About two weeks before my youngest son's first birthday, my sister not-so-subtly asked, "Are you going to throw him a birthday party?" I naturally told her, "Of course," though I was secretly feeling a little guilty that we hadn't even begun to plan a party or send out invitations for this momentous milestone in our little guy's life.
We quickly threw together an evite (thanks, technology), bought a few decorations on Amazon, baked a cake, and gathered some snacks just in time for the big day. It was a no-muss, no-fuss kind of party, and I wouldn't want it any other way.
When I think back to our older son's first birthday party, I mostly remember the stress of trying to have a perfectly clean house, my husband spending hours (OK, days) on an intricate fondant-covered cake, blanketing the house in expensive decorations, and spending most of the party bouncing around the house making sure everyone had everything they needed.
Sure, it may have made for better Instagram photos, but my oldest is now 4 years old, and he doesn't remember a single thing about that party. My toddler won't remember his first birthday party, either. But you know what? I will remember, and I remember them both having the time of their lives. Kids don't care if your floor is spotless or if you sprung for the life-size Captain America cardboard cutout. They especially don't care how long you spent making their birthday cake; they will destroy it all the same.
If you're feeling the pressure to host an all-out, over-the-top shindig for your baby's birthday, I hereby grant you permission to throw the rules out the window and do your kid's birthday the way YOU want to. Here are a few ways we saved our time, money, and, most importantly, our sanity when planning our son's first birthday party.
1. Make it a family affair
At this age, you are your baby's best friend. They don't really have true friends yet, just other babies they might play next to occasionally. We kept the guest list to immediate family, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents; the people who love our son the most, have watched him grow over this past year, and who we most wanted to celebrate this special day with. This made it easy to decide who to invite and kept the guest list manageable.
2. Time it right
In the past, we've thrown parties around 5pm, and my husband ended up manning the grill for most of the party. This time, we had the party at 3 pm, which is right after our son's afternoon nap. This left him in a much happier mood and it allowed us to serve light snacks and, of course, a cake, as opposed to a full dinner spread.
3. Create a party room
To cut costs on decorations and save time preparing the house, we centered most of the party activity in our dining room. We didn't have to deep clean the entire house (or even make the beds!), and we focused on decorating just that one special area. Bonus — it took us almost no time at all to clean up when our guests went home.
4. Save those special memories
It may seem like I don't think first birthdays are that special, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Mostly, I wanted to be with my son and enjoy the celebration. One way that I've been commemorating both of my kids' birthdays is with this keepsake journal Your Birthday Book ($20). It has pages for photos, party recaps, and even time capsule envelopes in which you can store keepsakes like invites and candles. I hope that one day my children will read through these books and see me in the photos right there next to them with a huge, carefree smile on my face.