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Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals. I'm a recovering former vegan and vegetarian, now healing with a nutrient-dense mostly Paleo diet, and love at-home CrossFit and yoga workouts. I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

New mom to baby Otto born April 2018!

How to throw a simple, stress-free first birthday party. Otto's birthday!

Otto is one!! And, we have survived a year of parenting. That's all cause for celebration.

I know some people who go all-out for first birthdays. There's a theme, printables, themed snacks and activities, strong color scheme, adorable desserts, long guest list including all their friends with kids... (Seriously, I have at least two friends who LOVE hosting parties and are so good at it and did this for their kids. That has been part of my model of parenting the past 5+ years.)

I, on the other hand, am NOT great at throwing big, beautiful, themed parties. I leave important details for the last minute, I over-analyze the theme and meaning, I get anxious about all the money and so skimp on things that would make it cooler... it is not my strength.

So, we decided we would not throw Otto a big first birthday party and invite all our friends. But I didn't want to feel like we missed out on an important milestone! So, we found a middle ground and hosted the perfect small, simple, low-stress birthday party for Otto this weekend.


I identified the most important things for our family--for me, that was the cake/frosting-face photo of the birthday boy, and opening presents with him on the floor. I also wanted it to feel special for our parents who all love Otto so much. I recognized that I didn't have to go all-out with a Pinterest-perfect party, and put together a simple, fun party that was also easy on us!


How to throw a simple, low-stress first birthday party


1. Family only. We are so grateful that my parents are a block away and Jason's mom and little brother also live nearby. They have all been very involved in Otto's life this first year, so we absolutely wanted to celebrate with them! Other than that, it was just Jason, Otto, and me. (We also got all of our guests thank-you gifts for babysitting so much this first year--restaurant and massage gift cards! That's what's in the aqua bags.)

2. SIMPLE decorations. I got these paper fans/pinwheels and aqua party favor bags at Target, and we ran to the grocery store the morning of for the balloons. $15 in decor, but that and the wrapped gifts did make it feel really festive!

I also ordered a cute (not dressy, but more special than a cotton onesie and pants) outfit for Otto to wear, but it didn't arrive in time. Oh, well!

(Turns out my DIY painted sideboard is really handy for parties!)

3. Simple, no-cooking meal (we did rotisserie chicken, one of Otto's favorites, and made a big Costco salad bag kit). It all took very little time to get lunch ready!

I also made the cake a few days before, and just assembled it the morning of!

The cake was this grain-free, gluten-free, Paleo birthday cake--my first cake in YEARS and it turned out great!! I'm very proud of myself for making something Otto could eat (we're not doing grains with him till he's closer to 2) and Jason thought was delicious. I did, too. I ate plenty. ;) It's made with mostly almond flour, so the texture is a little denser than a boxed cake, but that just makes it richer. The flavor was classic, simple, and perfect!

4. Schedule the party between naptimes. Otto naps 10-12:15ish and 2:30ish-4:30ish, so we had a perfect 2+-hour window where he was awake, happy, and ready for lunch and playing!

5. Not too many gifts to open. As soon as Otto "opened" a new toy, he wanted to play with it--not keep opening more presents! To keep him happy in the moment I'm glad we didn't have a million new things to open.

This little face kills me!

Jason found this really cool xylophone with balls--you push or tap the balls through and they fall down the keys and make a scale, or you can just play it.

6. Personal/special party activities. Aside from eating and opening presents, I planned a few things we did during the party.

  • I made a video of all the video clips Jason and I have made this past year, in order, and played it for our families. It's incredible to watch the footage of Otto 5 days old, 1 month old, first laugh (2.5 months), first time he rolled over, really cute time playing at the park, etc. So sentimental!
  • I pulled out his baby book and asked everyone to write a message/note to Otto about his first year. (We didn't actually have time/concentration enough for this, but will do it over the next couple weeks when they are here again.)
  • We wanted to measure Otto at 1 year old exactly, and are halfway through making this DIY growth chart. We didn't finish it in time for the party, but will do it in the next few days instead!


7. The messy cake-eating photo! Just like my mom took of me, I wanted to get pictures of Otto smearing his face with frosting.

(We actually got off to a rocky start--he wanted to grab the cake, but then didn't like that he had sticky icing all over his hands!)

After some coaxing, he got it and loved his cake. Pretty much the most exciting thing he's ever eaten, although I'm not sure he liked it more than he likes cut up banana!

Those are my tips--I got exactly what I wanted: celebrating our/with our families, messy cake-eating baby, and opening presents with him. Aside from a few minutes right before the party started when I was still getting dressed, very little or no stress involved!!

It was fun to make him a cake, even though I almost never bake anymore--and I've decided that now that I'm a mom I'll need to improve my baking supply collection and get a cute cake stand and more sizes of pans.

It was fun to buy a few cute decorations and add them to a wall in our house that is already cute. No furniture-moving required, no party rentals, no disposable stuff that gets used for an afternoon (all of these things stress me out.)

It was nice to have a reason to clean our house and open it up to family!

And of course, I can't believe I have a ONE-YEAR-OLD!!! He is the absolute greatest, we love him so much and can't believe he's ours!

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