I’m going to come right out and say it: I don’t love kids’ birthday parties, and I have mixed feelings about my own feelings here.
Do I want my children to feel loved and celebrated on their birthdays? Absolutely! Do I want to create special memories for my kids? Of course! Does that mean I need to have a big, elaborate party? Nope. Do I feel a little guilty about being a party-hater? Yep.
As much as I resist elaborate birthday parties, I really wanted to throw a special party for Selah’s first birthday. I knew she wouldn’t understand it or remember it, but it felt like a tangible way to celebrate the most meaningful year of my life and the tiny person who made it all happen. Your first child only has one first birthday, right?
I didn’t want to look back and feel sad that I didn’t do some special things to commemorate Selah’s first year. I also didn’t want to go overboard with making a ton of Pinterest-y decorations and serving cutesie food and hosting a thousand people. So I set a few ground rules, outsourced everything I could, and kept things moderately simple. And you know what? I actually enjoyed myself.
I enjoyed watching Selah relish being the center of attention.
I enjoyed providing a meal for the people who have helped us survive this year.
I enjoyed being fully present at her party, rather than overwhelmed in the kitchen.
I enjoyed hearing the people who love her most sing Happy Birthday.
And I really, really enjoyed watching her devour her first cupcake.
Below are the details of Selah’s party: the things I prioritized, what I skipped, where I got the decorations, and some tips for you if you’d like to plan a hybrid, sorta-simple, sorta-not-simple party.
My first ground rule was that I would make absolutely no decorations for Selah’s party. I don’t do crafts or DIY anything — so even party kits where you assemble precut materials into banners were too much for me. I ordered a few things from Etsy, reused the garlands my mom made for my baby shower, and moved decor from Selah’s room down to the party area. My baby shower and Selah’s nursery have the same color scheme, so it only made sense to use the same colors for her party to get as much mileage out of materials as possible. Plus, I think they’re pretty!
Tips: Choose a color scheme rather than a theme for super-easy matching. Repurpose items you already have in your home as party decor by adding ribbon or just moving them to a new location.
Best Day Ever plates // Hobby Lobby
You Are My Sunshine sign // my own
Cake stands // my own
Garlands // made with love by my mama
I figured if there’s one place where I could go all-out on this party, it would be Selah’s outfit. How could I pass up the chance to see those delicious chubby legs peeking out of a giant tutu? I plan on reusing it for Selah’s official one-year pictures, so she’ll get at least two wears out of it, and the pictures will last a lifetime.
Tips: Find an outfit that can do double duty. If your child has a birthday near Christmas, consider a winter or Christmas-themed outfit. Plan to reuse the outfit for birthday or family pictures.
The party was scheduled for 4:00, so I knew I wanted to serve a full dinner without creating too much work. Originally we planned to cater everything, but the week before the party I found packages of fully cooked pulled pork at Aldi, which turned out to be just as easy and a whole lot cheaper than catering. I threw the pork in the slow cooker a few hours before guests arrived, and set out some buns. Easy peasy. I also did a big pot of (boxed) mac and cheese, chicken nuggets for the kids, and a few bowls of chips. I asked my mom and Dan’s mom to each provide a salad. I decided not to spend the money on a smash cake for Selah and just got her a two-dollar oversized cupcake instead, and I also bought cupcakes for guests instead of a sheet cake for the sake of simplicity.
Tip: If you make your own food, opt for products that are fully cooked and just need to be warmed. Don’t go overboard with extra snacks and sides — just a few items are enough!
Dan and I bought Selah just one gift for her birthday: a rocking armchair to go with the armchairs we just bought ourselves for our living room. We loved this idea because it’s practical and will be put to use for many years. We have a no-gifts policy in place with Dan’s siblings/Selah’s cousins because there are just too many kids (soon there will be 10 cousins, with no sign of stopping!). We’ll probably opt for a no-gift rule across the board for future birthdays and Christmases. Gifts are not my love language (Dan’s either), and we try to keep our stuff to a reasonable minimum. Selah will soon be old enough to appreciate experience gifts, so that will be a great option for the future. All that said, we are super grateful for each gift she received, and we know each one was chosen with thought and love. She is a well-loved little girl!
Rocking armchair // HomeGoods // Similar from Pottery Barn
Tip: Consider what kind of gift policy makes sense for your family and your home. No gifts, experiences only, books only, or no limits are all valid options!
I get super overwhelmed by tons of people and noise, and our house is the not the friendliest set-up or size for large groups (and there was no option to be outdoors considering it was November). So we decided to keep Selah’s party to just immediate family and grandparents, which is still no small group at 25 people! I know some people love hosting tons of guests open-house style, but that didn’t feel like the right fit for us or for the seasonal weather.
Tip: Think about the vibe you want to create and the number of guests that will allow you to feel fully present and connected. If that’s just your own family, no guests, great! If that’s immediate family over a meal, great! If that’s 50+ friends and family coming and going, great! Don’t be afraid to draw a hard line and invite less people than is customary or than you feel like you should.
I had my moments of stress during party planning, but overall, I loved celebrating my sweet Selah and watching her grandparents, her great-parents, her aunts and uncles and cousins celebrate her too. In the future, we’ll probably do something way more basic for birthday party. Pizza, cake, some balloons. Dinner out with just our family. An experience of the birthday child’s choosing. My purpose is not to create Pinterest-worthy parties, but to commemorate and celebrate each year I’m blessed to have with my little girl.
[clickToTweet tweet=”How to plan a sorta-simple but super-special birthday party” quote=”How to plan a sorta-simple but super-special birthday party”]