Gone are the days when birthday parties simply meant cake, ‘Happy Birthday’ sign on walls made out of streamers with balloons stuck just about anywhere. Nowadays, it’s about themes, carefully planned cake tables which literally are grand enough to serve as a backdrop for a mainstream magazine photo shoot! I won’t deny that I love it all, I mean who wouldn’t, seeing those drool worthy pics are pure eye candy for anyone who has even a pinch of aesthetics in them!

Everything from the invitation to the party favours to the cake to the now party ‘must-have’, a photo booth, has to have one theme going on for the birthday to be a success. And no, the success, most of the times, has nothing to do with the child for whom that party is being thrown. In fact, all a child is interested in is the presents, the fun and games with the entertainer, running around with friends and those party favours and CAKE! And all this becomes irrelevant if the party is for a 1 year old or a toddler as they have no clue whatsoever! My point is these theme parties are more for ‘us’- the parents, in fact more so for the mums as even dads, being men, are mostly least bothered about the little details. Give them some good food at a party and that’s about it, it will be a success!

This theme craze, however, comes at a substantial cost which in some cases (think professional event planners) has reached a level which is beyond logical apprehension. I mean am totally cool with people wanting a picture perfect party for their child and if they can afford to spend without fretting even a little then even better, but I am one of those people who keeps a tab on their spending, I mean I am the classic example of someone who wants good, quality stuff but at an even better cost. So, in order to resolve this dilemma of having that picture perfect theme based budget friendly 1st birthday party for my son, I decided to do it myself. This totally worked for me as I simply enjoy crafting and hand making stuff and not only find the whole process therapeutic but the end result gives me a high like nothing. However, it was not all plain sailing as I had a jam-packed day that included taking care of an almost 1 yo, doing the school runs with my 5 yo, dealing with the busy schedule of the Christmas holiday period which also meant anything ordered online had the potential of being delayed, also had my in-laws visiting and staying with us which meant a busier fuller household. So, whatever planning, hands-on-work I had to do had to be after 10pm or so but since it was something close to my heart, I didn’t, for one second, feel tired.

The Theme & Invitation:

Being a 1st birthday, the options for the theme were unlimited. I was not dependant on what the birthday boy was into or what his favourite character was as he really couldn’t have cared less. After going through a lot of different ideas online and checking how easy it was to recreate those in terms of getting the decor and other things, I decided to go with a carnival theme.

As for the invites, I went digital. Created an event on Facebook and uploaded an invite cover pic together with the details of the party there and then. As a secondary source of RSVP, I made a watsapp group with all the guests added to it. This made it all so easy and definitely saved  a lot of time. All praise to social media!

The Party favours:

For the party favours (24 in total), I got these cute looking pop corn boxes from Amazon UK and filled them with favours and chocolates and sweets bought from mainly Amazon and ebay, except the sweets and chocolates of course. A breakup of the individual items is somewhat as follows (I might be missing an item or two given its been some time) but that’s mostly it:

Pop corn boxes  (pack of 30)  £5.88
Cellophane bags(pack of 30)  £1.3
Party Bubbles     (pack of 24)  £2.5
Colorful Shutter shade sunglasses (pack of 24)  £5.59
Wax crayons (24 packs with 4/pack)  £2
Animal Sticker sheet (24 separate sheets)  £2.96
Chocolates/Sweets/Haribos/Lollipops (multiples of these in each favor box) roughly  £12-£15


The Cake Table:

This was the focal point of the party hall and this is where I spent most of my time on. The biggest task was to set up the backdrop. For this I simply used two plastic red striped table covers (£2.1 each) joined together and similar blue striped table covers as curtains (to give the effect of a carnival act stage) revealing my son’s name in the centre, which I also made myself by using yellow striped wrapping sheet and some red card paper. This, although, looks fairly simple but took me and my husband a good 2 hours as had to secure everything with a bluetac only (the hall management didn’t allow any use of tape). But they did let us come in the night before to do so which saved us the stress of arriving earlier before the party and doing the backdrop.

As for the table itself, as seen in the pic, I used the party favours along with big round carnival lollipops in jars I already had at home which were customised to match the theme by a mere ribbon around their necks and placed on boxes (basically lids of toiletry gift boxes lol) which were hand decorated with red and yellow striped paper to go with the theme, got a blue, yellow and red paper off ebay at £3 each.

Then there was a picture of the birthday boy (again used a pre owned frame for this), a ferris wheel cup cake holder which I actually bought from Wilkinson at £10 or so and some card cutouts bought from ebay for £2.5. To fill in the spaces I used fresh flowers in colours that matched the theme, good old kit kat wrapped in carnival themed red stripe paper and affixed with personalised sticker and last but not the least a wooden name train he was gifted on his birth,  transformed to match the carnival theme by fixing with the same blue and red striped papers. For the cake to be at a certain height I again used a round box and wrapped it in a pattern similar to the inside of a carnival tent.

The Photo Booth:

Anyone who knows me, is fully aware of how much I love  a photo booth with theme compliant props and a dress up station of sorts. I mean if you are going through all the trouble of having a picture perfect party THEN you should have a backdrop to actually take some  pictures too. Makes sense doesn’t it LOL!
For the backdrop, I again used a plastic striped table cover and set up a dress up station with props ranging from clown wigs, clown noses, funky shutter glasses, moustaches, pout lips, spotty ties and what not. And it was a success with not just the kids, but the mums and the dads as well. The youngest poser was a 2 month baby and he looked adorable posing with a moustache!

The Cake & Little details here and there:

And finally the cake! This was the only item I was ok with spending on as this is one thing I couldn’t have done even if I tried. But am glad I decided to have a professional baker make it as it not only looked perfect for the theme but tasted even better! See it for yourself in the picture here.

Besides all the things mentioned above, I had little details like buntings, banners, card cutouts, theme coloured straws and napkins and all this just brought the whole hall together and in alignment with the theme. Even the entertainer was dressed up as a girl clown! Yes I forgot to mention that I hired an entertainer for 1.5 hours and the kids just had a ball while the mums were able to pose with those props in peace!

So all in all, it was a lovely colourful party, which not just the kids but even the adults enjoyed too and yes the men had their dose of good desi food so it was purely a case of all is well that ends well!