It’s no secret I love to throw a party, especially a party with a good THEME.
Now many will argue there’s no sense throwing a styled event for a first birthday because a one year old baby doesn’t know any better, but on the contrary I think it’s the most important year of all! Not only is your baby easily impressed with fun decor like shiny balloons, but they also have no input yet on what the theme has to be! If you’re the kind of person who truly delights on planning, setting up, and hosting parties, this is likely the only year of your child’s entire lifetime of parties where you get total creative control.
And you best believe I had a plan for this party since Summer was just a tiny embryo!
When Summer was a mysterious little egg developing inside me, I struggled to really connect with who might be in there. I came to the nickname Little Pearl because it was gender neutral (ish), and I felt like the mama oyster taking all of the hard bits of life on to protect the tiny pearl growing inside, safe and warm. Pretty soon after the nickname stuck, I had a eureka moment: my Little Pearl’s first birthday party just had to be a magical, iridescent under the sea theme! I had a little framed Rifle Paper Co. card that read “The World is Your Oyster” in my bedroom, and it seemed to sum up exactly what I was going for. Maybe it would be at a pool! Maybe we’d serve fresh oysters! Thinking about Summer’s first birthday party, and all the parties I’d get to throw her over the years, really helped me connect with my baby on the way (as odd as that sounds).
As most of my projects do, the vision started to take shape a few months ago on a Pinterest board. My initial plans were spiralling out of control, budget and stress wise – it quickly became apparent that serving oysters and renting a space was a bit overindulgent. I decided the more over the top I made the party, the less I was going to actually be in the moment, so I decided to invite fewer guests, serve sushi from my favourite cheap Toronto spot (shout out Sushi on Bloor haha!) and host at my home.
In the end I was so proud of how the party turned out – the kids were super excited, the adults seemed to actually have a good time, and most importantly I didn’t feel the usual party-planning-panic that sneaks up on me the morning of most important events.
Scroll down for all of the party details!
SETTING THE SCENE //
I wanted to focus on making the party full of things that Summer actually loves, so balloons were top of the list. I ordered these shell balloons, the seahorse, and the gold “one”, but otherwise I kept it simple and ordered a bunch of pearl white balloons with iridescent ribbon from a local party store (they filled the ones I ordered online for a fee too). I contemplated tying streamers to the balloons to create a seaweed-like effect, but in the end I kept it more simple.
I ordered a few packs of plates & napkins, straws, and a little mermaid piñata from Meri Meri, my very favourite party supply brand. The rest of the details around the house were sea-inspired treasures I’ve been collecting over the years as photo props / home decor, and when I gathered them all together I realized I had a lot more than expected! I highly recommend combing local thrift shops for figurines and special party decor additions – most of my treasures were picked up on thrifting trips for next to nothing.
Originally I was going to order fresh flower bouquets, but when Wildhood posted their dyed dried flowers (that happened to look just like coral) I knew I’d found the perfect cost-effective solution. The best part? They last forever, so they can be kept for parties and seasonal decor later on!
The big decor addition that really made the setup magical was our new custom Fuse Neon sign. Handcrafted in Toronto, these signs are LED, so much lighter weight and less breakable. Fuse also offers pre-made options and rentals in case you don’t want to commit to having a neon sign around forever, but I personally love the idea of investing in a custom neon for a special event and keeping it as a momento in your home. We couldn’t be happier with our “The World is Your Oyster” neon! Use code “randomactsofpastel15%” for 15% off on their site!
As mentioned above I very quickly accepted serving freshly shucked oysters at a one year old’s birthday was a bit excessive, so I stuck to simpler, kid-friendly options like vegetarian sushi, edamame, and salt and vinegar chips. I wanted to do octopus veggie dogs too (inspired by this post) but in the end it slipped my mind. We also served homemade herbal iced tea for the kiddos, and local wine and beer for the adults (I firmly believe all children’s birthday parties should include alcohol for the grown ups haha)
I enlisted the help of Lindsey Bakes for all things sugary, and she seriously blew it out of the water! She created mini pop tarts and a perfect little pink cake, all adorned with the most incredible shimmering seashell cookies in all shapes and sizes. She also made pre-wrapped cookies to give to guests as a yummy take home party favour – I think edible favours are always the way to go in a world where we all want to cut back on waste!
SPECIAL SURPRISES //
There’s not much that I can say with absolute confidence all one year olds actually like, but music is almost always a win with kids of all ages. I’ve loved The Beach Men (aka Toronto’s premier Beach Boys cover band) from the first moment I saw them, and I’ve been to every show they’ve had since, including when I was nine months pregnant. I took Summer to their park show this past summertime, and she loved it, so when a good friend offered to pay to bring them in for her birthday, I had only one word: GENIUS! Their performance was the highlight of the day – we all smiled so much our faces hurt, and the kids soaked up every second. The band even brought some little instruments along so the kids could participate. If I have any say in baby birthday trends, I’m calling it: live bands are the next big thing!
Whosits and Whatsits Galore //
For invitations, we kept it eco-friendly and created a card on Evite.com. I was able to find a discount code (just by googling) that worked, so in the end we got the invitations for free, and I love how they turned out with a bit of simple customization. We also added a donate option so guests could help us protect the sea for generations to come instead of bringing physical gifts.
Outfit wise, my look was mostly old pieces thrown together (turns out wearing sweaters over dresses gives you a whole new selection of skirts!) but my pearl headband was a new addition (similar version on sale here). My biggest mom styling tip for any special occasion is lash extensions! They make a huge dent in the time it takes to get ready, so even if you get carried away with balloon placement or your baby has a meltdown before you can get any makeup on, you can feel confident you’ll look your best in photos. I even had mine done before my birth! I always go to N15 and ask for a classic cat eye set – if you book with code “N15PASTEL25” before the end of February you’ll get 25% off your first appointment!
And how could I forget our wonderful photographer? I’ve known Scarlet O’Niell for years and her work never ceases to blow me away. It might seem excessive to hire a photographer for a first birthday party, but I find if I don’t have a pro at special events I end up so busy that I forget to take any pictures (for example, I didn’t get a single shot of Summer and I together on her first Christmas). Thank you Scarlet for all your wonderful photos from Summer’s big day, and for taking on the role of unofficial official family photographer – we love you so much!
That’s just about everything I can think of! Scroll down to shop the post below, and feel free to ask about anything I’ve missed in the comments! Next up – a post about my single motherhood expectations vs. reality…