A first birthday is one of the most important celebrations for your family!

You did it! You survived one whole year as a parent!

It was hard, messy, and filled with so much joy that you’re shocked your heart can even handle it all. Congratulations, mama! Now, it’s time to party.  It’s time to celebrate your sweet baby and their first year, but it’s also time to celebrate you and your tribe.

But man…where do you even start?  There are SO many ideas out there and it’s really easy to get overwhelmed when planning a first birthday party.  You want to make it special, but you are also exhausted, and unsure of where to start.

You’ve got some ideas on a themed Pinterest board, but you have no clue where to find the decor in the pictures to make the party come to life.  You see a stunning dessert table and laugh because you think there’s no possible way you could create that on your budget. 

Guess what?

You only need to focus on a couple things to have a successful, stress-free, and memorable party.

Just 5 in fact.

You can do 5 things, mama! These 5 things are totally manageable, and break through the overwhelm of looking at the party as a whole.

One of my biggest pieces of advice to anyone hosting a party is to break the whole shebang up into small, easy to achieve tasks.  Today I am going to order the cake. Check!  Today I am going to buy her outift, and if I have time, will also try and make a banner for her high chair (knowing full well you have a purchase option as a back up 😉).

See how different that mindset is? Way less overwhelming than scrambling at the last minute.

Let’s break it down even further by discussing the 5 things every first birthday party should have.  If you can make a decision on these 5 things, you will be feeling so much better!

1. A Clear Theme

Having a theme is one of the best decisions you can make when planning a party.  It keeps you focused, and even better, keeps you on budget.  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been wandering a store and find something I love and “have” to have, but force myself to step back and put it down because it is not within the theme of my party.  Boom. Money saved.

A theme also saves you time.  No more scrolling the million results for “cute party ideas for a one year old.” When you have a theme, you know exactly what to search for when shopping for decor, party supplies, tabletop, favors, and so much more.  It even helps you narrow down your menu plan! First Fiesta= tacos. Fastest decision ever!

One Wild Adventure or Wild One Theme

Shop the plan: One Wild Adventure Party Plan

Pink and Gold, She Leave a Little Sparkle Whereever She Goes Theme

Shop the plan: Pink and Gold First Birthday Party Plan

2. A Mostly Assembly Only Menu Plan

I am 100% in the camp of taking the simple route when it comes to hosting a party.  I have been the girl stuck in the kitchen while everyone else has fun, and you guessed it, not so much fun for me!  And I sure as heck would never put myself in that position on a day as important as my baby’s first birthday party.

Assembly only and make ahead is your friend. 

  • What can you grill or cook the night before that can be assembled day of?
  • What can you serve that is great room temp?
  • What can you serve that guests make their own plate?
    • i.e. sandwich bar, taco bar, ice cream bar, pulled pork sandwiches, etc.

My favorite party food go-tos?

  • taco bar
  • charcuterie boards
  • pb&j (or any sandwich combo you like) cut with a themed cookie cutter
  • pasta salad
  • bbq chicken grilled the night before
  • salad kits from Costco
  • anything I can make in my slow cooker
    • also makes great lattes or hot cocoa for a colder weather party!

Taco bar with toppings, fresh guacamole, and sangria- guests DIY!

Shop the plan: First Fiesta Party Plan

BBQ chicken, corn muffins, pasta salad, and fruit: all made ahead the night before!

Shop the plan: One Wild Adventure Party Plan

3. Age Appropriate Activites

I appreciate having something for my kids to do when attending a party.  It creates a flow and honestly, takes the pressure off the host a bit.  It acts as a clear call of what to do in between eating and watching the smash.

Think about what your one yeaar old enjoys doing when planning your activity. Sensory experiences, balls, tunnels, shakers, instruments, cars, water, etc.

Tip! It is also nice to think about older kids attending your party.  Is there a small, easy themed craft for them to do…or for the parent to help the littlest kids with? A game?

No fail activity ideas:

  • sensory bin- tons of ideas on Pinterest
  • sand box or water table
  • cars with tracks..trains too!
  • DIY shakers or other instruments
  • little obstacle course with balls, hoops, and a tunnel

Digging for Snails: sandbox with plastic frogs, snails, and bugs buried in

Shop the plan: Frogs, Snails, and Puppy Dog Tails Party Plan

DIY Maracas: making shakers with spoons, washi tape, and fillers

Shop the plan: First Fiesta Party Plan

4. Milestone Decor

You are celebrating a major milestone! A first birthday is a giant deal, and your baby has changed SO much!  It’s so fun to show guests those changes!

I love showing monthly photos with a cute banner, some highlight moments, and then a milestone chalkboard.  You can customize these in your theme on Etsy.

Having a guestbook type station is also a really special activity.  The birthday wishes left for Evie on her first birthday is still one of my favorite things to look through.  For Hudson’s ONE Wild Adventure 1st, I had everyone write a love note to him on a smooth rock, and they are in a big jar displayed in his room.

Milestone printable chalkboard from Twisted Sister Shop and One Wild Adventure decor

Shop the plan: One Wild Adventure Party Plan

Milestone chalkboard in pink and gold theme with a birthday wish station for the birthday girl

Shop the plan: Pink and Gold First Birthday Party Plan

5. A Smash Cake Area

The smash cake is the main event of the party!  Think about a dedicated space at the party where the high chair can go.  Jazz it up with a themed background or banner.

Remember, this is picture time city.  Think about the lighting behind your little one during the smash.  Is it creating glares or is their cute face totally dark because of shadows?

Set your spot up the day/night before and do a photo test run.  This may seem silly right now, but I promise, you will thank me for this reminder.  There is NOTHING worse than going back to relive the moment and realizing the sun was in the worst possible spot ever and you can barely see your kid’s face!

Another tip? Have space on your phone to record your loved ones singing happy birthday to the birthday boy or girl.  These are actually videos I go back and watch often because it was such a celebratory moment.  I love reliving it, and I can’t imagine how stressed I’d be if that little “not enough storage” notification popped up in the middle!  You know what I’m talking about, sister.

Painted high chair with Wild One backdrop and milestone pictures

Shop the plan: One Wild Adventure Party Plan

Vintage world map backdrop, cloud smash cake, monthly milestone photo board

Shop the plan: Time Flies Party Plan

There you go! 5 things every first birthday party should have.

1. A clear theme
2. A mostly assembly only menu
3. Age appropriate activites
4. Milestone decor
5. A smash cake area

Do you feel better having it all outlined like that? 5 things to accomplish, instead of 872?  Sounds good to me!

An Even Better Solution

Now, if you are looking for something more, and I know you probably are, I highly encourage you to check out my first birthday party plans!  They are whole parties completely planned for you in adorable themes.  I designed them to include each of these 5 things among so many more in depth details per the theme of your choice, giving you the exact information you need to bring your themed party to life, and sharing exactly where to buy what you need for it to happen.  

They are broken down by theme inspiration, decor, outfit options, menu plans, dessert table tutorials, dessert recipes, themed party activities, pary favors, my top party planning secrets, etc. Everything you need is right there all in one place.  The days of scrolling, pinning, hunting for hours, and stressing about how the heck you’re going to pull this off are GONE.  These party plans allow you the freedom to host the party of your dreams, while saving you time, stress, and money.  The work is done so you just get to think about all the beautiful, special memories you’re creating for your loved ones…and especially your birthday boy or girl.

Do yourself a favor, and go into this special day with a plan!

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