If you think that a first-year birthday party is all about your young toddler — think again. Your baby isn’t excited about the five-layer, chocolate swirl cake. He doesn’t realize that you spent hours searching for elephant balloons. And he isn’t especially eager to play with his new toys. Then again, he thinks those gift boxes are pretty awesome.

When my little boy turned one, I remember thinking that it was actually a celebration for my husband and me. We had successfully gotten our once-7-pound-incredibly-fragile-baby to 12 months! So, it was definitely a reason to celebrate.

Here are my tips for throwing a first-year birthday party with all of the most important ingredients: happy baby, stress-free parents, picture-perfect moments, and lots of style.

Time Your Party Perfectly

Whether you’re all about a strict schedule or more go-with-the-flow, you are certain about one thing: your 12-month-old needs one if not two naps each day, or else… At one year, my baby still could only nap in someone’s arms, and frankly, on the morning of his party, my arms were busy setting up. So, I enlisted my father-in-law to be the body against which my baby napped. We scheduled the party for 12pm, and I hoisted our son into his arms by 10am. My father-in-law, an expert nap-inducer with two sons and four grandchildren as of then, had no trouble getting our son into dreamland. And when he woke up, he was ready to party — or, at least, show off his gorgeous smile.

Send an Invitation that’s Both Classy and Simple

To ensure that friends designate part of their weekend to your baby’s party, create an invitation that features your baby’s irresistible smile. I recommend sending an online invitation. Not only does that make your job a lot easier — a few clicks and you’re done — but guests will also be able to RSVP online, which means that there’s even less work for you!

Wear Your Finest

Like many parents, my husband and I have mostly said goodbye (for now) to our out-on-the-town Saturday nights, and made Sunday afternoons our time to check out the museum, zoo, or new restaurant. Because we don’t go to as many parties as we used to, I decided to take full advantage of our baby’s first birthday party. I dug into my closet and found my little black dress. Oh, how I’d missed it! I paired it with black heels and some red lipstick. And, of course, I dressed my little boy in his finest, too — slacks, a collared shirt, and a zip-up sweater. Precious.

Designate Someone to be the Photographer

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One of the main reasons people throw first-year birthday parties is for the pictures! When my little boy no longer wants to cuddle in my arms, I’ll be able to flip through the pictures from his party, and relive those sweet memories. We asked a friend to be the photographer for the day, and to take as many pictures as possible. Better to have too many options than not enough! After the party, I created a slideshow with the photos and emailed it to everyone who had helped us celebrate.

Serve Food that Will Make Your Guests Ooh and Aah

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Who says that you need to serve kid food at a baby’s first birthday party? At this age, your baby doesn’t know the difference, but your guests certainly will. At their daughter’s first-year birthday party, my friends went all out by serving smoked salmon crostini, mini quiches, and homemade blini! I was inspired and delighted by their menu.

Clean Up the Clutter

New parents’ homes are known for being covered in toys, huge baby contraptions, and bits of food. I refused to invite my guests to a home that looked like that. We splurged on a cleaning service the day before, and presented a home that was shiny, sparkling, and neat as could be. Of course that only lasted for a few hours, but those few hours were worth it.

Celebrate Your Village

It really does take a village to raise a child. From grandparents to babysitters to friends to neighbors — so many people have helped us care for our son. We paid tribute to many of these people with individual toasts. We also displayed a photobook of our son’s first year, which we had filled with photos of all of our loved ones, too. They loved flipping through it during the party, and seeing how present they’d been during our son’s first year.

Take Cues from Your Little One

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Your 12-month-old may officially be a toddler, but let’s be real — he’s still a baby. He wants what he wants, he cries when he’s tired, he gets easily overwhelmed, and he loves being in your arms most of all. Even though it’s his party, don’t force him to be the life of the party. If he pushes aside his cake (shocking, I know!), don’t keep encouraging him eat it. If he doesn’t want to be hot-potato passed around, don’t make him. Keep the party short — two hours at most — and make sure he’s your number one priority at all times. That way, he’ll have a smile on his face the entire time, and so will everyone else!

What are your tips for throwing a memorable and magnificent first-year birthday party?

 

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Rachel Sales
Rachel Sales is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She loves traveling the world, walking with coffee, and enjoying life with her husband and son.

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