Me and the birthday girl
A first birthday is so special. It is a huge milestone in a baby’s life. Asides from giving his or her parents 365 days of joy, tears, dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and an overwhelming sense of love, it also comes with a few other firsts – first words, first steps, and if you’re like me, a first taste of birthday cake! For new moms, it marks the day you were born into being a mother.
One thing is for certain… It is definitely a cause for celebration! And my little Irina’s was going to be just that.
It doesn’t matter how you celebrate. You could put a candle on a cupcake and blow it out while your little one looks on. You could be in the presence of all your loved ones, showering him or her with presents - As long as you are together making memories with your baby on this very special day.
For me, I love the idea of a first birthday party. Mine are never too big when it comes to the guest list – I try to stick to inviting babies so that the party’s focus is really for entertaining them rather than older kids. And like with most things, I choose quality over quantity – From the invitations, the food and decorations, to the giveaways. Here, I will share a few tips on how I throw a first birthday party.
I’m a stickler for themes. I always have one, and I try to incorporate it in every element of the party. For Irina’s first birthday, I chose ‘Dreamcatchers.’ Asides from being really pretty, they have an almost magical essence to them. Plus, my baby was a great sleeper, so I like to believe she was always enjoying some really wonderful dreams.
I also loved the idea that dreamcatchers carried with them a Bohemian vibe, so I knew the party had to have some hipster-like elements. To execute the look, I knew I didn’t need too many accessories, just a few really good ones that brought about a very ‘chill’ atmosphere.
Nowadays, you can easily get the help of a party planner or event stylist. Being a professional wedding planner myself, I can tell you they are highly effective. But when it comes to décor, I also like putting in the dirty work so my events are always a mix of DIY, ordered or bought pieces, and some assistance from a professional.
INVITATION & PRINTED MATERIAL
I always get the same woman to paint my printed materials – Reena Gabriel of Missreenaph (IG: @missreenaph). She is so talented, and everything is customized so you can be assured that what your art is unique and beautiful. I usually write my own wording, which she brings it to life with her stunning art.
TIP: Sending out printed invitations rather than just an online one is always appreciated because it shows you made the extra effort to have something sent. And please, never limit it to just a FB event invitation. That feels very impersonal.
Having an open outdoor space was a MUST. Even though I knew there was a good chance of rain, I wanted to be somewhere open and beautiful. My husband and take our kids down south frequently, so we chose to hold the party in the Hacienda Santa Elena clubhouse in Canlubang. It is a short drive out of the city, but what a difference in the air – it’s fresher, crisper, and even the smell of the rain is more fragrant. I also prefer spaces that don’t come with their own in-house caterer like this one. That way you have more control of the food you serve, and don’t need to spend extra on corkage charges.
FOOD & BEVERAGE
Like I mentioned earlier, I like mixing things up so I did get some professional help with the food, but brought bought items, as well as homemade dishes to serve.
I like working with Pancake House (IG: @pancakehouseph) for 2 reasons – One is that they are an obvious crowd pleaser (who doesn’t love their fluffy pancakes with whipped butter and syrup?!), and two because they are quite easy to deal with. Though they have set packages, they allow you to mix and match items to suit your taste. Because I was bringing in other dishes, I got their simplest package of spaghetti, tacos, and pancakes. I decided to upgrade the pancakes to waffles because I felt like it had more of the hipster vibe to fit the theme. To add to that, I brought in fried chicken and biscuits from The Belle & Dragon (my husband’s favorite fried chicken in the city, IG: @thebelleanddragon), barbecue sticks from Heaven’s BBQ, and siopitos from Tita Lens (another party staple in my arsenal). The homemade items consisted of my mom’s famous pigs in a blanket, as well as cheese pimiento and PB&J rainbow bread sandwiches.
