First Birthday: Planning Decor and Favor Bags

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First Birthday Party Decor & Planning

Party planning! Wow what a daunting task!

There are some things I can do with ease… Give me photography, video editing, anything computer related, programming, languages, reading, memorizing, researching, filling out- I won’t blink an eye at the challenge. But anything to do with decor, style and crafting – it just eludes me.

So as a disclaimer, nothing here was handmade by me. The most I did that would be considered crafty is buy parts and assemble them based on the vision in my head.

This was  also the first time in my life that I wanted it to be perfect, to work out well. I am usually a “prepare like crazy but go with the flow” kind of girl. But Alexis’ first birthday carried a special significance to me. It signified her transformation from a baby into a toddler and my transformation from Elena to Elena who is Lexi’s mom. It was the time to celebrate her babyhood (while cheerfully waving goodbye to it, because we like being a toddler oh so much more) and it was my first chance to celebrate her birth ( since I didn’t get to do the baby party like I wanted to when Alexis was a few months old).

After we decided that yes, we do in fact want a birthday party, I tackled the overwhelming task of figuring out the theme that wouldn’t be too much work, but was also unique enough that just going to Party City wouldn’t do it.

Quickly I came upon a few ideas that seemed easy enough that such a novice like me would be able to achieve and yet unique and classy.

Since I was infatuated with the French language and France for a few years before Lexi was born, I went with “Tea Party in France” theme. It fit the bill perfectly- classy, simple, easy to execute and non-specific.

{All photos in this post were courtesy of Stacey Downey Photography. Edited by The Art of Making a Baby}


The first few weeks were spent trying to gather as many ideas and as much inspiration for decor elements as I could.

Etsy, Pinterest, Google, blogs, party planning websites… Everything was diligently pinned for later review. It is amazing how long it takes to do this sort of thing when you only have naps to work with and have other things going on.

Once everything was pinned, I went over the ideas and weeded out ones I definitely didn’t want to do.

Then a second round was going through and seeing what fits the color scheme, as well as is currently available, priced to my liking and can be made and shipped in time.

After that, I was left with only a few options to decide on. The hardest thing was to not be tempted to include every single idea and design element I came across. There are some amazing party planning websites out there that make this endeavor for the less talented of us more challenging, as well as easier in some way.

I had made a few separate lists to make sure I don’t forget anything ( I am a huge list maker. You should see my Wunderlist- you’ll faint!)


  • General decor
  • Table decor
  • Favor Bags
  • Desserts
  • Supplies

I would record every single idea that came across my mind that I wanted to do and then refined from there.

This whole process took me at least two weeks.


{Photo Credit: Stacey Downey Photography. Edited by The Art of Making a Baby}


The next week was spent finding and ordering the right supplies. The big thing with anything handmade is that sometimes it takes up to 5-6 weeks to get it done. I found that out the hard way. Luckily, I came across some amazing shops on Etsy who were nice enough to make sure that I get all the supplies in time for the party. But even with that, we still did have one or two mishaps.

Thank God for Amazon, because most of the random supplies were found and bought there. I cannot imagine trying  to traipse through multiple stores with a toddler who hates being restrained and only wants to walk.

I did make it to HomeGoods and Michaels, of course, to pick up some goodies. I will be listing all the items and links, if applicable, in the photos under the photo and at the end of the post.


This was the most difficult part to figure out. We couldn’t do a sit down dinner, because, to be honest, none of the moms would get to sit and eat with brand new toddlers on their hands. Most of the baby guests were only 1, so they couldn’t really eat normal people food without getting all messy. So French Tea was truly that, a tea party. Iced Tea.


{Photo Credit: Stacey Downey Photography. Edited by The Art of Making a Baby}

I still felt like non-dessert some food was in order, so I decided to find some interesting and somewhat kid friendly tea sandwich recipes and make those myself. That way kids could possibly eat them, since many probably would not eat the main fare: desserts and cake.

By a recommendation of a neighbor, I checked out a local European bakery shop that was the best (read: worst) discovery ever! They make the most delicious deserts you could dream of. The kind of European goodness I am used to. I blame them for sidetracking me from the whole non-dairy thing.


