How to Throw a Heartfelt Milestone Birthday

A one-year old’s birthday party is really a party for the adults, especially if this is the party-throwers first child. Traditionally it’s all about watching the little one eat cake for the first time and excitedly rip off the wrapping paper from the presents. But for this party, I’m going to try and give the adults a few more things to do that are fun and festive, but most importantly, are all still about the birthday boy or girl.

The nice thing about this Milestone Birthday Party Plan, is that many of these elements can actually be adopted for just about ANY birthday…boy or girl…big or small.

Element #1 – Theme, Mood & Color: Carry Them Out In Everything You Do

To determine the theme for this party we’re going to use a three-step process:

First, go to your favorite party supply store either on-line or in person and find a 1st Year Birthday dinner plate that you like. This is what I call your “inspiration piece.”

Second, create an “Imagination Board” out of a large sheet of butcher paper or a sheet of binder paper. However, if you are personally planning multiple parties over the years, I suggest you purchase a 2 x 3 foot white board which you can pick one up at your local office supply store.

Third, to begin brainstorming I put my inspiration piece on my Imagination Board. I then write down everything that comes to mind related to what I see and think about when I look at my inspiration piece. For example, when I looked at the plate I choose, I thought about: my little cupcake, how fun it is to be one, and how she gets to make a wish and blow out her first candle.

Keep your Imagination Board (or paper) handy because you may refer to it for inspiration throughout the party planning process. I usually add to my board as I shop around and see things that are available with my theme and as ideas come to me. These ideas are the foundation for the wording on the invitations, the cake, the thank you notes, and so on.

Element #2 – Invitations: Make Them Inviting

There is nothing wrong with checking out the invitations that match the paper goods you’ve decided to use for a themed party. In fact, they could make a good base for your invitation that you can add on to, or at the very least provide you with clever wording.

The invitation that matches my “cupcake” inspiration plate is darling. It has a unique shape, it is fun, it looks like a party; and the printed words tie in beautifully to my theme. The only thing I would do however, when using a store bought invitation is to make is to “my own” by adding my own message, an embellishment or additional card stock.

Taking an idea from my Imagination Board, I’m going to write, “Come help us blow out her candle” on a little tag and attach it by ribbon to a small, real candle. Then I’m going to adhere that to the top of the cupcake invitation, using super sticky tape, and voila — a store bought invite given a little extra somethin’ somethin’.

Here’s an additional example using another cupcake invitation for a baby boy’s first birthday. I’m going to modify a store-bought party pick (basically an over-sized plastic toothpick with a round circle on one end) by adding a photo of the birthday boy inside the circle. Using a round circle punch makes quick work of this step. Then I stick the photo pick into the cupcake invite and there you go – a cute, personalized and unique invitation with some added pizazz.

Element #3 – Decor & Ambiance: Remember Set and Setting Are Everything

I want to keep the decorations fun and yet elegant for this First Year Milestone Birthday party. To do this I’m going to focus on two main elements…1st Year Birthday paper goods, like our inspiration piece, and balloons — because nothing says a party like balloons.

You may consider paper plates and napkins, just paper plates and napkins. But in many ways these party goods can be considered a part of your décor, especially when they’re cute, bright, and cheerful, and they add so much color to your party space.

I don’t like to go too matchy-matchy because I think it looks tacky. So, I mix things up a bit by combining solid plates and cups with my patterned ones. I have even been known to throw in a different pattern from time to time that coordinates nicely.

I think balloons say birthday! One of my favorite fun but elegant decorating secrets is balloon bouquets on sticks. To start, just choose balloon colors from your inspiration plate and purchase balloon sticks (with cups) in a gross or bulk from a party supply store. Simply blow up your balloon (no helium needed), tie it off, and slip it into the cup. Then attach the cup to your desired colored stick. I recommend using an odd number of balloons, either three or five, for each bouquet depending on your vessel or vase, and how big a balloon you use. You can also cut your sticks to different lengths for added interest, and attach ribbons and decorative strands for a festive, yet classy touch.

