This is a guest post written by one of my bestest friends, Mary. She did an amazing job throwing her daughter’s first birthday party. Below is a picture of Mary and our friend Kayla. Read her tips for saving money on a first birthday (or any) party.
Thank you, Hannah for allowing me to write a guest post on your blog! I’m excited about the opportunity to share my experience planning my daughter’s first birthday party. I know, I know, she’s only one, she’s never going to remember the party, she has no idea why the house was flooded with people and presents and food. I get it. But I wanted a day to celebrate our first year as a family, for making it through one of the most difficult and challenging years of my life. I’m sentimental, and a party felt like a fun way of capping off a year as a mother. As new parents, me and my husband don’t have a tremendous cash flow. We are budgeted pretty tightly here in the Cosgrove household, so I wanted a fun party without having to spend too much money. I itemized each aspect of the party and identified where I could cut expenses.
Invitations: I wanted to have paper invitations, honestly. There are so many darling designs that I could have customized to perfectly fit my theme, which was “You Are My Sunshine,” which me and my husband sing to Leah each night before bed. I calculated the cost of ordering a design, having them printed and then mailing them and it was around $75. Way too much for invitations! That’s the smallest, and most forgettable part of the party! Instead, I decided to do online invitations through Paperless Post and saved $50. It wasn’t free, mind you, but it was much, much cheaper. I did my own photo shoot with my daughter so I could have a picture invitation. So much more fun that way! It would have been way more expensive to have a photo paper invitation, and really, people want to see photos! All in all, it was a pretty easy thing to give up. Food: Originally, I had grand ambitions of food. Catering, mainly. I wanted the party to be a brunch, so I was thinking mini chicken biscuits from Chik-Fil-A, mini bundt cakes from a local bakery, things of that nature. But, my parents and I decided to tackle the food ourselves to save money, and we could also buy bulk using their membership at Costco. I made four batches of mini muffins, using the bags of muffin mix from the grocery store at less than $2 a piece, pigs in a blanket, which are also cheap, and my parents made mini BLT sandwiches, hashbrown casserole and mini fruit pizzas. We kept everything simple, and we didn’t make truckloads of food, because as my mom reminded me, people were just coming expecting a taste of food, not a whole meal. Making things miniature also made it look like we had more food! As far as the cake, well I decided to leave that to the professionals. Publix cakes are extremely reasonably priced and delicious. We got a massive, half-sheet cake for less than $60, and for the first birthday, you get a free smash cake!
Decorations: The decorations were very low key. I got two packages of fluffy tissue paper pom-poms to hang from the ceiling from Party City. They were $6 a piece and had three in a package. I hung them up in our dining room where we kept all the food. I got some paper plates to match the theme colors of yellow and white and a plastic tablecloth for the cake table and that was it for my expenditures on decorations. I put my mother-in-law, who knows the best places to get flowers and always gets the freshest, most beautiful arrangements, in charge of florals, and it was a very nice touch. The rest of the decorations I reused from my wedding two years ago. I had two burlap runners on the food and bar tables, mason jars that once held flower decorations were reused to hold fixings for the Bloody Mary bar and I used a chalkboard sign from the wedding to list out the fixings. Galvanized buckets from my wedding (one even was from a floral arrangement) held ice to chill the beer, champagne and vodka. I found a large, blank canvas at my parents’ house, painted it yellow and wrote You Are My Sunshine in white paint and hung it on the dining room wall. Two other canvases with the lyrics to the song were purchased at Walmart for $4 a piece. Cups for the bar were another way I cut some money. At first, I envisioned having glassware, but instead, I bought clear plastic Solo cups and spent $15 on Zazzle buying stickers that said You Are My Sunshine, which I stuck on each cup. It was a cute add on that jazzed up your basic Solo cup. The bar: Here is where I didn’t go cheap. I’m sure there are corners to cut here, but having a really nice, well stocked bar was on my priority list. I think when planning a party — and I did the same for my wedding — you can find ways to cut costs on things that aren’t that big of a deal. For my wedding, I just wanted good food and good drinks, so I didn’t kill myself trying to do that cheaply. But everything else, whatever. Dress from David’s Bridal, okay! A start up photographer friend I knew from school — sure! I digress. The point is, prioritize what is most important to you and everything else, find ways to cut. The bar was important to me because I know how lame it can be to go to a child’s birthday party, and I wanted our guests to have fun. The Bloody Mary bar was a huge hit. We had pickled okra, bacon, celery, olives, lemons, limes, horseradish and hot sauce. People could grab a cup and make their own drink. I also had champagne and orange juice for the mimosa drinkers and beer.
All in all, it was a huge success and it didn’t break the bank. My daughter might not remember the party, but I certainly will!
What tips do you have for a first birthday party?