9 ways to survive your baby’s first birthday party

Next to the birth of a child, one of the most highly anticipated events on a family’s calendar is a child’s first birthday.

Plans and preparations to mark the milestone have taken on an entirely new meaning from when you celebrated your first birthday. While cake and ice cream still play a part in a child’s first birthday, hosting extravaganzas that include professional entertainment, rented banquet halls, professionally catered cuisine and custom-printed invitations have become staples at many first birthday celebrations.

But the financial and emotional stress of hosting a baby’s first birthday party can take a toll on parents. From balancing guest lists and planning the menu to choosing a theme and finding the perfect outfit for your child to smear cake on, a child’s first birthday leaves many parents feeling as though they’re planning a wedding reception.

Having a few tools to prevent stress, reduce chaos and allow you to join in the celebration will help. Armed with tips tested and tried by fellow parents, you will ensure your baby, family and guests all enjoy a terrific day.

  • Set the precedent.

    Whether it’s photographing or videotaping your baby one year to the minute after he or she was born to serving birthday cake for breakfast, consider putting a memorable touch on the day. Allow some time beforehand to reflect on what special and personal touches you’d like to add to not only his first birthday, but to traditions your child will grow to cherish.

  • Keep it simple.

    After hosting a large, tiring gala for her daughter’s first birthday, Lisa Santoro realized a smaller, simpler event would have been just as special for her daughter. “She cried the whole day and wouldn’t have known the difference between a huge party or a few family members and friends.” Before planning an elaborate party, consider the demeanor and personality of the guest of honor. Many parents find that cake and ice cream or a backyard barbecue shared with family and close friends generates wonderfully warm memories and reduces the chance that your baby will be overwhelmed by a huge gathering.

  • Expect the unexpected.

    From uninvited guests to your child wildly crying while being serenaded, expecting a glitch or surprise will eliminate a great deal of pressure to plan the perfect day. Relinquishing some control over small details such as setting the table or arranging balloons will allow you more time to enjoy the day and to laugh at small flaws only you notice.

  • Ask for a response.

    In her book Hit of the Party, author Amy Vansgard suggests asking potential partygoers to respond to your invitation and to confirm their attendance two to three days before the party. This step will help you finalize food and beverage preparations and plan for any potential food allergies or special needs your guests may have.

  • Let guests know what you want.

    Family members and friends often ask for suggestions for birthday party gifts. “Parents should not feel awkward offering gift suggestions,” says personal shopper Aimee Graddick of Chicago Heights. “I’ve assisted so many clients struggling to purchase gifts for young children. Nearly everyone has expressed their frustration in not knowing what to choose.” Many department and children’s toy stores offer a registry service for birthday gifts that can be accessed either in person, online or by telephone. Knowing your baby’s correct sizes, items he already owns or that you’ve started a college fund will ensure your guests can proudly bestow the perfect gift on your birthday baby.

  • Accept help.

    Greeting guests, serving food and making sure the camera batteries are fresh can be tough to juggle while you’re attempting to enjoy your baby’s big day. If someone offers to cut the cake, shoot the video or refill the coffee pot, accept. You’ll make your guests feel they’re contributing to your child’s special day.

  • Prepare for your guests.

    Knowing in advance if a guest is allergic to cats or afraid of clowns will help everyone enjoy the party. Professional party planners suggest stating your plans for entertainment or food on your invitations or when a guest responds to your invitation.

  • Enjoy yourself.

    “I can hardly remember my children’s first birthday parties. They’re a blur,” says mom of four Donna Turner-Crabb. Wearing the hats of hostess, mother, family member and friend hardly allows time for parents of the birthday baby to sneak a morsel of food, let alone enjoy their child, guests and the day’s momentous occasion. Stepping into the role of party celebrant, you’ll be able to snap a photo with your birthday star, sample the food you painstakingly selected and appreciate the success of your efforts.

  • Savor the moment.

  • Before cleaning up, take a moment to salvage a few mementos. Saving a deflated balloon, an extra invitation and some leftover unused cutlery from the day creates the foundation for a birthday time capsule. Adding a few tokens from each party, your child will have a beautiful keepsake you’ve lovingly stored in a box, bin or can, decorated with pictures of him eating cake or celebrating each birthday.

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