The first year birthday for a first child in the family marks a significant milestone not just for the child transitioning from infant to toddler stage but quite notably for the parents. It’s a time for reflection on how fast the baby grew, how quickly the year passed, and how your whole life has changed. Parenthood changes you. It changes your lifestyle, your priorities, and who you know yourself to be. And it challenges you to become more selfless than you have ever been before. It has been a whirlwind year for us with the new baby, new home and the constant moves for baby and me trying to avoid the renovation hazards. And we’ve come a long way, baby!
I knew I wanted to celebrate the first year birthday in a big way. We opted out of having a baby shower so this was a a celebration long overdue. Also, it is in Korean tradition that the first year is celebrated in a big fashion, akin to how we Americans might celebrate a sweet 16 or bar mitzvah. Plus, I’m a party planner at heart and by trade so planning this party was a creative outlet that I much looked forward to and enjoyed during the process.
It all started with the dress. Being obsessed with fashion, I wanted to find the cutest birthday dress for Juliet and actually started looking for it around month 5 or 6. After scouring the web and browsing literally hundreds of options online, I came across this adorable set from Mudpie. I loved the fun mix of polka dots and stripes and fell in love with the matching hat. Adorable, isn’t it??
And since I felt a birthday girl’s dress shouldn’t clash her party decor, the dress determined the party color theme and decor. If step 1 was finding the dress. Step 2 was finding an invite and party paper set to match. Between you and me, this search for birthday invites and countless, shameful hours of Pinterest “research” ignited the long-lost thrill of party planning that I feared was over now that I had left my event marketing/PR job post maternity leave. I giggled recalling how my event planning girlfriend and I once lamented the end of our weddings as we both experienced withdrawal because I felt I was now getting to re-live that sort of planning fun all over again. And indeed, we have not seen some of these invited guests since 2011 when I got married. So the first birthday was all that more exciting knowing I’d reunite with some family and friends after yet another life-changing milestone.
Onto the party paper. That Party Chick on Etsy sold the below invite and I knew it had so much potential to match the birthday dress and become the starting point for the entire event’s look and feel.
The colors were right, and it gave the graphic stripes and polka dot details on her dress an added complimentary floral pattern. Michelle Wise from That Party Chick was awesome at creating the requested matching custom: thank you cards, chocolate wrappers, signage, water bottle and favor stickers etc. I’d highly recommend her as she was quick to respond, and up for all challenges. Here is a sampling of items I had customized and designed with her help.
As a new mom without full-time help, you can imagine I was strapped for time and had to make sacrifices in order to finish all the DIY projects that I had on my party planning list. And there was a lot to be done if I wanted this party to look as professionally detailed as I wanted (but on a budget). Here is a sampling of my DIY todos and keep in mind I had to also set aside time to research best prices for supplies, buy them, print/cut them before creating any of the below:
- Wrap 100 water bottles
- Wrap 100 mini chocolates
- Cut and create toothpick flags for sandwiches
- Make (2) tulle table skirts
- Make matching party hats for the little guests
- Cut and place papers on platters for customized look
- Make paper garlands for backdrop banner
- Make tissue paper fringe for table borders, party hats and balloons
- Create matching risers and presents
So out went any hopes of shedding the remaining pounds before this party. Work out? WHEN?! I was going to be lucky if I could sneak in a shower during my sparse free time. Also on hold was the preschool research that I had started. 6weeks before the party date, I had a one-woman crafting sweatshop to run! Thank you to the couple people who volunteered time to help me in my crafting craze! I couldn’t have finished the party hats or toothpicks without you! And thanks to my husband who let me take over the countertop pictured below to store and assemble! And thanks for letting me do my thing, even though you did wonder out loud how all this “junk” was going to turn into decor. Oh ye of little faith!
Possibly the most time consuming project of all though was the party’s guestbook. Since the day she was born, I had already recorded her rapid growth using the same Ugly Doll in each photo every week and only changing Juliet’s elaborately styled outfits. It wasn’t until after I had reviewed others’ Korean first birthday parties that I noted how people displayed (monthly) growth photos at a welcome table. They were usually in the form of framed photos or hung as a garland. As an event planner who has pretty much seen it all, I like to find creative ways of doing traditional things. So I added a twist to the usual and used my weekly growth photos which I already planned to turn into a book for Juliet and got double use out of it by turning it into a party guestbook. That way, guests could view the weekly fashion photo shoots I styled , enjoy the silly captions I made and record their presence for her with a personal party message. Shutterfly actually has a great template for guestbooks where you can add in pages that allow people to write their messages, predictions and sign-in.
It became a fun, interactive element to the party and gave guests something to talk about and do (there were 52 weeks of photos to browse after all!)
Other interactive elements that I incorporated into the party included:
- coloring stations for the kids (easels and markers for the older ones, birthday templates and crayons for the younger ones)
- enter to win -raffle associated with the Korean doljabi ceremony (more on that in my follow-up post)
- roaming photographer took family photos and candids (photos will be emailed to all guests post party)
I believe in the importance of thinking of your guests’ experience. Here are some general party tips when planning your own party:
- Ensure the atmosphere is welcoming and comfortable (enough seats for elderly, space to move between aisles/chairs, extra coat racks and hangers, specific directional information and reminders pre-party)
- Consider the kids (have child-friendly drinks and snacks available, age-appropriate toys and activities)
- Delight and surprise. Don’t give away all the details of what to expect and incorporate fun, creative elements whenever possible. For instance, I posted humorous developmental update signs throughout the party for guests to discover along the way (see below). And I played gangnam style when hosting the Korean traditional doljabi ceremony (also added Psy as one of the items Juliet could pick up and choose).
For more party pics, follow me on Instagram @FabGabBlog and click here for part 2 of this fab fete post! Part 2 includes:
- Dessert bar
- Snack / beverage bar
- Korean Doljabi ceremony
- What went wrong (but nobody noticed)
Let me know what you think!