{Photo Credit: Stacey Downey Photography. Edited by The Art of Making a Baby}

Desserts served were cream swans, banana white chocolate tarts, vanilla cream puffs, chocolate cream puffs, macaroons, napoleons, fruit tarts, chocolate dipped Madelines and of course, cake.

I spent a whole day looking and sifting through tea sandwich recipes to find ones that were relatively easy to make and would be somewhat suitable for kids. The day of the party my mom and I spent a few hours assembling them. They didn’t look the prettiest because we suck at that sort of thin, but they were so tasty the sandwiches were gone before the party was over.


{Photo Credit: Stacey Downey Photography. Edited by The Art of Making a Baby}

Tea Sandwiches:

  • Goat cheese- Pecan {amazing taste}
  • Caprese {Caprese Layer sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil on a split focaccia loaf. Add salt, pepper and chopped jarred artichoke hearts; drizzle with olive oil. Wrap the sandwich in plastic and place a heavy skillet on top; press for 30 minutes, then unwrap and slice. Source}
  • Kentucky Benedictine {a really awesome tasting alternative to cucumber tea sandwiches}
  • Bresaola, Parmesan, and Arugula
  • Dilly Egg Salad {I made some with and some without the pickle juice due to high  sodium}

{My Pinterest Food Board has all these and more pinned if you’re interested}


I had seen an awesome recipe for an almond milk chocolate banana smoothie on Pinterest and thought it’d be perfect for kids. Instead of glasses, I used plastic (BPA free) bottles and straws.  Adults drank Princess Ice Tea bought at the Garden Tea room of grand Floridian at Disney (and brought to us by GrandmaUSA)

I also included some yogurt melts for the little ones which in hindsight were really high in sugar (that’s why I am not even linking them. Yuck!) and useless ( even though they were immediately swallowed by the kids). I didn’t think of it at the time, but the perfect snack for babies would have been organic food pouches.



{Photo Credit: Stacey Downey Photography. Edited by The Art of Making a Baby}

A massive 2 story custom made strawberry Grand Marnier cream cake that tasted like heaven to me ( because it wasn’t too sweet like most desserts tend to be).


I had some special plans for the cake topper, so I told the bakery to keep the top clean, but unfortunately USPS had let me down. The plan was to have a topper custom made by Sweet Cake Topper. It looked amazing and I am very bummed that she put so much work into it and it didn’t arrive on time. Sarly, the girl behind the shop, is incredibly talented. I spent like an hour just staring at her creations. The topper  is sitting on our wall unit right now, so at least we can keep it as a figurine for a few months. It honestly couldn’t have been more perfect: Lexi sitting on a picnic blanket with her favorite tea bear in a beret having a tea party with macaroons.


Luckily, I had also ordered a fondant candle and decorations for the smash cake from Edible Details , so this saved the day ( or we would have had an empty cake top). GrandmaUSA who has some mad skills in the cake decorating department ( she used to own a bakery) helped me out with some decorations that came with the candle: pearls and roses. And voila, the cake and the day was saved.


{Photo Credit: Stacey Downey Photography. Edited by The Art of Making a Baby}

The smash cake was left without a topper, but it was a disaster anyways, so everything worked out fine. {Why disaster? Wait for the Smash cake post!}


The main accent for the table was roses set in milk and glass vases and around the food. Easy to get, cheap and beautiful.

It’s amazing how flowers can make any food look better. It’s definitely an under-appreciated decor item (at least it was for me). Now I always try to keep roses in small vases around the house- it makes such a  difference. Probably the biggest expense decor-wise was buying the cake dishes to put desserts on. We don’t usually entertain, neither one of us LOVES to cook, so we much rather order catering or take out or go out to dinner when company comes over, so we had absolutely no dessert dishes. Now that they are all bought, they are nice items to have whenever we do set a table. I needed close to 10 dessert dishes, so I ordered a few from Amazon, bought a few from HomeGoods, some from Zulily and also got a cheap tiered plastic dessert tower to finish up the table.

GrandmaUSA was so kind to have bought us a metal Eiffel Tower in France Pavillion of Epcot that was such a necessary addition to the table decor.


