The husband and I had decided well before pregnancy, that should we ever have children, we would do our best to focus on the quality time we spend with them, the values we instill, first by our example, and the importance of love that we see in the Bible. Because these things were paramount to us, we made the decision of going against the grain and having a small, modest first birthday celebration for our son. Not that we have anything against large parties or the traditional Korean Dohl celebration, but this was our decision and our way of trying to hold true to our values. Because we saved so much money from not having a huge party, we were excited to have the opportunity in making a gift to the adoption department of Bethany Christian Services. We thought not only what a great birthday gift to our son it would be, to make a donation in honor of his first birthday, but to also one day teach him that as an act of worship to God, giving to others who are also God’s children is much more important than a big party that he would not even remember.
So in lieu of a party, we invited a few of our family and friends over for a nice, intimate lunch, and did our best to keep things simple, but still be as presentable as possible. The challenge then came of how to budget such a lunch, what to invest in and what to DIY or find less expensive alternatives for, so I wanted to share a few tips that I learned along the way for those that might be interested in putting together a more budget friendly birthday lunch or get-together!
Tip 1: Stick to the budget and be realistic – With lovely outlets like Pinterest, Instagram and so many others, it’s easy to drift off to lalaland and start hoarding every inspiration (I’m guilty of this!) but it’s important to come back to earth and remember that at the end of the day, your friends and family will love you and be there to celebrate with you no matter what. So try to be realistic and keep an honest, ongoing list of any and every item you purchase for the get-together. Whether it be a pack of toothpicks, party favors, catering, etc. always keep track of everything you buy (keeping receipts helps in case you are able to return unused items!) One add-on mini tip is to try out Amazon Prime’s 30 day free trial so you can easily have items delivered right to your doorstep – a lifesaver when you are a stay at home mom and tending to the home’s and family’s everyday needs. I found most items were much more affordable when purchased online with the 2-day free shipping! Just remember to cancel before the trial is up if you no longer plan on using the services.
Tip 2: If you have the time and patience, DIY smartly, in advance – I know not everyone enjoys or has the luxury to make their own decorations or favors, but I guarantee if you do so strategically, you can save a lot of money and your guests will appreciate your efforts. What I mean be smartly is, try to be realistic in whether or not DIY-ing will save you money in the long run. If you have to go out and buy every single tool and item, then most likely, you may end up spending more than a readily available, finished product. If you do have most of the tools, like scrap paper, glue guns, double stick tape, cardboard, etc., go for it! Of course not everything may look as streamlined as something a professional would put together, but hey, we’ll call it “rustic”, right? Luckily, we went with a BabyBear Country theme, so the more “rustic” things looked, the better! I personally love DIY projects, so although I had to rush through a lot of them during baby’s nap times and late at night, they were so much fun and I loved being able to zone out into my own creative space away from the daily grind.
Although we did not have a traditional Korean Dohl party, I wanted to incorporate a little bit of the culture into the spread, so I made these super easy “dohl towers” by using a paper towel roll, printable templates, beans and some fabric glue/hot glue gun. They are a bit time consuming, but they add such character and dimension, and they’re reusable if you take good care of them. Share with friends, or save them for future babies!
Tip 3: Allow yourself to invest in a couple of nice pieces and for the rest, try to use items you already have or will use over and over again – I definitely think the one “investment piece” I decided on (other than the catered food), was the cake! Since the cake usually acts as a centerpiece for most birthday spreads, I went a little bit fancy and got a large double layered cake for the guests, and a matching small smash cake from Magnolia Bakery. I chose a basic vanilla cake with vanilla frosting in case any of our guests had allergies to chocolate, nuts, etc. and also because I liked how the simplicity of it would go along with the rest of the decor. I added a border of gold sprinkles and garnished with some foliage under the tray and called it a day! Additionally, I splurged a little on the sippy cup favors for our baby-guests because they were just too cute to pass up on and I knew that they would someday be useful for our thirsty friends! Other than that, most of the other purchases I made were things like jars or small vases that I knew I would use on an everyday basis and for other occasions. I tried to incorporate items I already owned, like silk flowers and plants, mugs, candles, frames, even Christmas ornaments and decorations, etc.
Tip 4: Take it easy on the day of and if it’s not a big deal, let it go – I know, easier said than done when you’re playing host/hostess, but this is something I was taught for my wedding day, and boy did it make a difference! Whether in life, for big celebrations, or small lunches, not everything will go perfectly. But that’s okay, and if it’s not life threatening or truly offensive, then just let it go! At the end of the day, you just want to be surrounded by good people, have some laughs, and spend some quality time with those you love. So just breathe in, let out a woosah and everything will be alright!
I am by no means an expert in planning lunches, throwing parties or putting together decorations, but I hope some of these tips are helpful for any of my fellow mamas and papas who are planning to opt for a smaller, more intimate birthday party for their child. We have no regrets with our decision and hope to continue the tradition for our future children should we be fortunate to have them. Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing along on this journey!