Planning your baby’s first birthday party can be fraught with emotion. You want to make the day memorable and invite as many family members as possible to celebrate this special milestone – your baby only has one first birthday party, after all! With that in mind, you might be tempted to spend a little more than you can afford, especially when other parents in your circle of friends are spending thousands of rands on a venue, fancy cakes and cupcakes, and party entertainment.
But, hosting the perfect first birthday party doesn’t have to break the bank – we’ve enlisted the help of a party-planning expert and rounded up our favourite budget-friendly tips.
Start planning your baby’s first birthday party a few months in advance. This will give you ample time to stock up on supplies. Do some comparative shopping while you’re at it, to make sure that you get the best deals on décor bits and pieces. This will also prevent you from purchasing expensive, last-minute items.
Timing is everything
Plan your party around your baby’s naptimes, and limit the celebrations to a couple of hours rather than a full day. If your baby’s birthday falls on a weekday, you may want to consider hosting the party over the weekend.
The guest list for a first birthday party usually includes more adults than children, so you want to ensure that all working guests can join in the fun, too.
“The best time to host a party for smaller children is between 9am and 12pm,” recommends Caley Rosenberg, mom of three girls and founder of LuluPop Party Design and Planning. “Afternoon parties can be tricky for little ones, because it could fall over nap time and just before the dreaded ‘bewitching hour’ before dinner and bath time.”
Rather than forking out hundreds of rands on fancy paper invites (and having to pay for postage on top of that), send out digital ones. “You can purchase relatively inexpensive invitations online, or try making your own,” suggests Caley. “With all the new apps we have access to these days, it’s easy to make your own, or to add some text over a photo.”
Choose your venue
If you have a big enough house or garden, opting to host your baby’s party at home is your best bet. This is especially true for younger children, as you’re able to put them down for a nap when they need one without ending the festivities. “Hosting your baby’s party at home helps avoid any additional venue hire and forces you to keep things small and simple,” adds Caley.
Another budget-friendly option is to head to your local park or botanical gardens and to set up a picnic there. Most parks have jungle gyms and swings to keep bigger children busy – free entertainment, anyone?
Pick a theme
Choosing a theme is an easy and fun way to ramp up the “wow” factor, and ensure that your party reflects your child’s interests and personality.
Resist the temptation to go all-out and buy unnecessary décor items from expensive party shops, though. Have a rummage around at home and choose a theme based on your child’s favourite toys or items you already have. Does your child have a beloved bunny soft toy that she can’t go to bed without? Try a farmyard theme and base your food and décor choices around this. Is your baby obsessed with bath time? Why not incorporate bubbles and rubber ducks into your party theme?
“I love choosing a theme that fits in with décor that we can reuse at home,” says Caley. She suggests using teddy bears and other soft toys for a teddy-bear’s picnic, or a big basket and balloons as a hot-air balloon.
Time to play
It may be tempting to go all out and book a clown, jumping castle and pricey soft-play equipment, but it isn’t necessary to go overboard on entertainment and activities for a first birthday party. Use your baby’s own toys – think sandpits, water tables and ball pits – to keep children busy, or use a sprinkler to cool down at a summer party.
Caley suggests using planned activities as a form of entertainment for older kids. “Try painting or doing fun crafts, like decorating paper crowns at a princess party or doing hand-print paintings that fit into your theme. You can also arrange old-school games, like musical chairs and pass-the-parcel.”
When planning your menu, consider the number of children and adults who will be at the party. You may also want to ensure that the party takes place before, or after, mealtimes. “Hosting your party between mealtimes helps to save on your budget as you won’t need to feed adult guests too much,” explains Caley. “Tea and cake, or a few small snacks should be sufficient.”
Caley also recommends putting together a party pack and handing these out for children to enjoy at the party. “This saves money by buying bulk items, and also saves on having snacks both at the party and in the party packs,” she says. “A box or decorated bag with juice, chips, yoghurt, fruit and a treat is more than enough.”
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day.