{Photo Credit: Stacey Downey Photography. Edited by The Art of Making a Baby}

Clear milk bottles and striped straws made for a great addition to the decor, aside from being functional. I used some glittery washi tape and labels to dress them up a bit and leave some space for guests to write their names on it, so that the drinks wouldn’t get mixed up ( but then I forgot to include a pen or even tell them about it, so that was a fail lol)


{Photo Credit: Stacey Downey Photography. Edited by The Art of Making a Baby}

I also had an idea of buying tiny bird cages and putting a single cut rosebud in there, which turned out looking better than I thought. The Eiffel Tower hanging over the wall was something I accidentally stumbled upon on Zulily and knew I had to have it. Zulily has been strangely helpful in this endeavor.  Weeks before the party, I had noticed quite a few home decor sales that happened to have french themed items, as well as cute and cheap(er) cake stands. It’s not a source for birthday party supplies I would ever think to go to, but it worked out so well – you just gotta keep an eye out.


{Photo Credit: Stacey Downey Photography. Edited by The Art of Making a Baby}


For the table backdrop, I went back and forth between doing colorful curtains or streamers behind the table or going more subtle. Finally, I decided that there was enough color on the table and the back needed to be simple ( either that or I ran out of time and energy, I don’t remember). So I utilized the see through ivory curtains we had lying around waiting to be hung in the guestroom and white Christmas lights taped onto the windows behind the curtains.


I spent a decent amount of time looking for the perfect bunting to spice up the white table cloth of the table. It had to be complimentary but at the same time add some color to the table. It was strangely a difficult thing to find, as too many french themed ones had a lot of blue in it. The shop, Berry A La Mode, that made this bunting has some amazingly cute bunting styles and colorful clothes pins. Definitely recommend. This is one of the items that gets reused over and over again in photos, parties and in nursery and playroom decor.


I have always wanted to do one of those “clothespinned polaroid style photographs hanging over the table” thing. This was my chance. I printed out 5×5 photographs of Alexis taken monthly in the chair, starting from newborn and ending at 11 months. I bought mini clothes pins on Amazon and used a thick twine/thread from Michael’s which worked perfectly together.


The credenza across the table housed a display of Lexi’s firsts in photo format, set on little photo trays, with butterflies all over the marble countertop.



What kind of photo crazed Elena would I be if I didn’t include a photobooth? Duh! Of course, I had to have one.

I already had a backdrop and softboxes I bought months ago (which are honestly invaluable in low light settings), but I wanted to do something Alexis-specific.


Alexis-specific meant spending hours picking out 158 photographs to be printed and then hours putting them onto the backdrop with double sided tape. Thank God for GrandmaUSA’s help or I might have collapsed the night before the party trying to stick those things onto the muslin. You can read more about the photography gear here.

I had my camera set up with a tripod and a remote with photobooth props nearby: mustaches, glasses,signs, bow ties and lips and a sign that said Grab a Prop, all ordered on Etsy.



This was my favorite part of planning party. I love putting together gifts when budget isn’t an issue and since I teamed up with some of the companies I work with, this was precisely the case.

I had talked with some of my favorite kid brands about putting together a gift bags for Lexi’s guests and they said YES!

favor bags

Nosilla Organics, the cutest organic clothing out there, sent some adorable tees and dresses from their previous lines. I wrapped them up with some fleur-de-lis ribbon to dress them up a bit. It was so awesome to later see Facebook pictures of the guests wearing the outfits. Aw! Lexi also got a birthday dress that she wore for the morning family gift opening.


Tiny Love

I’ve often proclaimed my love for this company and their products and their commitment to using safe plastics and no fire-retardants. Tiny Love has amazing products for babies from birth to 12months, so we were trying to figure out what toy would work for the 1 year old crowd.

One of Daily Mom‘s writers, Amanda, told me about how much her son LOVES the Elephant Stacker. Honestly, from the website description, I didn’t see what the fuss was about. But oh my is it the best toy EVER! I recommend a lot of products I believe in and work well for us, but only a few are truly not to be missed.

This is an amazing toy for babies between 6-18 months old.  It’s basically a musical  ball dropper and a stacker, even though we’ve never actually had music turned on because we’re too busy to put batteries in it, and yet Lexi adores it. You can check it out here, and buy it here. Mothers of kiddos under 18 month who got it in their gift bag  later commented how their babies were obsessed with the Elephant.



