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30 Must-Do Tasks When Planning Your Baby's First Birthday Party

Updated: Mar 8

Can you believe it’s almost been a year? It seems like yesterday you were just coming home with your new bundle of joy for the first time and now here you are planning your baby's first birthday! This momentous occasion calls for a joyous celebration filled with love, laughter, and adorable memories and not stress and chaos. Meticulous planning is essential to ensure that the party goes off without a hitch. Here's a comprehensive guide with 27 must-do tasks to help you organize a memorable first birthday party for your little one :)

4 months before your party-

  • Set a Budget:

Determine a realistic budget for the party, covering decorations, food, entertainment, and any additional expenses that may arise. To save money, consider doing your balloon decorations by yourself or enlisting the help of friends or family members. I’ve heard from several balloon vendors that the minimum they charge for a balloon arch can be upwards of $500! Remember, the larger the guest list, the larger the budget you’ll need 

  • Choose a Theme:

Selecting a theme adds a fun element to the celebration. Whether it's a favorite character, color scheme, or a whimsical concept, your guests will appreciate the cuteness overload! Pro tip: If your little one’s birthday is close to a holiday, save some $$ by combining the two. For example: Birthdays close to the winter holidays, Valentine’s Day, or the 4th of July will have no shortage of themed decorations for sale and possibly ON SALE! If you’re not the bundling type, check out these popular “One” themes for your baby’s first birthday.

  • Create a Guest List:

Compile a list of family and friends you want to invite, keeping in mind how many people you can fit in the place you’ve chosen to have the party. The rule of thumb is that the number of friends you can expect to invite should match the age of the birthday celebrant. For example, if your baby is turning one, it’s totally fine to have just one baby friend come. In a few years, when your little one is turning three, three friends can be invited, etc. Of course, first birthdays are a big deal so if you want to go all out and invite everyone you know, just be advised, the budget will need to be larger as well.

  • Pick the Perfect Venue:

Choose a venue that suits the projected weather for your party date and accommodates your guest list comfortably.  It could be your home, a park, or a rented party space. Plan ahead as some venues book up quickly and you may need to place a deposit. Many city/county park and rec websites also may have a list of community halls or event rooms that you can book as well, usually as a discounted rate if you’re a resident of that city or county.

2 months before your party-

  • Create a birthday gift registry:

If you'd like to make it easy for guests to pick out a gift, creating a registry online makes this process a breeze. No getting the wrong size or getting multiples of the same thing! Having this link to your registry included in your invites ensures everything is in one place.

  • Select Invitations:

You should design invitations that match the chosen theme and convey essential details such as date, time, location, and RSVP instructions. If you have your guests' phone numbers or email addresses, you may want to opt for a simple Evite or Punchbowl online invitation. These can be free or at a cost depending on your design.

  • Hire a Photographer:

Capture every precious moment by hiring a professional photographer or assigning the task to a skilled friend. You can also check freelance websites and they may have competitive prices. You can also check with your nearby college or university photography programs to see if they have a student who would like to build their portfolio and take your pics for free. You'll be too busy to worry about catching all those cute snaps on your phone and most times, you forget to include yourself!

  • Arrange for Entertainment

A soft play space can be the ultimate entertainment for your littlest guests who aren’t exactly ready to be hands-on; however, if you’re expecting older children, you’ll want to keep them busy as well. Whether it's a clown, a magician, or a simple playlist of favorite tunes, plan entertainment that will keep them engaged. Parents will thank you! Lol (this one may not need to be done 4 months before but if it’s something or someone you don’t want to miss, it’s better to book sooner than later)

  • Plan the Menu:

Create a menu that caters to both adults and little guests. Ensure there are age-appropriate snacks and a delightful cake for the birthday boy or girl. Some families may also opt for a smash cake. It makes for very cute pics but if you ask me, why waste cake?! I would do a smash cupcake.

  • Consider Allergies and Dietary Restrictions:

Check with guests about any allergies or dietary restrictions to ensure everyone can enjoy the party without concerns. This is something you can add to your Evite or invitation so that you don’t forget. 

  • Decide on Venue Decorations:

Plan out how you are going to transform the party space with decorations that match the theme. Balloons, banners, and table decor add a festive touch. Try to recruit family and friends to help with decorating! This is usually a fun activity and those who are into arts and crafts will be the first to volunteer :)

  • Organize Games and Activities:

If you’re celebrating a 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd birthday, having a soft play space is really a no-brainer. Bouncy houses are great for older kids who are coordinated enough to play safely. Simple games like musical chairs or a piñata can add to the fun. Sometimes just putting out a table with art materials can be fun for those who prefer to express their creative side.

  • Design a Photo Booth:

Plan a designated photo booth area with props, allowing guests to capture memories playfully and creatively. If you have the budget for it, some vendors will set this up for you, complete with backdrops, and can print out pictures on the spot!

  • Outfit planning:

If one thing can be guaranteed, it’s that the birthday baby will be the cutest one there! Pick out or plan what outfit he or she will need for the big day. Make sure it still fits. Babies can grow so fast and an uncomfortable baby will easily become fussy no matter whose party it is.

  • Create a Timeline:

Outline a schedule for the party, ensuring a smooth flow of events and allowing time for spontaneous moments. Important activities such as food prep, catering arrival, entertainment delivery, and birthday cake cutting can be milestones throughout the day, so you’ll know your party is going according to plan.

