I am not a natural entertainer.  Never have been.  You know, there are some people who just throw a catch up together like it was hanging the washing – nothing to it.  That’s not me.  And I normally stress.  A lot. Like really a lot.  I don’t sleep the night before, I am almost in tears about this not working, that not working…  You know the type.  They make sitcoms about neurotic types like me.

So it was my baby’s first birthday. I hosted at home.  And for the first time in my life I felt really comfortable – with the organisation bit.  I was still stressed on the day, hoping that everyone would have a good time.  I think I found a method to make it relatively stress free, fun for the kids and adults, and hopefully memorable.  So I thought I’d share ‘the plan’ with you, and maybe it might work for you too.

1.      My first bit of advice is - focus on what you’re good at!  The mistake I always make is that I want to believe that I can be Martha Stewart. I want to believe that I too can bake beautiful cakes with perfect icing and texture. I can’t. Get over it.  If it means a lot to you, practice when you don’t have 50 people coming over.

2.      Choose a theme – it makes it much easier to build around.  It does not have to be difficult – it can be something as easy as a colour or a cartoon character.  But then you can invite and decorate accordingly.

3.      How many are going to be there and where are you going to have it?  Both are linked – especially if like me your place is on the smaller side. Don’t rely on the weather – you have to work on the principle that your primary space e.g. living area will fit your guests.

4.      Jump online and find a ‘look’ that you like, if you don’t already know.  I had absolutely no idea, so I created a whole mood board.  Trust me, it’s not that I don’t have enough to do in life, I am actually quite busy, but without this inspiration board I would have been lost and confused – and that is a time waster!

first birthday party
vintage sunshine party

5.      The invite can be as elaborate of simple as you desire.  I found an image that I liked on istockphoto and used that to create my own invite.  But obviously you can get some either in shops or online.  I decided to do a ‘save the date’ via mobile a month prior asking people to send their email addresses.  I decided to send email invites.  Easy and quick.

6.      Work out what kind of food you are comfortable having (and when you have your list of invitees, and acceptances you can work out volume). And don’t forget about drink.  Ideally you would prepare some food that can be froze e.g. cocktail sausage rolls; or things that can be made a day before e.g. some sandwiches, dessert balls.  And don’t turn back offers of help.  My mother baked Russian Pirogi and Crepes which were a hit. Honestly I would never had the time to do them on top of everything else I had going on.

7.      Decorating – this is where your mood board can really help, as you will start to get a feel for what you like and don’t like; how much of things you want. And also your theme will also drive this.  Balloons, flowers, table setting, sign, images on walls, and even the take home gifts will link into your overall theme. If you can buy decorations that will last more than one party, for example I bought 2 cake stands form IKEA which are glass which will match any party theme.  After the party I flat-packed them back into the box and into a “party bag;” the main table cloth was white on top of which I added a colourful runner to work with my theme which means the tablecloth is going to go beyond one use; would you believe it was cheaper to buy glass champagne flutes from IKEA than plastic versions, I kept the boxes and they are stored in the garage;  the happy birthday sign is colourful and very beautiful and easy to put up and down with 3M double sided removable tape.

8.      Entertainment – there needs to be something for everyone; a few drinks for the adults, good nibbles; and for the kids you need to have different things to cater for different ages.  For example, for my 1y.o and under I had a playmat set up with different toys, plus also for younger ones a portacot with toys.  For the 2/3/4/5 yo I had a bench set up as a colouring station with crayons, texters,  pencils and colouring in books.  For everyone there were poppers and my main attraction – bubbles.  I mean who doesn’t love bubbles.  The day was warm and adults and children were outside blowing bubbles.  If I had a bigger area and bigger kids at the party I would have set up the xbox.

9.      Take home gift – I think I enjoyed this part the most!! I loved giving everyone something to take home.   In keeping with my theme, I gave everyone a bag of goodies which did vary depending on the guest but basically there was a selection of a yellow rubber ducky, chupa chups, bubbles, Ferrero Rocher, lollies and a balloon or two. I varied pressies but adult / child.

10.  Know your suppliers – you may be surprised at what you get where.  I love to research and know what is available.  I was surprised to find out that almost everything I needed I could get from IKEA.  But the other places that I ended up sourcing things from were My Messy Room and Partycycles.  I also got the colouring in books and texters etc from a discount shop close to my home.  Some other great sources – Sweet Style, The Party Palour, The party people, Pink Frosting, Karas Party Ideas, The Tomkat StudioEtsy has great shops including Love the Day, Party Embellishments, One Inspired Party, So Sweet Party Shop.

11.  Make and do as much as you can in advance – don’t wait until the day.  The night before, hang up your decorations, move your furniture around, rinse your plates/forks/spoons/cups/glasses etc (not if you are using paper plates); put your goody bags together, set the table with non-perishables and tableware.

This is such a personal event.  It is so special. And you should create it exactly how you want it. I hope the above helps in a small way.