A few party hats lying around are a nice touch too even though I wouldn’t expect anyone to really wear them…although I wouldn’t discourage it if the mood strikes.

Element #4 – Food & Beverage: Never Stress About Food and Drinks

The cake is what it’s all about on the first birthday. But since the one year old probably won’t remember the cake, be sure it is one that the guests will by making it a photo cake! This is a lot easier than you may think.

Many bakeries have the technology to make this possible. So choose your favorite photo of the guest of honor and bring it to life in frosting.

Or, if cupcakes are more your style, you can still apply the photo idea by creating photo flags. For this project you’ll simply need some cardstock, pinking scissors, a hole-punch, and some lollipop sticks. And of course you’ll need your favorite photo of the birthday baby and some double stick adhesive.

If you used a photo pick on your invitations, you could use the same picture (and/or pick) on your cupcakes. Whichever way you go, adding a photo element to your food and beverage menu is a great touch.

Element #5 – Activities: Engage Your Guests In Something

I think it’s great to have things for your guests to get involved in besides opening gifts and watching the little one eat—or play with—cake. Both are great fun, but here are a few other things to consider doing at your First Year Milestone Birthday Party.

Create a “Year in the Life of” collage panel. This is a great idea if you have windowpanes in your home, but if not try a long frame or collage panel. Most multiple opening frames will work great as long as you include photos from birth through 12 months. Or you could create a video showing some of baby’s best moments of the last 12 months that your guests may have missed.

Consider having your “baby book” done for some added fun things to look through. Or put together a scrapbook of the months leading up to baby’s birth. You can also use a computer software program to make a beautiful photo book.

Lastly, create a “Game of Firsts.” Write the following questions inside disposable diapers with a colored Sharpie pen:
— When did I first smile?
— When did I get my first tooth?
— When did I first sit up?
— When did I first crawl?
— When did I first sleep through the night?
— When did I say my first word? Bonus points – What was my first word?

Have guests pull a diaper from a diaper bag (or other creative container) and guess the date that each of these events (or others that you came up with) happened.

Give out fun prizes to the ones who guess closest. You know what kinds of gifts your guests would like better than I do given the mix of people you’re inviting, but some nice nonspecific ideas include chocolates, gift cards or home entertaining items like coasters or serving pieces…things people might actually use.

Element #6 – Special Touches: Set Your Party Apart; Give Them Something From Your Heart

I adore creating a special keepsake for the guest of honor at any party; in this case, a Signature Cake Plate provides the perfect backdrop for your party guests to make a wish for baby’s 1st Year Milestone Birthday.

Signature Plates usually come as kits with special pens. You just have the guests sign the plate with their special sentiment, and then bake the plate in your oven, which makes the ink permanent. EasyPeazy!

If you don’t like the plate idea you can create a book for birthday wishes. You can buy one—or create your own Wish Book out of two sheets of 12×12-inch heavy card stock that you can trim down, several blank 8 ½ x11-inch sheets, a hole punch and some coordinating ribbon.

To make the most out of the plate or the book, I would encourage guests to write down a thoughtful wish for baby’s life…wishes like, “May you always have a smile on your face and music in your heart.” Or “May you always know love.” Or “We wish you a lifetime of laughter and happiness.”

Since you never really know if the one-ear old guest of honor is going to be awake and happy to take photos during the party with all those people around—here’s an option that happens after the party, and more important, at your leisure.

Simply have your camera on hand and take a photo of the birthday boy or girl playing with each one of their new gifts one at a time. What guest wouldn’t love to see a personalized thank you note with an adorable photo of baby enjoying the gift they brought? So unleash your inner shutterbug and make your guests feel special with these personalized thank you notes.

Don’t forget that you can reuse many of these ideas for other Milestone Birthdays, maybe not the Game of Firsts on diapers, but certainly many of the photo ideas for the invitations, milestone collage, thank you notes and photo cake and cupcakes…and let’s not forget the balloon bouquets!

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