It’s your baby’s first birthday party! It’s been a big year of milestones for your baby, and it’s time to celebrate! You want to make it memorable without blowing your budget, but how? Here are some budget-friendly tips for throwing a memorable first birthday party at a reasonable price.
1. Avoid a venue fee by having the party outside or at someone’s house
My husband and I have a small house. For our first child’s first birthday party, we rented a place in town. It was the perfect space. It had a little kitchen attachment, tall windows to let in natural light, and a large open room. The venue also had lots of big tables and chairs to accommodate all our guests. I loved it! We decorated the room to match our birthday party theme, and it was wonderful. The only problem was the price tag for the party. Renting the building alone was around $125! After that, we decided all other parties would be held at Grandpa’s big farm house for free!
2. Save on invitations by making your own and handing them out
I have done this for several parties now. If you look in the office supply section at Walmart or Target, you will find Avery products. Avery sells shipping labels, address labels, business card templates, and postcard templates. Buy a box of post-card templates. There are 4 cards per page. Usually one box will make enough post card invitations for two or three parties. Design your own invitation on your computer using the Avery website and print. Because they are post cards, they don’t need an envelope if you decide to mail them. We hand-deliver as many as we can, then we mail the rest. You can also use these for thank you cards following the party if you wish.
3. Pick an easy theme
We have used each of our girls’ nicknames for their party themes. Big C’s nickname is “Bug,” short for ladybug. Her theme was all ladybugs. She had ladybug cupcakes, ladybug napkins, ladybug plates, ladybug cups, black and red centerpiece decorations, black and red jelly beans, black and red M&Ms, etc…. Although the decorations were easy to find, many of them were shockingly expensive. Buying individually decorated cupcakes instead of a cake was triple the cost.
The plates, napkins, and cups were all specialty items and were priced higher than the plain tableware. When you buy M&Ms and jelly beans by color, it gets expensive. I think we spent $100 in red and black candy for the table decorations alone! (Big C’s first birthday party was somewhere around $400 just to throw. That doesn’t even include what we bought her for her birthday!)
Little C’s nickname is “Sugar Butt.” Her theme was candy. This time, I got a regular cake at the local bakery. Because it was her first birthday, they gave us a smash cake for free. (I think many bakeries offer this service, so ask around.) It was decorated in purple and pink dots with sprinkles to simulate sugar and candy. I stuck with plain purple and pink for plates, napkins, cups, and tablecloths.
We bought some purple and white paper ball decorations that we hung from the ceiling with fishing line and white duct tape. On the tables, we placed polka-dot cupcake holders. We filled them with multi-colored Wild-Berry Skittles and purple and silver Hershey Kisses. We got jelly canning jars from the basement, filled them with pink tissue paper, and stuck Smarties out of them. Then, we sprinkled sparkly confetti on the tables to make them shine. Little C’s decorations and tableware only cost around $30–40.
4. Share memories of your baby’s first year with guests
We did this for both our girls. We had a table set up that displayed our favorite pictures of them from when they were born. It also had family pictures we had taken within the first year.
Both girls had centerpieces that had a base of clear canning jars. We put pictures of each girl with a specific family member that was coming to the party in the jars between the glass and the tissue paper. Guests would go around the tables and look at all the pictures in the jars. They would smile and talk about their memories with our girls. It was fun to relive those times with family and friends.
5. Allow guests to share their special memories with your baby
This is the ONE thing I would recommend above all else to anyone planning a first birthday party! I promise you will not regret doing this, and one day, your child will cherish it. At each of my girls’ birthday parties, I had a table that displayed an empty scrapbook. In front of the scrapbook, I placed metallic markers, fancy pens, and squares and rectangles of pretty scrapbooking paper. (I recommend using special scissors to make fancy edges on the paper. You can get all these things in the craft aisles at Walmart, Target, or at a craft store.) On a note, I asked my guests to write down their first memory, favorite memory, or both on a piece of paper for the birthday girl’s scrapbook.
I reminded my guests several times during the party to complete this task. After the party, I collected memories from friends and family members that couldn’t come. My husband and I added our own. Once the pictures were developed, I made a scrapbook of the party for my birthday girl. Each is filled with memories from people who love them. Some of the people that shared their memories won’t be around forever, and it is so special to hear their voices coming through their words. At the end, I included a special letter from Daddy and Mommy.
My oldest daughter loves looking at the scrapbook of her first birthday party. She always asks me to read the notes people sent her. It’s something each of my girls will have forever. You don’t even have to go crazy decorating the pages either. Mount one or two pictures per page on pretty scrapbook paper, add the memory notes, and a few stickers. That’s it! They will love it!
6. Send a picture thank you card for your guests
This tip is not a money saver; however, you can still do it for a reasonable price. Instead of writing out thank you cards to guests, I send a picture thank you. If you look on Walmart.com or Snapfish, there is usually a discounted picture card section. I choose one the discounted cards and upload a picture of the birthday girl from the party. Then, I include a line that says, “Thank you for making my first birthday so special!” I’ve had positive feedback from family members who have kept their cards from my girls.
After planning my first daughter’s birthday party, I can tell you that it’s easy to go crazy and spend a lot of money. Although my husband and I were happy to make it special for her, we really felt like much of the money we spent throwing the party could have been used for other things. The first birthday party we threw for our second daughter was almost $300 cheaper, and it was just as wonderful.
Q: What tips do you have for throwing a memorable first birthday party?