As excited as I was for Little Deer’s first birthday, I was also a little nervous about planning it all. The perfectionist in me loves to pop-up when I’m planning things, and I tend to get pretty anxious.

I knew from the get-go that I didn’t want to make her birthday party into a grand affair. I wanted it to be cute, simple, and fun. Sweet baby was turning one, not getting married! I also wanted to keep our budget in mind. We’d been doing great lately with decreasing our spending, and I didn’t want to break the bank on a birthday party. Besides not getting overzealous with the planning and spending, we also had the added challenge of party-planning from afar. We were having the party up in Seattle while we would be home for the holidays. This meant that we had to take into account what decorations and party supplies we could bring with us and fit in the already jam-packed car, what we could borrow from family members, and what we had to buy once we were up there. Though there were some challenging moments (I specifically remember hot-gluing paper centerpieces together at 11PM the night before we left), I’m so happy with how it turned out—we had a blast! And Little Deer had herself a wonderful first birthday.


To start, I knew I wanted her party to have some sort of a theme, but I wasn’t sure what. Every cute idea I could think of seemed to have been done so many times before. In the end it was our venue that inspired the party theme—the local library! Since her party was going to be the weekend before Christmas, I didn’t want any of our family (who was already graciously hosting us) to have to worry about having a party at their house. Not to mention that we also wanted to invite lots of friends so we could see everybody at once while we were in town. This meant that it would have been pretty cramped to hold the party at someone’s house. If it were the middle of July it would have been easy to think of places to have her birthday party, but winter in Seattle left us few options.

I made a few calls to a couple of places but just could not believe the prices! A cupcake place I loved had a party room available, but when it was all said and done it would have been over $200 for the room alone. Yikes! There were a few outdoor buildings in some parks, but many weren’t heated. There was a cute frozen yogurt shop but their maximum guest limit was 25 (we were in the 30′s). I finally decided to look if some of the libraries by our old house had any meeting rooms available. And lo-and-behold, the library by Greenlake (one of Mr. Deer’s and my favorite places to walk around and eat) had a meeting room that was available that weekend. For free! Mr. Deer and I had our wedding reception on the rooftop patio of another local library, and now our baby’s birthday would be at a library too. It felt right.

After we had the venue nailed-down, I knew I wanted to do a children’s book themed party. It was only fitting for a birthday at the library! Little Deer and I love to read together so I knew we’d have fun putting together some of our favorite stories for the party. I quickly got to planning and had lots of ideas for decorations and the food. I pulled out a sketch book and started drawing out my ideas, making lists, and looked on Pinterest too. Getting everything down on paper really helped, and soon enough I had an idea of what I wanted her party to look like.

Decorations

I think one of the biggest parts that goes into planning a birthday party is figuring out all of the decorations. We ended up making just about all of them by hand a couple of weeks before her party. Most of our decorations were made from used books that Little Deer and I found at the thrift store. Though a few of the projects took quite a bit of time and patience, we had a lot of fun (I say “we” because Mr. Deer helped a lot—seriously, that man is crafty but don’t tell him I told you!). Here’s what we made decoration-wise for LD’s party:

Happy Birthday Banner

We made this by printing out the letters on thick paper and then cutting them out. I first cut a triangle out of poster paper to be my guide. I thought it would be fun to add smaller pictures in between, so we used pictures from The Runaway Bunny book that we bought at Goodwill. I don’t know about Little Deer, but that is one of my favorite stories. Once they were cut out we just strung them up with some red yarn. Pretty easy!

Table-front Banners

I thought it would give the tables a little extra pop to have some colorful book-paged banners on the front of them. Using the same stencil I had cut out for the Happy Birthday banner, we cut out more triangles for these banners too. We used Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and a couple other children’s books for this project. We also strung these with yarn, and I think we made six of them — three for the food and dessert tables, one for the gift table, and another above the whiteboard. What’s fun about these is that they’re reusable. I now have one of the banners hanging above Little Deer’s play area and I’m thinking about putting another in up her room.