For me, your drinks are just as important as food, and every guest coming is taken into consideration. For the children, I fill a cooler with a lot of ice, bottled water, chocolate milk, fruit juice and Yakult. I usually leave it around where they play so they can feel free to grab one anytime. For the adults, I like to do a mix of sodas, wine and beer. Asides from Coke, Sprite, and Royal, I always have ginger ale as well as sparkling water to add variety. For this party, I brought sparkling Rose for the ladies, and I had kegs of Engkanto Brewery’s (IG: @engkantobrewery) craft beer on tap. Everything served perfectly chilled to beat the outdoor heat.
TIP: For the drinks, get everything in the smallest size. Kids don’t need more than 100ML of a sweetened drink to quench their thirst. As for adults, you will notice that when they have cans of soda, they always drink a bit and then leave the rest to be thrown. I don’t like wastage so I swear by those sakto bottles! They are no more than 12php and are just the perfect amount to indulge your sweet tooth.
I love putting together a dessert buffet. I am fortunate to come from a family of bakers. Everything was homemade, and arranged by me – but luckily, everything you will see here is accessible to you all because we all sell our cakes and pastries from home.
The centerpiece of any dessert spread is the Birthday cake. This 2-tired, dreamcatcher birthday cake, was made by my mom. It was a simple fondant, which covered moist chocolate cake, chocolate fudge and a caramel filling. My mom also made the iced sugar cookies that spelled my daughter’s name I-R-I-N-A, and the polovoron (sweet Filipino candy made with powdered milk and sugar), which added a special brightness to the table.
Pretty decorated cupcakes and gorgeous feather shortbread cookies were made by my husband’s cousin Malu del Rosario, which I displayed in a gold spray painted ferris wheel. I provided the lemon chews and the chocolate chip cookies, which are family favorites.
Lastly, I added some fun candies and snacks for the kids to grab – sour gummy worms, as well as strawberry frosted pretzel sticks, and colored marshmallows.
For those that wanted a refreshing treat, I brought in a Manong Sorbetero (Filipino dirty icecream) stand. I’ve had this particular family do all my parties, and you can find them in the Salcedo weekend market.
TIP: Always allot more cones. I notice that the staff really enjoys dirty ice cream. I love seeing the yayas and drivers happily munching on this treat
Though I sourced a few items online as well as from Divisoria, I brought in the team of Zenas Pineda (IG: @zenaspineda) to help create a backdrop for my dessert buffet, arrange a few centerpieces of wooden twigs and ribbon, and provide woven banigs and pillows to scatter across the garden for cozy picnic spots. In the covered areas, I adorned the ceilings with gorgeous white and wooden dreamcatchers, as well as pretty gold lanterns.
Though I like party games, I usually save that for a children’s party rather than a first birthday. Luckily my chosen venue had a big swimming pool for the older kids to enjoy, so I just added some inflatables from Partypals (IG: @partypalsph) to add to the fun.
For the little ones, I got a bunch of baby toys like blocks, squeezies, and ring stackers in baby pools around the garden. I also set up a mini soccer field with cones and a soft air ball for them to kick around.
TIP: If you are putting out baby toys, always wash and sanitize them beforehand to ensure safety. Babies and toddlers tend to put things in their mouth
It is always nice to send your guests off with a favor as a thank you. When I was young plastic bags were filled with candy and I loved it. I sourced these woven purses and mini fans from one supplier in Divisoria. Attached to it were these precious little dreamcatcher key chains, which I ordered online. And inside? Little plastic bags full of candy of course! Along with other vintage toys like jackstones, and something that has made a bit of a comeback - slime! The elements had that hipster vibe so the theme came in full circle, which made these pretty packages the perfect party favor.
MY BIGGEST TIP
Finally, I cannot stress enough what a great investment a professional photographer is to capture all the day’s events. You want to enjoy your baby in his or her party, not go around taking pictures. Once the guests leave and the last piece of cake has been served, all you have are your memories. You will not regret it once you receive the images! All photographs seen here were captured by The Picture Company On Location (IG: @tpconlocation).
TIP: I always have the photographers come an hour before guests are scheduled to arrive and do a mini family session, that way, you also have family portraits while you’re all dolled up, as well as a commemorative portrait of your little one at 1.