The year leading up to this point was one that flew by with days that crawled into night. Our year together is one I will hold on to for as long as I can, it will remain frozen in time as the year that we got to know each other and built a bond like one I’ve never had before. This year also taught me a lot about letting go of my expectations; expectations of perfection, expectations of creating a “Pinterest-perfect party” and achieving what could be deemed as the “unattainable.” As the weeks leading up to my son’s first birthday drew near, alongside my first weeks back at work, stresses of starting daycare and a sick family, I began to realize that for the first time in my life I was actually going to keep things moderately simple.
Realization #1: our tiny dwelling would not accommodate our guest-list.
Solution: my brother-in-law’s fantastic condo party room.
When we first realized that our tiny bungalow would not accommodate our guest-list, my husband and I were so happy to hear that the party room at my brother-in-law’s condo was available for the party! This was a fantastic and neutral space that made decorating and layout incredibly simple. If you are planning to host a party in the future and your home is not the best option, condo party rooms can be both beautiful and spacious places to host. We loved the space and had no trouble setting it up to suit our baby-friendly party needs.
Realization#2: I do not have time to do the theme I originally wanted to do.
Solution: simplify and use what you have.
About two weeks before the party I realized that the original theme I had planned was not going to happen the way that I wanted it to. Pinterest is an amazing website, but at this point in my life my “Pinterest-perfect” version of my son’s birthday was just not going to happen. While I was slightly disappointed at first, as my imagination was running away from my reality, I soon came to terms with this and turned a seemingly sad situation into a simplified solution. So I switched gears and went with an “old favourite.” I changed my theme to a classic “whimsical woodland” theme (something I have been using for almost every party since our wedding). So, I had acquired about four years worth of decorations for this theme, more than enough to work with. As the day drew near, I paced myself with the theme setting small achievable goals like; “I am going to make a happy birthday sign.”
Happy Birthday Sign: Thanks to a helpful husband and a two-hour long nap, this was made the day of (while I would not recommend taking this on the day of, it only took about 45min). I used construction paper and regular printer paper for the letters and some twine to hang the sign.
Sweet Table Labels: Thank you Dollarama! These were a fab find from out local dollar store. Tip: use real chalk to write on them so you can re-use them for your next soirée.
Realization #3: we have a modest budget and very limited time for planning.
Solution: make the cakes and ask for help.
After hosting a baptism a few months earlier where we had the cake made, we soon realized that this was a bit outside of our budget for this event. So, my mother-in-law, my mom and I made the cakes. I was a little worried about there not being enough cake to go around this time, so we made three cakes, a small smash-cake for my son and cup-cakes. This gave the guests a large variety of desserts to choose from, challenged me to make my first ever layer cake and made for a beautiful sweet table. Knowing that I would be back at work the week before my son’s birthday, I was happy to host it later in the afternoon on the Saturday which gave me time on the Friday night to make the cake and Saturday morning to make the icing and ice the cake.
Chocolate Layer Cake: thanks to incredibly helpful family members and a supportive husband, who knows how much it means to me to accomplish something I put my mind to, these home-made cakes were a huge success. The Chocolate Layer Cake that I made (with a helping hand from my husband) was something I had never done before. It was a bit intimidating at first, as I was trying it the night before the party leaving very little room for error, but it wasn’t as hard as I imagined it would be. The recipe can be found in Marliou and Alexandre Champagne’s newly translated cookbook Three Times a Day. I absolutely love this book and find the recipes simple and easy to follow! One tip I will give for this particular cake is to make sure that you use an electric mixer (on medium to high speed) when mixing the icing. The recipe calls for a lot of room temperature butter and it would be almost impossible to mix the butter, sugar and cocoa by hand. When I finally finished mixing the icing, it went on thick but incredibly smooth!
If you are planning a first birthday party, or any party where your timelines might be tight and you have a modest budget, my advice is to try and keep things simple by choosing to focus on a few key details. For me those were desserts and simple decorations. And don’t forget to ask for help when you need it!