  • Organize Party Favors:

Prepare small party favors for guests to take home as a token of appreciation for joining in the celebration. You’ll want to avoid toys that have small pieces that can easily become choking hazards. Be aware of any allergies if you think you’ll be giving out or including treats as your favors.

  • Purchase or Make Birthday Party Hat:

Buy or create a party hat for your little one to wear for pictures, party prop pics, and just to stand out even more as the special baby of the day!

  • Design a Sign-in Board:

Set up a sign-in board or book for guests to leave heartfelt messages and well wishes for the birthday child. Get cute with it and see if you can match this with your theme party. Here is my favorite one.

  • Plan for Safety:

If hosting outdoors, ensure there are shaded areas and consider safety measures for the little ones. Be aware of how close your area is to any streets or other areas not part of your event. Children are often drawn to playgrounds or other sports areas think about where your perimeters will be and strategically place your tables/chairs away from kiddie dangers, If hosting indoors, think about trip hazards and consider crating or storing away pets

  • Double-Check RSVPs:

Confirm attendance with guests a few days before the event to ensure accurate planning. Prioritise checking with the guests that RSVP’d “Yes” first as they probably did so very early and other plans may come up. 

  • Arrange Transportation:

If needed, organize transportation for guests to and from the venue. Even though we live in an age of ride-sharing apps, some grandparents and relatives may need a ride. Hopefully, someone will gladly volunteer for this task but including this in something you’ll want to confirm is a good way to avoid last-minute changes.

  • Prepare for Unexpected Weather:

Have a backup plan in case of unexpected weather changes, especially for outdoor parties. If your guest list isn’t too long, usually a backyard party can be moved indoors. If you’re planning on hosting a party at a public park, be sure to check and track the weather forecast starting 5 days before your event. You may have to reschedule to another date so confirm with your vendors/caterers what their policies are with rescheduling/cancellations so you can make a decision in time and avoid losing any deposits.

  • Coordinate with Vendors:

Confirm details with vendors well in advance, including the cake designer, caterer, and entertainment. Make a list of when remaining balances are due, ensure you’ve completed and turned in any necessary paperwork/contracts, and ask what delivery considerations need to be made (ie. where they will park, how they will enter, where they will set up, if there are any stairs or elevators). This will help them plan accordingly and hopefully avoid any delays in your party timeline.

  • Delegate Responsibilities:

Assign tasks to friends or family members to ensure smooth coordination during the party. I hate asking people for help so this is a hard one for me but I’ve found that most able-bodied family and friends love to offer their help. It gives them something to do so they feel helpful and also helps break up any awkwardness if they are all just met each other for the first time. Here are some key roles you should consider assigning:

-picking up the cake


-other party decorations

-food prep

-baby duty/childcare (Missed routines = grumpy birthday boy/girl!)

  • Create a Baby-Friendly Zone:

Designate a comfortable area for diaper changes and feeding for the youngest guests. Usually, this may be a bedroom if hosting your party at a house. Ensure any private things are put away to avoid any embarrassment. If hosting at a venue, many public bathrooms should have baby changing stations but it’s nice to have a few extra packs of diaper wipes and diaper disposal bags just in case.

Day Before Your Party-

  • Test Equipment:

If using audio-visual equipment or any electronic devices, test them beforehand to avoid technical glitches during the party. Outdoor or wireless speakers may need to be charged and looking for the power cable minutes before guests arrive adds unneeded stress. If you had time to make a kid-friendly playlist, that’s amazing. If not, make sure to skim through your playlist to avoid blasting any explicit lyrics you don’t want your little guests' ears to hear.

  • Prepare as much as you can ahead of time:

If hosting at house or venue that you'll have access to the day before your party, put up decorations and configure furniture/tables/chairs. Be aware that balloons may deflate over time so you may not want to do those too early. Consider prepping food trays that can remain fresh in the fridge, pulling out serving bowls and utensils so you're not searching for them during the party

  • Reconfirm with your party helpers:

Call/text family and friends that will be arriving early to help out. With all this planning going on, it's still common for miscommunication to happen. Who's picking up the cake? What time is everyone arriving? Who's bringing the drinks...for adults lol

Day of your Party-

  • Same-day prep:

If you weren't able to do any prep the day before, be sure to wake up early so you'll have enough time to complete all your party tasks. Hopefully your party team will arrive early as well. If you're hosting at a house, don't forget to move any garbage/recycling cans out of the way if vendors need access to your backyard. If you're hosting at a venue or park, put out a marker (ie. bright balloons or sign) to make it easier for vendors/helpers to find you.

  • Enjoy the Celebration!

On the big day, relax and savor the joyous moments with your little one, family, and friends. Celebrate the milestone and create lasting memories all the while knowing you’ve planned the greatest 1st birthday party ever!

A few days after your party-

  • Organize Thank You Cards:

Prepare thank-you cards in advance to express gratitude to guests for attending the special day. If you’ve sent your invitations through an online service such as Evite or Punchbowl, they will automatically send you a reminder to send thank-you cards after your party date has passed. If you have the time, actual thank you cards really add a personal touch as you can include a thank you for the specific gift that was given to your little one, perhaps even a picture of the birthday boy/girl to go with it!

By following these 30 essential tasks, you'll be well on your way to organizing a fantastic first birthday party for your precious baby. Remember, the key is to enjoy the process and celebrate this special milestone surrounded by love and laughter. Happy planning!

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