As Harper’s birthday quickly approaches, I am learning that I am in complete denial about how big my sweet little girl is and also that I am so much different as a parent the second time around. What I mean by that is when I had Nolan, I wanted everything done by the book. He had to have a nursery with a crib and custom-made crib bedding (that he never once used nor slept on), he needed all of these stylish newborn clothes (that he spit up on and pooped in and the stains will never come out), and his first birthday planning started when he was 3 months old. He doesn’t remember the themed decor and food that I spent hours on or the hundred people I invited. The only thing that mattered to him was playing with his cousins and friends.
Now that Harper’s birthday is almost here (March 19). I find myself throwing together a few things for a small group of our friends and family. Harper never had a nursery made (because we co-sleep, and I chose to put that money towards other things) and most of her newborn clothes were Nolan’s or her girl cousins (because you change newborns every five minutes). I’ve learned that what matters most is the moment that you are in, not the scene that you paint for other people. All of that is just a show. I am more excited to see my kids’ faces as they play with their friends, blow bubbles outside, and eat cake! Birthdays only happen once a year, and with an almost 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, I find myself wanting to focus more on my kids’ happiness rather than hosting the most extravagant events.
Since Harper is one, she really does not have a favorite “thing” yet so she isn’t having a themed party. I chose to use the colors that were used at my baby shower for her: white, gold, and light pink. Using a simple theme saves me lots of time and money when finding coordinating decor and food. When she is older and tells me she wants a princess or Dora the Explorer party, I will spend many hours finding all the right dresses, sparkles and decor and making food that matches. I am choosing to make this first birthday as stress-free as I can.
1. INVITATIONS– For Harper’s birthday, I didn’t spend $50 on invitations that people are going to throw away anyway. Instead, I found these really cute invitations from cvs.com and had them sent to our local CVS so I could run in and pick them up the next day. The good thing about doing this is that I did not have to wait 5-8 business days for the invites to get here, address them, and mail them out.
2. DECOR– I ordered this custom felt ball garland from Pippin Pops to hang up behind the food and cake table. I plan on taking balloons and taping them to the wall around the garland. I saw this idea on Pinterest, and it looks fairly simple, but sometimes Pinterest projects don’t work out the way you want. So, if I don’t like the way it works, I am going to make tissue balls to hang from the ceiling. They are really simple and cheap to make, so they are the perfect idea for decor when you are on a budget.
When Nolan turned one I spent an entire day hanging decor that either fell down or no one looked at, so I have vowed not to spend much time on that this year. Decorating around the cake and food tables is hard work on its own, and that’s what people crowd around, so their attention will be focused on there.
3. UTENSILS– I purchased the plates, napkins, serving ware, and straws from an online party store I found on Pinterest. By purchasing these items from the same store, I saved myself time searching different party stores and making sure that the items match. If you make good food, people really don’t pay much attention to what they are eating on. I normally just pick an accent color of the party theme and buy everything in that color. Harper’s food and cake table will be covered in a white table cloth, and I’m using my milk white serving ware, so I thought the pink would be a cute pop of color on the table.
4. BEVERAGES– Drinks are always super easy. I always have three drinks at any social gathering I have: bottled water on ice, sweet tea, and lemonade (for Harper’s party it is pink) in decanters. Setting up a drink section on a separate table is a way to divert traffic away from the food table and adds easy decor without a lot of work. My mom gave me my decanters a few years ago, and I have used them multiple times a year since then. I’ve seen cute ones that are priced decently at TJ MAXX, HomeGoods, and even Walmart.
5. PLAY– At every kid’s party where we have used bubbles, they have stolen the center of attention. Last summer, I bought this bubble maker for around $10 and anytime children play at our house and we bring that out, they are amazed for hours. I am hoping that the weather is nice outside so we can put bubbles in the bubble maker and run around in the dandelions. Sidewalk chalk and our bounce castle will also be out to play with. Between the bubbles, chalk, and bounce castle, we should have plenty for the kids to do. It really is a waste of your time and money to buy all of these crazy things for kids to play with at parties because they never use half of it. Stick to two or three activities so you aren’t buying things that are wasted.
6. FOOD– I am the type of person that is an overdoer. I over-pack, over-buy, over-eat, over-prepare, the list goes on and on. When I had Nolan’s first birthday, I spent hours on the food prep. I cut out stars in fruit and dipped grapes in caramel and rolled them in peanuts… it was ridiculous. I have vowed not to do that this year. My food prep for Harper’s party this year is fruit, dip, cupcakes, and pinwheels. With two kids running around, a jewelry business to run, and household to keep up, I simply do not have the time or energy to make crazy shapes out of food and themed dishes with little notecards.
Cut fruit on kabobs are so easy to make and are gorgeous to look at. We are going to make our kabobs with berries, pineapple, mangoes, kiwi and grapes. Dips are something that everyone likes and are easy to set out the day of the party. You can make them ahead of time and pop them in the oven right before everyone comes over. Two party hits we will be making are spinach artichoke and buffalo chicken dip (I will have recipes for these on the blog). They are somewhat easy to make and seem to please everyone’s taste buds. I always buy turkey and cheese pinwheels from Costco before a party because they are something I know people love andddddd I don’t have to make! The cupcakes we are making are going to require the most effort, but I want to make organic ones so Harper could eat one if she wanted. (I am still searching Pinterest for a recipe that I feel comfortable with, so if any of y’all already have a good recipe, please pass it on to me.)
7. SMASH CAKE– Because we are not going with a themed party, the smash cake is going to be easy to have made and cost less money. Normally we do a fondant cake, but have you ever tried fondant? It tastes horrible! My talented friend, Sarah, is making a buttercream smash cake with ombré icing. I have a pink number one candle and that is it. I do not think you have to have this elaborate cake for a one year old to “smash” into. Harper has never had cake, so I am sure hers will not stand a chance and we will have plenty of laughs as she goes to town on it.
Those are my first birthday essentials. I have learned that it is more important to have experiences with my children rather than spending hours and days of my time decorating for other adults. Harper does not care about any of that, and I am more excited to celebrate the birth of our sweet girl and see her interact with all the people that care about her. We are beyond blessed to have known her soul for the past year and knowing that she gets an entire day devoted to her makes my heart so full. I will share pictures from her special day with y’all after it gets here.