10 Tips for Planning the Best 1st Birthday Party | Pittsburgh Baby Photographer

July 22, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

It's always a joy to photograph babies at their first birthday party. I enjoyed photographing this baby girl recently at her beautiful birthday party. The theme was ducks, colors were yellow and blue, great children's music and there were fantastic decorations, guests and food. After having so much fun at this birthday party I thought I'd be fun to discuss planning a first birthday party.

10 Tips for Planning the Best 1st Birthday Party

1. TimePlan the party for after naptime, so your baby is well rested (and less likely to be in a bad mood). Limit the bash to a few hours—parties can be overwhelming for small children, especially if there are a lot of guests. Find a quiet space before the party, so if baby needs a breather or gets fussy, you can take him or her there.

2. Guest List | The size of your party ultimately depends on your own preferences, as well as your budget—obviously the more people you have, the more food, beverages and space you’re going to need. Begin with your must-invite list: the people you wouldn’t celebrate without. If you can add to your head count, keep going.

3. LocationIf you have a big enough home, throwing the party at your house could be a good option. Hosting the event at home means guests can hang out longer and baby has a place to nap if he or she gets tired. Plus, baby might be more comfortable in familiar surroundings. Booking a restaurant or even a children’s play space could be costly, but the big advantage is that you won’t get stuck with cleanup. There’s also no prep to deal with, and you won’t have to entertain guests as much. Otherwise, why not head to your favorite park? You can set up food and decorations at a picnic table (and some parks have grills). Plus, there’s already a play structure there to occupy the kids—just make sure that you have enough adults to keep an eye on them. Check with the local parks department to see if you need a permit or have to make a reservation for the space.

4. Theme | Does baby have a beloved elephant toy he or she sleeps with every night? Try zoo animals as a birthday theme. If your favorite part of the day is reading to baby at night, pepper the party with books. You can take inspiration from the season whether you’re having an indoor or outdoor party. We had a Little People theme for my daughter that loved these toys, a Ball party for my son who's first few words included ball and finally a Winter Onederland party for our daughter born in December.

5. MenuYou don't need to spend all day in the kitchen preparing party food and baking a cake. Plan your menu and keep it simple with sandwiches, pasta salads and iced tea for adults. For the little ones, serve up bite-size cakes and other treats, as well as no-choke finger foods and other baby-friendly options. You can order a cake from your favorite bakery or pick up the food from a local deli to make things a little easier on you. I've seen cereal stations where cheerios and other cereals are displayed in clear containers for babies and toddlers to enjoy.

6. DecorationsInstead of buying all of your decorations, you can make your own. You can decorate the room with photographs of your baby from every month of the year, hang up clothes that your little one has grown out of or ask your guests (the parents and the kids) to bring a picture of themselves at one year old to use to make a memorable photo collage. Rag garlands look cute. When I've made rag garlands I cut (or ripped) fabric 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches wide and about 21 inches long. Use a slip knot to tie the fabric onto the garland. I love having balloons at parties, most babies love them and they add instant festiveness! Opt for foil, or Mylar, balloons instead of latex to avoid choking hazards for kids. I've admired adorable first birthday infographic posters. The infographic poster shows your guests what your baby has learned and how your baby has grown over the year.

7. HelpConsider hiring a babysitter or asking a family member to help you balance your hosting duties with enjoying your baby's big day.

8. Play Place | Many of the babies in this age range are still on all fours, so baby-proof a play zone filled with age-appropriate toys for your little guests. Set chairs around the zone for parents to relax and watch.

9. Pictures | Be sure to take pictures of the cake and of your baby in his or her birthday outfit before the guests arrive. I've had some birthday parties for my kids and didn't have a chance to photograph them and I'm a photographer! I suggest tring to finish preparing for the party 30 before the party is scheduled to begin so you can relax and take some beautiful pictures.

10. Have fun! | Drinks will spill, accidents will happen and kids will cry, but you shouldn't sweat the small stuff. Relax and enjoy yourself with your baby and your guests. Birthday parties are meant to be fun and sometimes we get too caught up in all the details. Put on some music, break out the bubbles and just have some fun with your wee one. Your one-year-old will be a teenager before you know it.

And one more tip... I use one sheet of paper and write Guests, Schedule, Food, Drinks, Decorations, Activities, Music, Goodie Bags and Prizes, and on the other side of the sheet I write To Buy and To Do. This really helps me keep organized, on task and on budget.

I'd love to hear about your gorgeous parties and any additional tips you would like to share with us! Please comment below.


Laura Mares is an experienced photographer specializing in capturing timeless family keepsakes. Laura works on location and in her fully equipped home studio, located in Mt. Lebanon, eight miles south of Pittsburgh, PA. Laura’s style is creative, natural, and timeless. Would you like beautiful portraits of your newborn baby, to update your child and family portraits or to document a milestone in your life such as a wedding, graduation, birthday or reunion? If you are interested in high quality, timeless photographs, book your session today, call (412) 654-3367 or email [email protected]. To view a wide range of gorgeous portraits and to get great tips, advice and beautiful inspiration follow us on Instagram and Facebook.


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