As a first-time mom, I’ve fallen into the trap. It started last year, before our daughter’s first birthday. I got lost in the deep, dark, windy Pinterest Hole. Lying in bed, up past midnight scrolling, and asking myself…What are some cute first birthday themes? Which theme suits her personality best? Should I DIY the decorations? Can one-year-olds eat cake? Where do they sell a dairy-free, gluten-free, sugarless cake that tastes delicious? I think I’ll test out these four different recipes I found to see which one she likes best. Does pink frosting always have Red 40 in it? Her birthday is in three months, I better start prepping tomorrow!
I can imagine my mother’s thoughts in the eighties went something more like this – We should probably invite people over for Lea’s first birthday. Do they sell first birthday plates and napkins at the local party store? She should wear a dress.
Just typing this is making me laugh because all of the stress around planning parties for our precious kids comes from the ridiculous pressure we put on ourselves because we can see everyone else's pictures of their amazing parties on social media! Of course, we want to celebrate the important milestone that a birthday is, and we want to make it special, but let's not pretend that there isn't a little voice inside of us whispering that if that mom on Pinterest can do it, I can too! I wish I was the type of mom who could just throw her hands up in the air and say, “Who cares!” and run down to the party store to buy whatever they have that’s matching and on sale. I’m sure my daughter would love it just as much. The problem is, I wouldn’t love it! Pinterest and social media have ruined birthday parts for moms forever.
Planning a kid’s birthday party has literally become a project that moms are supposed to fit into their already crazy busy lives. For our family, we’ve had to plan two parties the last two years because I refuse to try to squeeze fifty people into our house all at once. Between my husband and I, we have up to thirty families members to invite, and then we have an entire slew of friends who all had kids around the same time that we did, so we would never leave them out. Last year we hosted two parties, two days in a row. BIG mistake. I was soo exhausted come Monday that all I dreamed of doing was sleeping for a week! It was way too much preparation and too much cleaning up.
This year I was smarter and planned our daughter's two parties on two different weekends. The first one was two weeks before her actual birthday, and we had all of our friends and their kids meet us at the zoo. Of course, it was pouring rain all day, but at least we had rented one of their indoor spaces for cake and presents. It was short, sweet, and everyone had fun -- minimal preparation and little cleanup. Even though we all went home soaking wet, it was worth it to have her party there!
We hosted her family party at our house again this year, on her actual birth day, and the theme was Minnie Mouse. Our daughter has been absolutely obsessed with everything Minnie, ever since she got a Minnie Mouse ride-on airplane for her first birthday and then ended up meeting Minnie at Disneyland last summer. I’d go as far to say that almost fifty percent of her toys and clothes are Minnie-moused themed. Yea, we totally fell into that consumerism trap…
I was excited for her party to be all about Minnie, but I also didn’t want our house to look like the aisle of a party store with cheap Minnie Mouse crap everywhere. Did we end up having some cheap Minnie Mouse "crap" on display? We sure did! But I balanced it out with plenty of tasteful DIY decorations and accents of pink with white polka dots. It turned out really cute, in my opinion; it has been almost a month since her party and a lot of the decorations are still up. [Insert facepalm emoji here.]
So if you’re like me and you want to plan a wonderful party for your kid, but you’re also a Boss Lady Mom who doesn’t have time to sit around and do a ton of arts and crafts, I’ll save you some time and give you my best tips:
#1. Amazon has everything (duh!). I am an Amazon Prime member, so I already order from Amazon way more than I should, and it wasn’t any different when planning my daughter’s party. I will save you the time of comparing because I compared pricing on everything from tablecloths to photo booth props to gold vinyl Minnie Mouse stickers, and Amazon still came out on top. I searched for everything I needed at Michaels, Party City, Target, Joann’s, Oriental Trading, Etsy, and at my local party store. I did end up buying some things from Etsy and Target (see tips #2 & #4), but buying from Amazon was affordable, convenient, and shipped fast.
#2. Pick and choose a few special items that are worth buying on Etsy. Adorable people have an amazing amount of time on their hands to create wonderful, creative things that they sell to desperate moms like me on Etsy. I’m happy to support their time-consuming crafts and really do hope that many of them are actually making a living doing what they love. This year, I bought a custom printable invitation (pictured below) that I uploaded and sent out for free via Paperlesspost.com, which is my favorite site to use for digital invitations. I also bought a totally unnecessary but very cute sparkly “2” cake topper that I found I couldn’t resist (also pictured below). If you find special items on Etsy that you really want and really can't be bought elsewhere (and you can't/don't want to make), then go for it!
#3. Choose your DIY projects from Pinterest wisely. Pinterest is fun because it inspires you to get creative, be it cooking or crafting, but let's be honest – ain't no Boss Lady Mom got time to hand paint containers for party favors or master a balloon arch! Let your imagination run wild and pin away, but when it comes down to choosing how you spend your time, be realistic. Ask yourself if the time it's going to take gathering supplies and creating something from scratch is worth the money you'll save by not buying it or having someone else make it. I created a bunch of coordinating printables for my daughter's party, including a banner of her name because photoshopping free images together into something cute and finding fonts to match is in my wheelhouse. I enjoyed doing it and was able to create quickly. My husband helped me with some Pinterest-inspired decorations, but we scrapped anything that we knew would have us up ‘til 2 a.m. the night before her party.
#4. Target is your best bet for basics. You can still take credit for "hybrid" DIY projects, and Target has everything you need for the finishing touches. Their party supplies line by Sprtiz has an amazing variety of everything from straws to garlands to gift bags, in a ton of different coordinated colors and themes. I bought two packs of Sprtiz pink and gold hanging fan lanterns and stuck pink and gold Minnie Mouse silhouette stickers in the middle of them, that I bought from Amazon, and they looked just as good as the Pinterest pin in which someone had hand cut out every fan and paper silhouette. My project took minutes, and I can imagine theirs took hours! The Spritz line has so many original party themes too that you could easily just choose one to center your plans around if you're not already set on a particular theme. (BTW, this is not an ad; I just love Target!).
#5. Catering can definitely be worth it. Last year I also made the mistake of trying to make most of the food for our daughter’s party myself. I spent a ton of money on groceries, was pressed for time to get everything cooked and prepared, and I had to do a lot of extra kitchen cleanup. This year my husband convinced me to try Chipotle catering, and it was a hit! We paid the extra $25 to have it delivered, and it was worth every penny. They provided everything from bowls and serving spoons to tray warmers and huge bags of chips. There was no prep required on our part, so the most laborious tasks of providing food for our guests this year were cutting up melon for a fruit tray and setting out hummus and veggies. A word to the wise, if you ever decide to go with Chipotle catering yourself, only order for two-thirds of your guests because their serving sizes are huge! We had leftovers to last us a week and ended up having to throw a lot away. There are a lot of reasonable catering options out there from restaurants, and it sure beats spending hours on food prep and extra time cleaning the kitchen.
At the end of the day, no matter what you decide to do or not to do for your kid’s party, they’re still going to have fun. After all, they get to spend time with a bunch of people who love them, open presents, and eat cake! They’ll never remember the drugstore paper plates you used, and sadly also won’t remember the giant wall decoration you sacrificed sleep for a week to make. So don’t let the pressure of the seemingly perfect parties on social media make you crazy, and don’t feel guilty if you lack the motivation (and time) to DIY ‘til you drop!