I love planning parties, and I knew early on that I wanted to go all-out for our son's first birthday celebration. I love planning parties, and I knew early on that I wanted to go all-out for our son's first birthday celebration. And let's be honest, 1st birthdays are more of a celebration for the parents than the little babies themselves. It was quite the journey getting to his first birthday, between subfertility, edema, mastitis, and mega postpartum hair loss. It was time to party!
An outdoor party is one of the perks to being born in the summer months where we live. It was difficult to settle on a theme for Theo's first birthday bash, but once a friend of mine helped to lead me to the Woodland Animals idea (an expansion on the ever so popular theme "Owls"), the planning really started to begin. My son's birthday was going to fall on a Saturday this year, and we decided that we would host the party at our house. We also had received an offer on our house a few weeks prior, so this very well could have been our last big event with family and friends at our home before moving. We had a lot to celebrate!
When planning a first birthday party, (or any party!) you need to think about the food that you will serve, party decor, dessert, beverages, and of course - birthday outfits! Usually, when we have guests over, my husband will grill. Those of you who have cooked for a party know how much work that is for that person. After talking with some of my friends who have hosted birthday parties at their homes, I was told about these hot dog carts. I received a couple of recommendations, and I am almost certain we hired the best possible hot dog guy out there. Meet Hot Dog Joe:
Vienna Beef Hot Dog Cart
Joe was awesome for a few reasons: 1) He is a Cubs fan, 2) He brought everything needed to serve up delicious Vienna Beef hotdogs, and 3) He was the nicest guy ever - a delight to have at our party! The Cubs fan thing was huge, since as many of you know, I ended up on The Ellen Degeneres Show last November and got to meet Ellen, David Ross, and Kris Bryant!
My sisters and I prepared five other sides for the guests to go along with the dogs. We served baked beans, bow tie pesto pasta salad with mozzarella and tomatoes, roasted corn salad with lime avocado cilantro dressing, fruit salad, and loaded baked potato salad. All of the sides were prepared in advance and were brought out as soon as the hot dogs were ready to go, which was soon after the start of the party. Hiring Joe to do the main course allowed for us to not have to worry at all about food. No mess, no clean-up - it simplified the whole food organization process!
Once I had the food planning finished, I moved on to working on the dessert and the dessert table. After poking around on Pinterest for a couple of days, I decided I wanted a fabulous cake, cupcakes, and a s'mores type dessert. I talked to my sisters about the s'mores, and they decided to take on the task of creating the chocolate dipped mallows. My mother was on board with creating the vibrant red mushroom cupcakes.
Wooden Tree Trunk Cupcake Stand
In order to make the s'mores, you take a pretzel stick and push it into the top of a marshmallow. You then dip the mallow in chocolate and then roll it into graham cracker crumbs. From what I was told by my sister- they were very easy to make. For the cupcakes, there are a few important things to know. First of all, you will need brown cupcake holders. Go with the paper variety and not the foil type. Also, in order to get a deep red color, you will need some Wilton no-taste red coloring. If you do not have this, the cupcake icing will be more pinkish in color. The white dots are upside down white chocolate chips, which made the cupcakes taste even better than they already were!
For the tree slice cupcake stand, I looked at several options available on online. I told my husband I was going to purchase one, and within minutes, he was out back chopping wood. I added the moss and voila! A cupcake stand that cost $0 dollars! He also sliced several more wooden rounds for table centerpieces, which I will get to in a bit.
Now, if you do not have any tree stumps laying around in your yard, you can scoop up a tree slice cupcake stand on Amazon. This Sur La Table design would have been the one that I purchased if my husband hadn't been so willing to help!
Wood Slice Cake or Cupcake Stand
Next up for dessert was The Cake. I needed to call in a professional for the job. I knew of this adorable bakery in downtown Oak Park called Sugar Fixe, which I have been to several times before. How cute is their store front?! And those macarons! This is exactly the type of place that I wish I lived across the street from so that I could stop in for a daily espresso and croissant.
