Plan the Perfect Birthday Party

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One West Michigan mom started off her son's life of birthday partying with a successful bang. That’s right. You can plan a first birthday party that is fun for guests, your little one, and (surprise!) for you!

Jenn's planning revolved around a color pallet–blue, green, yellow, and orange–that she found on Etsy. From there creating a theme was easy. Fill in your own colors to these tips to make your next party a breeze to plan.

Jenn found party invitations she loved, and carried the theme to other aspects of the party, coordinating things like the banner, cupcake toppers, and food labels. By using the same colors throughout, the party flowed from kitchen, to craft table, to seating area. She bought the invitations from Papermints, a company she found online through her Internet searches. In every decoration she set up, she remained true to the design of the invitation.

When guests walked into the party, they were met with twenty-four helium balloons floating at the top of the Fowlers cathedral ceilings. Tied to the end of the long ribbons were pictures of Conrad and his family throughout his first year. "Every month, we took pictures of Conrad as he got bigger next to a sock monkey. We printed one for each month, and mounted pictures on cardboard paper so it was floating when people walked in the doors." Along with colors, Jenn decided to give the party an alphabet theme dating back to elementary school days. She found lined paper used when teaching children to write letters, and integrated it into the decorations. The cake was a square-tiered layer decorated like wooden building blocks. This also related to her invitation theme.

Since Jenn planned the party from 3-5 p.m., she knew she wouldn't have to serve lunch or dinner, but when you invite thirty adults and eighteen children, they're going to expect a snack. Instead of throwing carrot sticks on a tray, Jenn used fruits and vegetables, coordinating with the color scheme, cut up and placed in the shape of a rainbow. In hollowed-out orange peels, Jenn poured different colors of Jello, then when the Jell-o was set, she cut them into slices that looked like a multi-colored orange. She also made dishes that she could prepare ahead of time, like crockpot meatballs and pre-baked quiche.

There was a wide age range in child guests, so Jenn wanted to come up with an activity that would interest all guests. In the invitations, she asked guests to bring photos of their family members that were then used to decorate wooden building blocks at the party. "The kids were one-ten (years old), so we really needed something to keep all ages busy," Jenn says. Instead of gifts, Jenn asked that guests come prepared with favorite quotes or messages to Conrad that they then wrote with markers on blocks for him to play with.

Jenn kept the party flowing by moving from activity to activity without pause. "To keep the flow going, and to keep the kids engaged and moving along–parents don't have all day–I just kept things going. As soon as most of the kids were there, we set up the activity table...As they finished, we pulled all the presents around and started opening. We didn't announce it, we just figured people would figure it out," Jenn says.

Jenn hired a photographer, cake baker, and invitation designer for the party. Giving these tasks to someone else allowed her time to enjoy the party, mingle with guests, and of course experience the day with her son.

Thanks to her attention to detail, the party Jenn planned was a success. Although there was food leftover, there is little she would change about the day. Implement Jenn's ideas into your next birthday celebration.

Written by: Erika Fifelski was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Erika enjoys cooking, sewing, vacuuming, and discovering new ways to live sustainably and support local businesses.

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