Tips for making your child's No. 1 big day the best one possible Planning your baby's first birthday party on a limited budget can be stressful. You want it to be memorable yet stress-free and creative without being over the top. Find inspiration in the following expert tips:
THEME & DECOR: "Start by deciding on a theme and your color palette, then build from there," said Susie Ostrowski, editor of the baby style blog On to Baby (www.ontobaby.com" target="_blank">http://www.ontobaby.com). "If you aren't sure what you want to do for a theme, consider what your little one really loves, or focus on something unique about him or her." Does your baby have a favorite book or toy? Consider integrating that into the theme. The more personal, the better.
When planning her son's first birthday party last year, Boston-area event designer and stylist Kate Landers looked to a special teddy bear for inspiration.
"He loved this bear that was a gift from a family member he'd both snuggle with it and tackle it as he grew," she said.
To incorporate the favorite toy, Landersfound a vintage bear image with soft blues and yellows and used it as a motif throughout the party. I
ncorporated into everything from the invitations to the cookies, the bear theme even found its way into the seating with special cards for "Birthday Bear" and "Mama Bear."
Even if you can't think of something like this, Landers said there are plenty of other items you can use from baby's first year, such as a first hand or foot print, onesie, baby shoes or spoon. She suggested displaying them in shadow boxes mounted above the party food for a special touch.
Another fun way to display your baby's first year is to capture all of his or her stats on a subway-style art print. (Landers suggested checking out designers on Etsy.com for an affordable option.)
What's great about this type of decor is it has life after the party just match it to your nursery colors and mount in the baby's room as a keepsake.
Landers also loves personalized bunting, which is perfect to hang on the high chair tray for pictures of baby's first bite of cake.
Other cheap-yet-chic ideas: String oversized tissue balls and garland and hang 3-foot round balloons around the room.
"If you get the large balloons, you only need a few to make a big statement," she said, adding that you can order them online and take them to the nearest grocery store for inflation.
She also suggested using real ribbons to tie them. That, combined with floor-length table linens, can add a pop of sophistication to the party.
FOOD: "As long as the food is tasty, guests will be happy, although it's also a lot of fun if you can bring a creative or interactive element," Ostrowski said. Build-your-own food bars are a great way to take the pressure off the host, while giving younger (and older) guests some entertainment. She suggests a build-your-own hotdog bar with a bunch of interesting toppings.
Low budget? Landers said that just serving birthday cake and ice cream is perfectly appropriate, as long as you have the party between lunch and dinner and keep it short (around 60 to 90 minutes, which also will help keep baby from getting overstimulated).
Consider serving fresh fruit to give guests a healthier cake alternative.
Smash cakes, small cakes just for baby, are commonplace for first birthday parties. But from experience, Landers warned that you shouldn't expect baby to like the type of cake you picked out and that precious photo op may not go as planned.
"My son didn't like the store-bought buttercream cake I got him," she said. "Just be prepared for not knowing what they will do."
You also can let food function as your party favors. Landers loves the look of apothecary jars filled with vibrantly colored candies such as saltwater taffy and large gumballs (for the big kids and adults). You can add a bit of colored tissue in the middle to make it look fuller.
OTHER TIPS: Check out sites like Pinterest for endless ideas and links to retailers.
Also make sure to give yourself plenty of time to plan.
"First birthdays can be challenging," Landers said. "Give yourself at least two months."
And perhaps most important: Remember to plan the event around your baby's nap schedule. Even the most well-planned celebration won't be able to console a tired, cranky baby.