Ah, you know you’ve seen a million Pediped shoes on Lexi’s toes, so you know we are fans of this particular footwear.  They are high quality, super soft, don’t rub baby’s little feet and most importantly have soft sole which is perfect for early walkers. So obviously that was a good small sized item to include into the gift bags. I knew that they would become some of the guests’ favorite footwear.

One Step Ahead

And to finish outfitting Lexi’s friends (isn’t it funny?), we got One Step Ahead branded baby sunglasses with UV protection. All our guests live here in Florida, so obviously they all need a pair. It’s one of the things that most parents, including myself, overlook when protecting the little ones from the sun, but eye protection is just as crucial. It’s hard to get babies to wear these glasses, but when you do, they are so cute on them! We’re still working on getting Alexis not to take headbands and sunglasses off her head 🙂





Most of the decor was put up completely last minute. We were racing against the clock, and I am so grateful for the help I received from everyone involved.

So that was my experience planning a first birthday party. It went surprisingly well and without a major hitch, like things usually end up being when I am involved 🙂  I got some amazing memories about this experience and am looking forward to future birthdays.

Now the really fun part starts! In the next week I will finally be going through the party photos and putting together a post. There are over 1600 photos, so it’s very time consuming, but it is absolutely my most favorite thing to do.

I can’t wait!

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  • Reply
    March 13, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    Everything is so beautiful! What a lucky little girl Alexis is to have such a well thought out first birthday party. Why is she blonde in the cake topper?! Lol

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      March 13, 2013 at 11:00 AM

      Thank you!
      Not sure about the blonde. I asked the seller to repaint her hair brown when I saw. So in the one that’s sitting on my wall unit she’s a brunette.

  • Reply
    Jenna / Eat Drink Pretty
    March 13, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    So, so beautiful. Awesome job! I love the French tea party theme, so girly and pretty. I adore party planning but those last 45 minutes leading up to any party are quite stressful! I just threw my daughter a “baby love” first birthday party. All the details are on my blog if you are interested in checking it out 🙂

    I can’t wait to see more photos, especially the smash cake post!

    • Reply
      March 19, 2013 at 2:09 PM

      What an absolutely adorable party! Your daughter looked so cute in her heart dress, too!

  • Reply
    March 13, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    `What size were the 1st pictures? I plan on doing that at my sons first birthday

  • Reply
    Elena C.
    March 13, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    LOVE it all!
    So beautiful with so many pretty details!!!!
    And food – mmmmmmmm!
    French pastry is the besssst 🙂

  • Reply
    Mrs Loquacious
    March 13, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Sold! I just ordered the elephant from Amazon!
    And your gift bags are amazing; that is a party I wish we could’ve been at!! LOL. My guests only got a pineapple cup with a crazy straw, a lei, some candies, a Bounty bar, and a can of macadamia nuts (Hawaiian theme). But then again, I did everything on the quick and cheap.

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      March 13, 2013 at 6:43 PM

      Hahaha to be fair my favor bags would look exactly like yours if it wasn’t for the generous companies who sent stuff to include in them.

      Btw, you’ll love the elephant.

  • Reply
    March 13, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    OMG wow your an amazing designer and orginiser, girl :)))

  • Reply
    March 13, 2013 at 8:36 PM

    For someone who is not crafty you did a BEAUTIFUL job with the party. I especially love the photo booth idea with the Lexi backdrop. I hope you’ll share some of the photos your guests took in there!

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      March 13, 2013 at 8:56 PM

      THANK YOU!

      I can’t decide on whether I will be sharing guest photos. Some of the photos are REALLY fun, but I gotta make sure everyone is ok with each photo I post and like the way they look or whatever since lots of people will see it…

      So maybe i’ll post a few that I get an ok for.

  • Reply
    Michelle Kennedy
    March 13, 2013 at 9:18 PM

    WOW. Elena this is just stunning! I’ve been hanging to see Lexi’s party and it definitely didn’t disappoint, you’ve done a beautiful job! Can’t wait to see more, well done 🙂

  • Reply
    March 13, 2013 at 9:44 PM

    My daughter has thick feet, nice and chubby. She has trouble fitting shoes. Are the pedipeds made to fit chubby feet? I’d hate to spend so much on a shoe that she won’t even fit in.

