The Ultimate Guide to Planning a First Birthday Party

Ultimate Guide to Planning a First Birthday. Free printables, theme ideas, and tips to help you plan your child's first birthday

I remember how excited I was to plan Libby’s first birthday. It’s hard to believe her second birthday will be coming up soon. I am sure you are wondering where the time went. The days begin to blur and suddenly nighttime feedings got fewer and far in between. Your “baby” is beginning to look like a little toddler. Now, here you are, starting to prepare for his or her first birthday. I put together this  ultimate guide to planning a first birthday party to help you with all the tiny details.

Not only are you celebrating the birth of your child, but you are celebrating the last year of milestones.

A first birthday is a celebration for the whole family. Babies have a way of bringing families together.

Simply by being born they create new roles in the lives of people we are closest to; Aunt, Uncle, Grandma, Grandpa, Sister, Brother, maybe even for your first time, the new role as Mom & Dad.

Enjoy the process of planning a party for your little darling and the people closest in your lives. Let’s get started on the Ultimate Guide to Planning a First Birthday Party.

How to Plan a First Birthday Party

*This article does include affiliate links. Throughout you will see some of my favorite finds on Amazon for a first birthday. We receive a commission for any items purchased, but at no additional cost to you. 

To start the planning process, there are four things that need to be decided: budget, guest list, venue, and theme. These party priorities will help you set specific party perimeters.

After you tackle these four things, all the rest will fall into place. If you have a large or unlimited budget, then you will have more flexibility to invite as many people as you want, as well as the resources to book a venue to hold your guests.

If you are working on a smaller budget, you might look at hosting it at your home. This may require a smaller guest list to comfortably accommodate all of your party goers.

If your guest list is a non-negotiable, check out renting budget friendly or free venues such as the following:

  • Clubhouse
  • Beach
  • Park
  • Kids Party Place
  • Local Gym
  • Family or Friends House

Narrowing Down a Theme

You can either choose a theme to fit your venue (i.e. you rent a pool at a local gym and choose an Under the Sea Party), or pick a theme and then choose your venue (i.e. you pick a Pink Princess Party and decorate a venue accordingly).

There is lots of flexibility with choosing your theme. If you can’t settle on a theme you want right away, don’t worry. Instead, opt for sending out a neutral invitation.

A pink or blue  invitation would be lovely, or even better, an invitation with your son or daughter’s photo. Your guests will still enjoy every bit of the fun when they arrive and see your theme come together.

Themes for a First Birthday

A budget friendly option is to choose a theme based on the time of the year, and season.

For instance, a Fall baby may have a party centered around pumpkins, leaves, apples, Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc.

You may find you already have seasonal decorations on hand. Additionally, for a menu, it’s usually more cost affective to buy food items that are in season.

Summer Parties & Themes:

Pool Party – Under the Sea Theme, Mermaid Theme, Pirate Theme

Backyard BBQ – Farmer’s Market Theme, Lemonade Theme, Watermelon Theme

Luau – Pineapple, Flamingo, Moana Theme

Spring Parties & Themes:

Garden Party- Tea Theme, Fairy Theme, Lady Bug Theme, Bug Theme

  • Woodland Theme
  • Pastel Unicorn Theme
  • Rainbow Theme
  • Spring Shower’s Theme
  • “Alice” in One-derland

Fall Parties & Themes:

Cider Mill Party – Pumpkin Theme, Apple Theme, Harvest Theme

Bonfire Party – Rustic Woodland Theme, Little Red Riding Hood Theme

  • Halloween Theme
  • Fall Farmer’s Market

Winter Parties & Themes:

A Winter One-derland Party: such as a Rustic with Evergreen trees and cardinals, White Snowflakes and Glitter

  • Disney’s Frozen Theme
  • Snowman Theme
  • Iceskating Theme
  • Fire and Ice Theme

Other Themes for a First Birthday

  • One-derful
  • “Alice” in One-derland
  • Fun to Be One


Decorating sets the tone of the party. There are dozens of items to really make your daughter’s first birthday party memorable.

