Family Life

First Birthday Party Fun

From hats to the bib to the banner on the high chair to the party favors to the venue to the food and drinks, the details of planning a child’s first birthday party are nearly endless. Whether you go all out or keep it intimate and simple, order a 12” round smash cake or pick up a simple cupcake, the process can either be exhilarating or anxiety-inducing. In today’s world of Pinterest and Instagram, it’s usually the latter, no matter what type of mom you are. But it doesn’t have to be.

“Party planning can be overwhelming, and it can stress people out with the details,” says Angela Babin, owner of Angela Marie Events. Babin has been a professional event planner since 2011, and her biggest piece of advice to parents when planning is to “press the easy button when you can,” she says. “When it comes to food, a chip bar is easy because you aren’t slaving in the kitchen.” 

Local mom Madi Roughton recently celebrated her son’s first birthday and provided “heavy snacks” forgoing an actual, full meal, which “worked out great,” she says. If it’s in the budget, catering is always an option. If it’s not, offer something simple (that doesn’t require cooking), like pizzas. Whatever works for the budget, theme, and sanity, go for it and don’t look back.

When planning for food, Babin also suggests planning for drinks–and the Louisiana summer heat. “Always, when you have a party during hot weather, account for double what people are going to drink,” she advises.

Local mom of two Stephanie Lambert recommends beginning to plan as early as possible. “Everything about birthdays is stressful, at least to me,” she says. “So much goes into planning one that I feel like you have to start preparing extremely early. It’s a big milestone, so you want everything to be perfect. Today, parties have so much detail–balloons, cookies, cake, decorations, themes. It takes a few months to really get everything together.” Which is true. Babin says, while a few years ago it was customary to send an invitation two weeks prior, that number has now jumped to a month.

“People are too busy these days,” she says. “People have plans. People go on vacation. So now, I like to send mine no later than a month ahead. If you really want people to come, you need to let everyone know in advance.”

To Babin, the invitations are the first impression of the party. While she knows evites are on the rise, she believes in the old-school mentality of mailing invitations out. “Sending out an invitation lets people know it is important,” she says. “People don’t send cards as much. People don’t send thank yous as much. An invitation in the mail lets the receiver know it’s going to be an important day for your family and you’d like them to share it with you.”
Babin says it’s important to remember that it is not only a child’s birthday party, but could be a relaxing, fun day for the adults, too. For example, for a “capes and queso” themed party, a taco station and a margarita machine would get the stamp of approval from kids and adults both.

“If you’re going to have families over, you want everybody to have a good time,” she says. “It’s not just the kid you’re inviting. You’re inviting the family. There might be an older sibling, mom, dad, and sometimes even grandparents who will tag along.”

Still, Roughton says there is a lot of pressure on parents today to throw the perfect party, in what she calls an era of “Pinterest momming.” That being said, being practical is important, too.

“You don’t want to overstretch your budget for something your child won’t remember,” she says.
Lambert says in the end, the memories are worth it. “I know at such a young age my girls probably won’t remember much about them, but I will. In a few years, they will just want to have a few friends over for sleepovers or maybe go shopping at the mall, so I want to enjoy planning and celebrating them this way as long as I can,” she says.

Babin says she went “all out” on her son’s first birthday because he was a miracle. “He wasn’t meant to be, according to doctors,” she says. “Not only are you celebrating that your child is one, but you are celebrating that mom made it through that year. On my son’s big day when I came down, everyone was applauding me. It wasn’t my birthday, but in a sense, it was my day, too because motherhood is not for the weak.”

Babin hosted a Kentucky Derby party complete with a southern brass band, catering from City Pork, lawn games, Mint Juleps, and of course, ponies. But beyond the theme, decorations, and food lies the most important part of the whole day–the reason for the celebration.

“The best thing about the birthdays are the family and friends who show up,” Lambert says. “You realize just how special your children are when all of the people who mean the most to you take time out of their day to come celebrate with you.” ■

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