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      March 13, 2013 at 10:15 PM

      Yes!!!! You know what’s funny? I got some super pretty shoes for her! Like so cute I can’t stand it (Livie and Luca)! And none of them fit her well on top because of the chubby feet. She gnaws at them until I take them off.
      Only pedipeds have so far worked this well.
      Especially the sandals. Order a few different types online and then return if they don’t work. There is only 1 pediped pair that is tight, but that’s because she’s growing out of it at this point.

    • Reply
      March 14, 2013 at 2:11 PM

      Rileyroos. I got them off often with a coupon code.

  • Reply
    March 13, 2013 at 10:20 PM

    How come there are no pictures of your daughter? It was her birthday party right?!

  • Reply
    March 14, 2013 at 5:26 AM

    wow! really wow, Elena! 🙂 so beautiful, so thoroughly planned – you should do it for a living 🙂
    I took away some great ideas for my upcoming party, so thank you so much for this post. I’ll now go enjoy your photos a bit more 😀

  • Reply
    March 14, 2013 at 7:45 AM

    These are awesome ideas and such helpful photos! Thank you! I have a question…. If you had elected to have the party outside in (harsher) daylight, would you still have used the photo backdrop? I’m planning my baby Shower for may and wanted to set something up for photos, but mine will be outside. Actually, any suggestions for that or for a stucco wall cover up? I was thinking large pieces of fabric somehow affixed to the wall with some key bunting elements to hide the stucco where ill be putting my food tables. (In front of) any suggestions would be so appreciated!!

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      March 14, 2013 at 9:04 PM

      Yes I would definitely use a backdrop.
      If it’s the shade or generally cloudy go for a fun pattern that’s not too busy. That a big piece of fabric attached to the wall with maybe a few decorative elements. Like you can put a statue and a big flower pot on both sides of it to add a bit of dimension to the backdrop.

      If it tends to be very sunny where you’re at, I’d stick with simpler colors and play with accessories instead. That way the overblown spots and shadows won’t look weird.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2013 at 9:45 PM

    Beautiful details! Any chance you can share details on how you did the clothespinned polaroid style photographs? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      March 14, 2013 at 9:51 PM

      In any photoediting program ( I used LR), I created a white canvas with thinner margins on the side and top and a thick margin on the bottom with the photo in the middle and then printed it out 4×4

  • Reply
    March 14, 2013 at 10:30 PM

    Incredible! What a party!

  • Reply
    March 14, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    Amazing work! Every little detail planned beautifully. It will be a challenge to plan next parties as great as this one 🙂
    If you’d like to do some party planning for my son’s bd, I’d be so greatful hahaha 🙂

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      March 14, 2013 at 11:56 PM

      Haha no thank you! It was hard and stressful as much as it was fun 🙂
      Next year I think we might just celebrate at Disney. Until she’s old enough to have consistent friends and know what parties are.

  • Reply
    April 12, 2013 at 1:53 AM

    Gorgeous decor! I love the cake–so so girly and pretty.

    I have a silly question to ask, because I’m in the midst of planning my son’s 1st bday party as well. Did you use a helium tank and inflate your own balloons? If so, was it difficult to do? I ask because I have this strange phobia of popping balloons (I know, crazy), so I’m terrified of doing it myself, but we need too many balloons to have inflated elsewhere and transported. I’m hoping inflating helium balloons is an easy (and non-traumatizing) task I can do myself on site.

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      April 12, 2013 at 8:16 AM

      We didnt. We just had them inflated at party city. However I’ve used a helium tank before and it’s a breeze. Definitely rent/buy one.

  • Reply
    June 27, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    Thanks for sharing! I was looking forward to this post it and it was worth the wait!

  • Reply
    October 20, 2013 at 11:23 PM

    Hi Elena, beautiful! Thanks for sharing. Where did you get those adorable plates?

  • Reply
    October 13, 2016 at 11:35 PM

    Sorry for the late response! I’m so inspired by this! I wanted to ask where did you find the Eiffel Tower that are on the table cloth

  • Reply
    February 6, 2017 at 2:28 PM

    WOW!! Thank you for sharing. You did an amazing job. You are truly talented. 🙂

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