Surviving the first Birthday Party

I want to talk about birthdays. Particularly in the world of a (new) mom, I want to talk about the big one, the first birthday.  In the fall, I found myself debating strongly whether or not I wanted to do something big or small or anything at all for my son’s first birthday celebration. The idea of him turning one made me feel anxious enough.  Fellow mom friends would ask the same question, “what are you doing for Milo’s first birthday?” I usually would shrug, make a sarcastic remark, or explain that I had been struggling with the idea. Late night pinterest lurking would make my brain hurt. There are so many ideas, themes, the cakes, oh the cakes! I found I had to focus on what I wanted to look back on, what I could have my son look back on one day, and see how his birthday was celebrated.  In my first year of motherhood I met some incredible women, gained friendships, and rekindled older ones, all based on being a new mom.  I wanted to share this celebration with the people we cared about. To do that living in this city, particularly in an apartment with limited square footage, I realized that we would indeed need to rent a space to host a party for all our friends and their little ones.

After our experience with hosting a party in a rented facility, as well as experiencing our first birthday party as parents, I devised ten tips that I know would have made my life as a temporary party planner a little easier.


1. Research Research Research 

There are a fair amount of community centers and facilities one can rent to host a party in Vancouver and the Greater Vancouver area.  That is no news to anyone. However, there are quite a few price differences depending on the area. I found one location charged sixty dollars an hour for a space that held sixty-five people, and then one that charged forty-five an hour for a space that could hold eighty. With throwing a party that undoubtedly will cost a pretty, lets say dollar now since the penny is obsolete, you want to try to save in as many areas as you can. You will also want to check those clauses that come along with the permit. Such as paying extra to play music, yes that is an actual thing.  We  decided on Sunset Community Center. The space was big, bright and lets face it, it was a lot cheaper.


2. Give yourself lots of time 

This one ties a little in to number one.  Our son’s birthday is December 10th, which meant for rentals it was prime time for Christmas Parties.  Make sure you take into account holidays, and that there tends to be other birthdays as well. Unless you have the pleasure of having your child’s birthday land in a season that consists of sunny weather, book a spot as quickly as you can.  If you are going the DIY route, as well as baking your own food, giving yourself plenty of time to plan is a no brainer. Don’t wait until the last minute, these things take time.


3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

It can get a little overhwleming with planning these tiny human celebrations. I would not have been able to pull the party off without help from friends and family. I had recently gone back to work while this party planning was taking place, life got busy, fast. Therefore I was in no mind-set to turn away offers to help out. I had friends not only baking for me, but helping us bring everything to the space, helping set up decorations, and making the food. You already are super woman or man for getting through the first year, its ok to not have to be that role for the party, help is good.


4. Expect those last-minute cancellations 

So if you decide to fork out the money to rent a space to host the party, make sure your guest list is pretty large. Why? because I can guarantee you at least a quarter of the people on that list will not make the party. Some people may cancel the week before, some might the day before, and yes some even the day of.  Some will not show at all. It is natural to feel a little hurt by this, but hey things happen. Shake it off, focus on getting through the day, and having fun with your little one and all the guests that do make it.  I was initially nervous about the amount of people who did R.S.V.P. However as the week of the party approached, that list got cut in half, as did my grocery list for catering the crowd.


5. Bring cleaning supplies 

You put down a pretty good deposit depending on the location of your rental space, so you want to make sure you are prepared to clean up anything that might end up costing you. Most places provide a broom and mop, but some don’t have garbage bags, and they make you take out your trash after you’re finished. I know there are spaces that will provide a clean up crew at an extra cost if you want to avoid cleaning all together. I kept those helpful friends of ours around after the party finished.


6. Get someone to take photos for you

With all the running around getting food out, talking to guests and making sure I knew where my child was, I ended up with one photo on my phone that day. Thankfully I had a friend taking photos for us, and I got some sent to us from other friends as well.  This whole event is about making memories, well for me it was, so after all the hard work is done, it’s nice to be able to look back at the photos taken on the day. Get someone on taking photos for you, believe me you will not find the time to during the party.


7. Remember to budget 

Lets face it, birthday parties are expensive no matter which route you take, it’s going to cost you.  I decided to do all DIY decorations and researched every item I needed to buy online before I stepped into Michael’s. That place is memorizing, and can really make you fumble with your budget with last-minute purchases.  Same goes with food and supplies.  I chose the dollar store for plates, cups and napkins instead of a party store. You never realize how much those items add up, so that option ended up saving me quite a bit of cash.


8. Open gifts at home

You are on a ticking money clock in that room. Opening everyone’s gifts when you have a child that doesn’t know he or she is actually there celebrating themselves is a little awkward, and very time-consuming.  We waited until the next day while at home. We took photos of Milo with each gift, and sent them with a thank you sprawled across them to each guest. Everyone seemed to like that and no one complained we didn’t open their gifts at the party.


9. Bring entertainment for little ones 

We had quite a few kids at the party we hosted with ages ranging from eight months to nearly ten years. With a bigger space they are obviously going to run around, but after a while that can get a little old for the young. Bring toys, crafts anything that will entertain and occupy them so their parents can relax and eat some food for once.  We brought smaller toys for the babies and a blow up bowling set for the older kids. If you happen to find that same set, make sure no one is using the pins as baseball bats, believe me there will be some blood. It’s a kid party, these things happen. I also made a craft table for the kids that tied into the theme of the party. Make sure you have washable paint, nothing permanent, this refers back to number 5.


10. Remember its just a birthday party 

This one is tough. Even when writing this I find it tough because really after all is said and done, it is just a birthday party.  These days the idea of a child’s birthday party has grown to be an extravagant event.  I mean when I look back at the few photos of my first birthday party, I was in a high chair with a simple pink cake in front of me. My brother and my mom were sitting near me, and my dad is in none of the photos because he was the one behind the camera.  Do not get me wrong, if my tone is coming across as though I regret choosing the path I did to celebrate my son’s first birthday, then I must apologize. I do not regret it one bit. We had a blast that day and although I was stressed out at times preparing for the party, that stress does not outweigh all the good parts of the experience. I learned so much about my limits and how many caring friends I have in my life.  Dustin and myself got to celebrate the past year with our boy, that incredible journey around the sun, with the people we care about. That is what matters most in the end to us.  So don’t forget to remind yourself that ultimately this is a celebration for your little one, so have fun and enjoy it no matter what.



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1 Comment

  • Reply
    January 31, 2016 at 8:25 am

    In this “New Mom” world, birthday parties are quite the extravaganza. You managed to pull it off with pizazz and focus on the one thing that matters most, a memorable day revolving around the celebration of your son’s first year in a life filled with love and good friends
    Great story, great pics and helpful tips!

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