Sugar Fixe Patisserie Designs Custom Cakes
After discussing my vision with Bria, one of the Pastry Chefs who is also the Wedding Director, I knew that she was going to create something amazing for my son. I was BLOWN AWAY when I saw her final cake design. Sugar Fixe is my new go-to special occasion cake designer. I don't even know how she did it, but she carved a tree bark configuration into the butter cream icing and then hand-crafted 2-D gum paste woodland animals. The cake also had an acorn bunting topper - it was officially the most adorable cake I have ever seen.
And then there was the smash cake. Technically, this cake is TCTS (too cute to smash), but we had to do it! The smash cake complimented the big cake perfectly in every single way. This cake was 100% as delicious as it was cute. The inside was my favorite - carrot cake!
First Birthday Smash Cake - Remember, do butter cream, and not fondant!
Look at this little boy loving his cake! He was cautious at first, but later was going face-first into it. It was very fun to watch. Sugar Fixe specializes in customer cake designs, dessert tables (with options such as tartlets, brownies, lemon bars, mini cupcakes, meringues, dipped marshmallows, and cake pops), and all sorts of dessert favors. Their menu and style of work is truly amazing! Each time I've been into their shop (I've only been in their Oak Park location, but they also have a shop in Lincoln Park) it is packed. The employees are gracious and have excellent rapport with their customers. I also love that they actively participate in giving back to the community by supporting several organizations, such as Pillar's Community Services. Sugar Fixe is a model locale business!
So, I am completely aware that centerpieces are not necessary for a backyard party. However, my mom stepped up and offered to "throw something together". She had a basket of acorns that she thought she could build upon. My mother in law also had wild flowers in her backyard. Together, they came up with these. I was shocked at how creative they were able to be with 100% of the raw materials coming from past craft projects and things from the outdoors.
Woodland Themed Centerpieces using pussy willows, pinecones, acorns, and branches.
If you are in need of woodland themed centerpieces for your party, I found these super cute ones that would be adorable for a birthday party!
Another thing that our party needed was a wide-eye beautiful brown grizzly bear. Every woodland forest has a bear, right?! For my baby shower last June, my aunt re-purposed an old polar bear Christmas decoration and turned him into a baby blue bear. Well, I kept that bear, and I thought that he would look amazing in a brown color as well. My other aunt gave him a FULL makeover. Meet Fiona. After three cans of spray paint and some felt, what a transformation!
DIY Brown Bear Decor
Another option for a dark brown grizzle that would double as party decor and a gift is this guy!
NON-DIY Brown bear decor
I planned to make some of the decor myself, including this mossy THEO sign. I picked up wooden letters from Target, and then spray glue and moss from the craft store. I was ready to craft!
Custom Name Sign
This sign was very simple to make. Once you have the moss strategically placed after you apply spray glue, it dries fairly quickly. I loved the way it turned out! The E was my favorite.
Mossy Name Sign for Woodland Party
In order to prevent the letters from falling over (this was going to be used on the dessert table), my husband nailed them into a strip of wood scrap. Look at this WILD ONE ready for his party!
Wild One Onesie and Mossy Name Decor
For the rest of the party decor, I turned to the best - Etsy! In today's day, if you can think of it, most likely, someone else has too. And with one click, you can have decor en route to your house as quickly as the shop can make that item. I am astonished by the creativity of others!
Never Stop Exploring Wooden Adventure Sign
The Wooden Word designs custom handmade wooden signs for any occasion. They have several pre-made signs available for purchase, but this sign was custom made for Theo's woodland adventure party. Never Stop Exploring - truer words have never been said. We used this sign for his party and it is now hanging in his nursery. These signs make the perfect shower or birthday gift - request your custom order here!
Banners banners banners! I melted when I saw this burlap fabric high chair banner from PhotograMomProps and this woodland animal banner from SmithStudios2129. The high chair banner is made with owl fabric, which fit our theme perfectly! PhotograMomProps makes banners in many different colors and themes. She has over 150 products on her Etsy page and also does custom orders. SmithStudios2129 creates unique paper party decor and decorations for any special event. She has many different designs available and does custom paper decor work. Both of these ladies were so easy to work with and created products that made our party extra special. I could not handle the cuteness of each of these banners!