Book Quotes

I had a couple of simple gold frames that I had used at our wedding several years ago. Two of them I used for photos of Little Deer, but the other two I used for quotes. I love both of these quotes and got them from The Runaway Bunny and Oh, the Places You’ll Go! I made the designs on Picmonkey, printed them out, then put a piece of colored paper behind them. Very simple but they I think they tied in great.

Cupcake Toppers

Long ago I had seen a post on Pinterest for these cute little cupcake toppers that looked like party hats. Though they didn’t directly tie-in with our children’s book theme per-se, I just thought they were so sweet! Using some cupcake liners that we already had, Mr. Deer (yes—he made all of these himself!) rolled them up, glued them, then added a small pompom on top. We made all of these ahead of time then packed them in a rubbermaid container for the trip up to Seattle.

High Chair Banner

I didn’t quite get a great picture of it, but once we were done with the triangle that I had used for cutting out the other banners, I cut it in half and used it to make a little mini banner for her high chair. I knew she’d probably try and grab it, so to help keep it in place I just put a long piece of washi tape around the outside lip of the tray table. I think it worked out perfectly and I loved the red polka-dot tape!

“1″ Onesie

I loved the idea of her wearing a onesie that had the number 1 on it. I saw some cute ones on Etsy, but decided I could probably make one myself. Around this time I was beginning to make her a Christmas stocking out of felt, so I decided to do the number 1 in felt too. I printed out a number 1 in the size/font I wanted on the computer, cut it out, then used double sided tape to stick it on to the felt. After I cut around it, I peeled it off (there’s definitely better ways to do this, but using double sided tape made it easy and I used it on the backside  of the 1 so you didn’t see any little fuzzies). After that I pinned it to a plain white onesie I had bought at H&M, then sewed it on. It turned out great! She also wore a matching red bow, some sweet little red shoes, and a fun pink tutu that we found at the thrift store when we were book-hunting.

Centerpiece Flowers

It took me forever to think of something cute for the table centerpieces. We had chairs around the outside of the room and there were a few benches, but we also set up three tables so people could sit and eat. Thinking along the lines of books and and paper, I decided to make some fans out of leftover pages we had from making the banners. I made it up as I went, but I basically took four pieces of paper, folded them accordion style, then hot-glued them together to make a round fan. I then cut out a circle and backed it with a colored sheet of paper to be in the center and glued them onto a dowel so they resembled a flower. We brought a few little green vases with us but also used some bud vases that my mother-in-law had. After the party we gave a few of these flowers to our niece and brought a few of them home to put in Little Deer’s room.

First Birthday Stats

I loved the posters I had seen on Pinterest that had baby’s first birthday stats. They were around $30 to buy on Etsy or I could have made one on some poster board (but that would have been difficult to transport), so I elected to utilize a whiteboard in the room instead! Easy and free. We ended up getting to the library a little late, so I had about three minutes to get the whiteboard setup which means it wasn’t quite what I had envisioned. I had taken a photo of an example I had drawn on my phone, but didn’t even look at it because I was so hurried. So it’s missing a few things, and a little crooked, but oh well! I also printed out photos before we left of Lucy each month, and popped those up on the whiteboard with some washi tape. We had an extra banner so I hung that up too.

Food

Besides decorations, I think the next biggest aspect of her birthday party was the food! The party was from 2:00-4:30 PM and though it was in between meals, I wanted to be sure to have lots of yummy snacks and treats to munch on. From the few children’s book-themed parties I had seen on Pinterest, everyone tied in dishes of food with a book. Most were pretty obvious, like Green Eggs and Ham served with green eggs and ham. I wanted it to be a little more fun than that and not too literal. I got some great ideas from this thread (thank you bees!) and I think Mr. Deer and I came up with some good ones too. To make the cards I first designed the layout in PowerPoint then added the text on Picmonkey. I printed them on thick paper then taped them (with double-sided tape) onto some blank turquoise cards I got at a craft store. In the end I’m very happy with how they turned out!

