Planning any party is a stress-filled treat, but baby’s first birthday takes it to a new level. For a start, you are marking the first year of your precious offspring’s life on earth. Secondly, you feel you deserve a trophy just for surviving this first year. Third, you want to show off (just a little bit).
There’s a lot to think about:
1) How much to spend. Most of us are counting the pennies these days so setting a budget crossed my mind, but I didn’t think it would really be an issue, as we were just planning to have a few close friends and family round for a couple of hours.
Wrong. By the time I’d purchased a few decorations, cake sprinkles and “thank you” notes to suit the theme, I was already well over the £100 mark and horrified. We hadn’t even got to the food yet…
2) Who to invite. I know a mum who has distributed over 50 invitations to every baby at every baby group she attends, and hired a hall with an entertainer. I know another mum who had a quiet day at home with her husband and baby to reflect on the year.
I was pitching for somewhere in between as I want to share the occasion, but don’t want to spend a fortune. We have gone for grandparents, uncle, best friends, a couple of colleagues who have been there for us, and eventually decided to include our NCT group.
3) Party theme. It started as a small gathering and has gradually evolved into a duck-themed extravaganza! We chose ducks because our boy loves them and after “milk” it was his first baby sign. Also, as his birthday falls close to Easter and it’s [supposed to be] spring, it seemed like the right thing to do. So with a firm mind not to overspend, buy any stupid plastic and avoid anything that we can’t reuse, I clicked over to eBay.
And the can of worms was open; my inner party-planning goddess unleashed… Well, we will need duck invitations, duck “thank you” cards, duck tablecloth, duck balloons, a duck balloon weight, duck cake decorations, duck biscuit cutters, duck-shaped ice, duck candles, duck toys and, of course, bunting.
I convinced myself that only the theme colours will do and therefore ordinary paper plates would not suffice. My attempt to control spending meant I ditched the duck plates, duck cups and duck napkins, but instead went for the still-quite-pricey plain blue and yellow ones.
I tried hard to maintain my green principles but failed miserably – even caving in to a pack of 25 latex balloons for which I then had to purchase a disposable helium canister. On the bright side, the bottle can be recycled.
4) Entertainment. There’s no way I’m spending money on a children’s entertainer this time, but I do like the idea. The babies are too young for party games and we don’t have many older children coming, so it’s a pile of toys on the living room floor and funky music on the stereo. We have created an appropriate playlist of clean, well-known songs that should keep spirits lifted and appease most musical tastes.
I couldn’t help buying a bubble machine. Bubbles are brilliant, everyone loves them (including rubber ducks) and it’s a cheap way of bringing smiles to a lot of faces. I will be making my bubble mixture using eco-friendly washing-up liquid using a recipe I found here and will probably have the gadget positioned by the front door to delight guests as they arrive.
5) Food. Who do I cater for? The babies, the adults or both? It has to be both. So now to strike the balance with healthy, safe and tasty food. I’m sticking with finger food to avoid disposable cutlery and messier foods, cooking posh nibbles from scratch to avoid any added sugar or too much salt, and catering to a variety of dietary requirements (vegetarian, vegan and nut allergies).
I want cake but I don’t want sugar so I’m baking honey and lemon cupcakes with lemon-lavender cream cheese frosting and another lot of spiced banana with pineapple frosting, using apple juice as a sugar substitute. I took my inspiration from this blog.
I’ve ordered a silicone ice cube tray (duck shapes, no less) but I thought I might try to use it to create some sugar-free pineapple jelly as well. Accompanying “ice-cream” will be frozen banana blitzed in my Vitamix. I may add some coconut cream and lime juice to give it a piña colada feel. To keep costs down we will only be offering beer or juice and have encouraged guests to bring their own if they want to drink. However, it would be wrong not to serve Duck’s Fizz.
A lesson learned
I got carried away. The urge took over – I wanted to do things “properly” and lost my mind. The guilt started to set in as soon as I checked out through PayPal and realised what I’d done. This is money that should be saved for his education, or more immediately to pay the bills.
But then I justified it again by filling my head with clichés about remembering the day for the rest of our lives and that it will only happen once. Blah blah blah. Basically, I was stupid, I should’ve thought it out more carefully, I should have set a budget and not everything has to match the theme.
Out in town and I saw ducks everywhere because Easter is approaching. Bad news. What did I do? Buy more bloody ducks! I figured now I’ve started, why stop? Again, I lost my mind. But what I have promised is that next year we will tone it down and keep it small until the next milestones (5, 10, 13, 16, 18 and 21).
Better start saving.