Websites like  Amazon Handmadeand Etsy have thousands of options for customized goods that you can print or order already made.

You can have everything from water bottle labels, to matching food tents.

Keep in mind, printables take time to produce and send, and they take time to assemble.

Order anything for the party a few weeks in advance. Do any assembly (folding, cutting, taping…) a few days/weeks prior to the party.

These things always take more time the you expect, and you will have enough to do the day before and day of the party.

Free Checklists & Planning Documents for a First Birthday Party

Here are some free checklists and planning documents to help you stay organized when planning your party.

These documents are intended for individual use and cannot be redistributed without expressed written consent from Thanks!

Free Birthday Printable for Planning a First BirthdayFree Birthday Printable for Planning a First Birthday. RSVP ListFree Birthday Printable for Planning a First Birthday. Shopping List

To Do’s & Recommended Supplies

• Pick a Theme
• Create the Guest List
• Decide on a Venue
• Mail invites out 4-6 weeks ahead of time
• Plan a Menu – Keep in mind friends and family who have restrictions (Gluten free, toddlers, etc.)
• Purchase supplies or a Cake and/or Cupcakes
• Party Outfit: Head piece, Dress, Bib, Extra outfit for before or after the Smash Cake
• Decorations: Center pieces, Highchair Decorations, Balloons, Front Door or Mailbox
• Create a Music Playlist
• Book any Entertainment or Photographers
• Order any Custom Printables
• Go Shopping
• Create a Party Time Table for yourself to keep the party flowing ( i.e Food at 1:00, Cake at 2:30. Presents to Follow)

Related Post: Essentials for a first birthday

Table Supplies

• Napkins
• Forks, Knifes, Spoons
• Dinner Plates
• Ice cream Bowls
• Dessert Plates
• Table Clothes
• Serving Utensils for Cake & Ice cream
• Serving Utensils for Food
• Cups
• Straws
• Candy or Dessert Buffet

Baby's First Smash Cake, The ultimate guide to planning a first birthday


Cake Toppers
• Cake Candles
• Smash Cake
• Cake for Guests

Related Post: Healthy Smash Cakes for a First Birthday

Party Favors & Prizes

Don’t forget older kids and other toddlers that may be at the party. Put together goodie bags and small finger foods that are age appropriate.

Goodie Bags
• Toys & Trinkets
• Prizes for any Games
• Crafts or Supplies


• Highchair Decorations
Backdrop for the Highchair
First Birthday Board of Likes
Hang a Banner of Baby’s First Year of Photos
• Party Hats
• Balloons
• Center Pieces
• Door or Lawn Decoration
Photo Props


Tips for a First Birthday

  1. Have a back-up outfit for the smash cake
  2. Pick-out family outfits ahead of time so you are not scrambling
  3. Be sure to charge your phone and any camera batteries. Make sure you have enough space for lots of new memories and videos.
  4. Have Ice cream pre-scooped and stored in cupcake tins in the freezer 
  5. Locate a friend of family to take pictures/videos for when your baby eats the smash cake.








How do you plan a first birthday? Here is a free checklist for you. First Birthday Party Planning with Free Checklists | Smash Cakes | Baby Girl's First Birthday| First Birthday Themes







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I’m Chanele. Housewife, Mama, and Chief of Household Management. I love charm, simplicity, and getting organized.

I‘m always on the hunt for inspiration
and love the creative process. All of the tips I share are for busy moms managing a household and family.

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  1. Allisha
    November 16 / 12:48 pm

    Dear Chanele my name is Allisha I’m a first time mum and I’m organising my little girl’s 1st birthday partyfor next year and I was just reading ur tips and I think it’s great to have an idea on what goes in to a perfect 1st birthday party so thank you.

    Yours sincerely

    • Chanele
      November 19 / 1:13 am

      I am so glad to help! Thank you 🙂

  2. November 2 / 10:15 am

    If I were to plan a birthday party, I would make sure to look for the best bakery that serves a customized cake. Thank you for sharing here as well the importance of creating a realistic budget. I also agree with you that there must be enough budget for the decorations.

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