Main Dishes

With help from our families, we assembled quite the smorgasbord of food for the party. My mom, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law were all so sweet to help with the food. They made most of these dishes for us which was awesome. Once we arrived in town we did do some grocery shopping too. I wanted to keep it light and easy for guests to eat, so there were breads, fruits, veggies, dips and the like. It was simple and delicious! Here’s what we had:

Drinks

Since it was so cold outside, I thought it would be fun to have some hot apple cider. We made it ahead of time and brought it in a crockpot so it would stay nice and warm and guests could ladle out a cupful at a time as needed (there were also apple juice boxes for the kids). We also combined a couple of different juices and sparkling sodas to make a yummy peach drink. And of course, we tied those in with some children’s stories too:

Desserts

As with the food, we ended up with lots of yummy desserts! I really don’t think you can have too many though, am I right? The cupcakes we baked the night before. We also made the buttercream frosting. It was my first time frosting cupcakes, so it was a little messy, but I wasn’t expecting them to look perfect so that’s ok! Though Little Deer’s MSPI was improving at this time, I wanted her to have a strictly dairy-free and soy-free cake to be safe. We followed this basic yellow cake recipe and then I made my coconut whipped cream frosting. I then topped it with a few sprinkles and we were ready to go! Though not pictured, we also had a basket full of goodie bags for guests to take home. Since it was so close to Christmas, we filed them with holiday treats and cookies.

So enough about the food and decor… how’d the actual party go?

It went great! We initially showed up a little later than we had hoped (the risk you take when you plan a party around nap time!) but we were able to scramble and set the room up quickly. It helped too that our family was all there and rarin’ to jump in and help. It was so fun to to see so many of our friends and get to celebrate Little Deer together. There were friends from high school, church, nursing school, work, our mothers and babies group… it was awesome.

After we chatted and visited for a little while, we decided it was cake time. We set Little Deer in her high chair to sing her happy birthday and let her go to town on the cake. She was pretty hesitant at first, but once we helped her have a few bites she got pretty into it. Though she didn’t actually end up eating a lot, she sure enjoyed sticking her hands in it and throwing it around! So much for putting a drop cloth down, she flung it on the walls that little stinker!

After a quick outfit change, we came back and began opening presents while guests finished up their desserts. Everyone was so generous and Little Deer made-out with a lot of fun goodies! Our niece was a big helper too and had fun running and bringing us each gift one-by-one from the gift table. Little Deer had fun opening everything, but was the most interested in a cute little bear that she got. That, and throwing tissue paper around.

As the party started to wind-down around 4:30 I knew it was time to head home and get LD to bed early. She and I jumped in the car and headed back to our in-law’s house while Mr. Deer and the rest of our family stayed behind to pack up and clean things up which was very sweet.

Overall I think Little Deer’s first birthday was a success! We spent very little money and had a great time eating yummy food, visiting with friends and family, and celebrating our sweet girl’s first birthday. The whole thing was definitely a learning process though! Here’s a few things I took away from planning LD’s first birthday:

  • Party planning: I definitely had moments where I was a huge stress-pot. Though I did better than I have in the past, I hope to continue to go with the flow and stress less about planning parties in the future. It’s fun to have everything come together and look cute, but so not worth losing your sanity!
  • Food: I waaaay overestimated the amount of food and drinks we needed. In my mind I wanted there to be enough food so that everyone could at least have a serving of everything. It made sense to me, yet we had so much food leftover—probably more than half of everything we brought! Though it was fun to nibble on for the remainder of the week, it would have been nice to save money in that regard (and save myself from eating like 10 cupcakes!).
  • Photos: My father-in-law was super awesome and took a bunch of photos on my camera for us. While we got some great pictures, I wish I had taken more photos myself too. While I may have gotten photos of LD eating her cake, opening presents, and the decor, I missed taking some of our friends and family. Whoops!

So yes, that was Little Deer’s library first birthday party! We all had a wonderful time, especially the birthday girl, and we’re so thankful that we were able to celebrate it at home with all of our family and friends. I still cannot believe how fast this past year has gone, and that we now have a one year old! Well, that’s one birthday down, here’s to many more to come!

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How was your little one’s first birthday party? Did you have fun planning it all?