First Birthday Party Prep

by Margaret Williams

First Birthday Party Prep

Low-stress tips to make your baby's first birthday celebration a blast

Scale Back the Guest List

Consider inviting only a small group of family and close friends. Not only will this keep costs down, but it also takes the pressure off you to entertain a large crowd. Besides, your baby's turning 1 — not getting married!

Watch the Clock

Nothing puts a damper on a good time quicker than a crying baby. "The best time of day for a party is when your baby is well rested and happy, usually right after a nap," says Annabel Karmel, author of Complete Party Planner. "I'd suggest having a lunchtime gathering, so it's all over before the late-afternoon crankies." And while it's best to keep the party short and sweet, "there's no reason why you can't excuse the guest of honor for bedtime and continue the festivities in her absence," says Lisa Kothari, author of the kids' party-planning book Dear Peppers and Pollywogs….

Keep it Low-Key 

Luckily, you're still a few years away from bringing in a petting zoo or renting an inflatable bouncy castle. Pull out your baby's favorite toys (and maybe a few new ones), blow bubbles, and play some of his favorite tunes –that's all the entertainment you need.

Countdown to the Big Day

1 Month Before 

  • Put the word out about the party. If you're not up for sending formal invitations, just call or e-mail family and friends.

2 Weeks Before

  • Order your party supplies.
  • Pick out two outfits for your baby — one a bit fancy for pictures and another casual one for after she smooshes cake on the first!

1 Week Before

  • Order the cake; schedule pickup for the morning of the party.

3 Days Before

  • Call anyone you haven't heard from to get a final head count.

2 Days Before

  • Charge the camera! You don't want to find out the batteries are dead when she takes her first bite of cake.
  • Shop for party food. Don't forget: the first-birthday candle, extra garbage bags, and paper towels.

1 Day Before

  • Bake and frost the cake or cupcakes (if you're making them).
  • Whip up a batch of Babytalk-tinis.
  • Set up decorations and paper goods once your baby's in bed.

Party Day!

  • Pick up extra ice and the cake in the morning (if you ordered one).
  • Make sure the cake knife, candles, matches, and camera are in a handy (and babyproof) spot.
  • Await the arrival of your guests!


The Scene

Check out these great one-stop-shop party-supply websites to make throwing your party a piece of cake:

  • This site offers an exclusive collection of more than 30 first-birthday party themes, like Birthday Diva, Barnyard Celebration, and Lil' Prince. Create a personalized keepsake banner and pick up a high-chair skirt to deck out the guest of honor's party perch.
  • Customize your party package with only what you need for the big day. Choose from a wide selection of paper goods, table coverings, decorations, candles, and party favors. Orders placed by 3 p.m. CT are shipped the same day, and you get free three-day shipping when you spend $55 or more.
  • A gorgeous take on party decor, the Garden, Explorer, and Water party themes lend themselves to a more adult-oriented affair. With reusable cloth tablecloths, napkins, place mats, and melamine plates and cups, these stylish party collections are dressed to impress!

The Best Gifts

Family and friends — especially those who don't have kids — will inevitably ask for gift ideas. All of these classic and new toys will knock the Robeez off any 1-year-old.

What to Serve

Although you'll probably be able to get away with just serving cake, if partytime is closer to lunch, stave off empty-tummy fussing with premade snacks for adults and kid-friendly finger foods that work for all:

  • Premade sandwiches and salads
  • Pizza and buffalo chicken wings from your local pizzeria
  • Fresh fruit
  • Mini-bagels and muffins
  • Bite-size cookies or brownies
  • Stay away from foods that are choking hazards, such as grapes, nuts, popcorn, and hard candies. Avoid placing platters on low surfaces where your baby would have easy access to them.
  • Why not serve the ultimate two-in-one birthday treat: an ice-cream cake? No need to slice cake and scoop melting ice cream. We like the sinfully rich creations from Cold Stone Creamery (visit for store locations). They're grown-up enough to appeal to all guests, yet add a celebratory touch to your gathering — it's not every day that you get to eat ice-cream cake!
    The guest of honor, though, can have her own "smashcake" that she can do with as she wishes (just remember that this is a once-in-a-lifetime mess!). A special cupcake is an ideal baby-size treat.