Fox Clothespin Photo Banner
My mother in law printed us several of my favorite photos from when our son was 0-3 months old. I intend to frame these pictures one day, but for the party, I hung them from a banner. I used these cute fox badges from Gem Bobs Crafts. I attached the above wooden badges to cloths pins for extra banner flair.
Animal Ear Headbands with Woodland Animal Photo Backdrop
I also had the idea to have a photo backdrop at the party. I was looking around on Pinterest for DIY backdrops, but then I came across Drops And Props. This company is AWESOME! They have hundreds of different patterns, designs, and sceneries to choose from and you can also request a custom design. I loved this Woodland Creatures backdrop, and our guests had so much fun taking pictures in front of it at the party! The backdrop that we had is a 5x7 vertical print on wrinkle-free material. You can choose from three different materials (wrinkle-free fabric, poly paper, and matte vinyl) and you can choose from many sizes ranging from 2x3 up to 10x20 (different sizes offered for different back drop materials). The print was high quality and the heavy-duty material was perfect for our outdoor event. Join their mailing list to receive 10% your first order! I can’t wait to see how I can use their backdrops in the future. DropsProps all the way!
Since we were having a backdrop, we also needed props! PartyEars has the CUTEST animal ear headbands. I opted for the woodland animal headbands, which included a felt owl, deer, raccoon, squirrel, wolf, fox, rabbit, and bear. The headbands were comfortable for all-day wear. PartyEars makes a variety of different animal headbands along with custom orders. You can even send in a photo of your pet and she will replicate their ears! Too cute!
Felt Animal Ear Headbands
I searched high and low for the perfect party outfit for Theo. He had two outfits because I knew the smash cake sesh was going to be messy! Eleven 29 Designs makes personalized onesies in a variety of sizes. I was drawn to her shop initially because of a little onesie that had with a fox, raccoon, and squirrel on it. She created the custom printing on the front, which held up fantastically in the wash. This outfit was very fitting for our little boy! The shop owner was a delight to work with for our custom order - very communicative and so easy to work with!
Wild One Outfit with woodland animals
His Wild One t-shirt was from Shop Southern Baby. This shop has so many options to choose from in many colors, designs, and sizes for both boys and girls. She also offers personalized options. Shipping was super fast and Theo’s t-shirt arrived very quickly after our order was made. I paired his tee with these adorable fern print leggings from Lady And Little Bug. Lady And Little Bug specializes in organic handmade clothing and accessories and has a variety of prints to choose from. The quality of her designs is top notch!
Wild One cork crown with Wild One T-Shirt
Fetes And Fables had exactly what we needed when it came to a birthday crown. Working with Jess was a breeze. She helped to design the perfect wooden crown with a cursive felt ONE. The shop owner specializes in unique party goods such as crowns, utensils, vases, and cake toppers. Follow the Fetes And Fables on Instagram for 10% your first order! Love how she says “adds a touch of whimsy to your day” – her products sure do!
In my search for woodland clothing and décor, I came across the fabulous Mary Ink. This wild mushroom tank was just what I needed. As any parent knows, a first birthday party is not just a celebration for the baby – it is a celebration for the parents who made it through a crazy first year! My husband decided to go t-shirt neutral, but for me, the wild mushrooms were a must! Mary Ink has many designs to choose from – including llamas, tigers, and pinecones to name a few. Loved the fit of this tank top!
I saved the trail mix favor prep for last (inspiration from 100 Layer Cakelet)– this portion all came together in the 11th hour. I had to visit three stores before being able to get my hands on small paper party bags. My sister came by the day before the party to pack off bags of trail mix, which was a blend of peanut butter filled pretzels, nuts, peanut M&Ms, honey nut Cheerios, and raisins. Thank goodness there were 2 lbs of leftovers after all the bags were filled! Yum!
Trail Mix Treat Bag Favors
Did I dedicate too much time in the planning of this birthday party? Of course I did! This is my first born we are talking about here! But I had a lot of fun during the planning process. I could not have done it without all of my friends and family who helped me along the way. It was so wonderful being able to celebrate this huge milestone with friends and family.