on your guests, what is considered an appropriate type of gift will vary greatly – at one of Teddy’s parties he exclusively received books & clothes, at the other he exclusively received toys. Who knows. If you do NOT want gifts (which came up frequently in my polling of Moms, especially in those who had older kids and just really didn’t want more “stuff”) – I suggest requesting a donation to their college fund or a charity close to your heart. People WANT to give gifts, so by telling them not to give you any and not providing an alternative option, chances are you’ll still end up with “stuff” you didn’t want. And even if you do receive said stuff…..be grateful someone cares enough to want to spoil your little nugget. You can always donate if you really hate it!