Throwing a First Birthday Party in Houston

Tips for Throwing a First Birthday Party. A photograph of a cake with a number one candle set on a tray of a highchair.

I’m not going to lie – I struggled with planning my son’s first birthday party.  I went from wanting to go all out and throw him an epic birthday bash to thinking how ridiculous it is to spend money on a party that he won’t even enjoy or remember.  The first argument won.

Important Elements of a First Birthday Party

Step One ::  Pick a Theme {3-6 months in advance}

Before any other planning can begin, think about what you envision for the party and what theme will work.  It doesn’t have to be an elaborate idea.  It can just be a color scheme that you love and want to plan everything around.  Since my son’s birthday is close to Cinco de Mayo, I thought it would be fun {and easy} to plan a “First Fiesta” for him.   Theme done!  I started the “pinning” process {meaning I just pinned ideas on a Pinterest Board I created but didn’t actually start doing anything} in January knowing his party would be at the beginning of May.  Picking a theme early also gives you extra time to slowly collect items for the party rather than running around last-minute searching for the perfect sombrero {not that this happened – lol}.

Step Two ::  Budget {3-6 months in advance}

Once you have given thought to the theme of your party, you need to think about what you can realistically afford.  This will help guide the rest of your planning.  Be sure and keep in mind your guest list, location options, and other must-haves.  I suggest making a list of the estimated number of people who you think will attend and anything that you feel strongly about doing.  For instance, I felt strongly about serving a full lunch since I had a lot of people driving in from out-of-town that day.  Since this was going to be a more costly endeavor, I knew I needed to cut costs in other places like entertainment and activities.  Sorry Jack – no pony rides this year!  It also helped my husband and I to start thinking about this early so we had more time to set aside money for the party.

Step Three ::  Location and Date {3-6 months in advance}

People tend to want to hold the first birthday party at home.  I’m not sure why, but that seems to be the trend these days.  Maybe it’s so all of the comforts of home will be accessible for the honoree.  If that is what you want to do, great – you don’t need to worry about booking anything in advance.  However, you will need to think logistics for your guest list.  Will your home comfortably hold all of your guests?  Do you have a back-up plan in case of rain?  If your home is not an option, you will need to think about the location sooner rather than later to ensure you get the date you want.  Some popular options include your neighborhood clubhouse, local park, or a restaurant with a private room.  There are tons of cool places in Houston to host a birthday party like the Houston Zoo, but you might want to save those until your child can actually appreciate the venue!

Step Four ::  Invitations {design/print 2 months in advance / mail one month-3 weeks in advance}

There are many options these days for invites and all with different price points.  If you want to keep things low-key and save some money, an Evite might be the way to go.  If you are like me and wanted something tangible for the baby book but didn’t want to spend a lot, you can find a digital download through shops on Etsy and print yourself.  This was so easy for me to do, and I loved the way it turned out.  I purchased envelopes at Michael’s for a steal and had the printing done at Office Depot.  The Etsy shop I used, Ellieoh Designs even made me coordinating Thank You Notes and Favor Tags!

A framed birthday invitation.

Step Five :: Let the Planning Begin! {1-2 months prior}

Now that all the business of the who, what, and when are taken care of – the fun part can begin!  Check out my dining room a month prior to the party.  Keep reading below for all of the fun party elements that you don’t want to forget when throwing a first birthday bash!

A table covered with party supplies.
[Related Post: Houston Birthday Party Ideas]


In the era of Pinterest, decorations {and then taking pictures of said decorations} seem to be the main focus on parties these days.  Especially the first birthday party before you can really plan around an activity.  Luckily, there are a TON of resources out there for even the least crafty person {ME} to pull off a stunning bash.  Think three things – banner, tablescape, highchair.

  • Banners, garlands, and pennants are a must and an easy way to transform your house.  No need to make yourself with shops like Aidie’s Hideaway and Fancy Face Paper Studio.  Even Target has some awesome and on-trend, ready-made banners.
  • One decorative party table or “tablescape” will take your party to the next level.  This can be a drink setup, dessert table, food table…it doesn’t matter!  I used Pinterest to get ideas for mine which held all of our sweet treats.
  • Finally, decorate your highchair for the smash cake activity and you will be all set!  Just a banner and a few balloons are all you need.

Four photographs from left to right, top to bottom: A highchair decorated with balloons, a banner and toys. A banner hung across a window. A table with two cakes, glass jars of candy and decorations. A blackboard framed sign with the text: Fiesta like there's no manana.

Food & Drinks

There are lots of ways you can go with this.  The time of day of your party will be a big factor, but the main things to think about is your budget and guest list.  As I said, I opted to do a full fajita lunch since our party was at noon and I had many out-of-town guests driving in that day; however, you DO NOT need to do this.  A few munchies, basic drinks, and something sweet is all you really need.  Whatever you decide to do, I recommend keeping it simple and easy so you don’t spend the entire party stuck in the kitchen.  Easy ideas include a fruit tray, cheese and crackers, or a nugget tray from Chick-Fil-A.  If you are limited on space, hire a food truck and have guests walk to the street for food – easy and your hipster friends will be so impressed.

For drinks I also recommend keeping it simple and self-serve.  Pitchers and coolers ready to go will make your life easier.  I had lemonade and juice boxes for the kids.   Tea, soda, beer, and sangria for the adults.  Water bottles are easy too.  I put a custom party themed label on all of the bottles of water so my drinks doubled as a decoration! This is an easy project that even your hubby can help with {I put mine to work at night in front of the TV}.

Five photographs from top to bottom, left to right: trays of food, a jar of straws, two pitchers of lemonade and sangria, bottles of water with custom made labels, two smiling people at a picnic table.

The Cake

A first birthday is all about the messy “smash” cake.  Purchase a mini cake or cupcake for the honoree to “eat” and a larger cake for the guests.  The smash cake also tends to be the activity during the party that guests most look forward to, and it makes for great pictures!  Having a chihuahua around to clean up the mess afterwards is optional, but worked out great for us!

Four photographs from top to bottom, left to right: A two tiered birthday cake frosted with the number 1, a single tiered smaller cake with a number 1 candle, a young child in a highchair with the cake with the number 1 candle in front of him, A young child in a highchair with the cake with the number 1 candle in front of him and people smiling at him.


It’s definitely not mandatory to have an activity at a one year old’s birthday party, especially if you plan to do a smash cake.  Odds are that the guests are adults and wee ones who can’t do much in the way of crafts.  I knew that we would have some older kiddos attending so I wanted some type of activity, but something that I wouldn’t have to oversee.  I browsed Etsy and found the perfect shop – custom coloring books for under $5.00 {plus printing costs}.  I borrowed two kid’s sized tables from a  friend and then set out the coloring books with themed donkey crayons.  Since this setup was outside on our driveway, I also included some bubbles and chalk to entertain the minis {both found at Target}.

Four photographs from left to right, top to bottom: A young child swinging at a piñata, toy glasses in a bucket, a basket of coloring books, two young children sitting a table with arts and crafts.
[Related Post: Birthday Party Places in Houston]

Sentimental Touches

Since the whole purpose of a first birthday party is to celebrate your child’s first year of life, it’s nice to have something dedicated to the past year.  It is very popular to have a clothesline with the child’s monthly pictures hanging to show their growth.  Other  ideas include a chalkboard with the child’s current likes, a display with their baby book, or framed pictures around the party.  It can also be a fun idea to have guests write a special message to the birthday boy/girl.  You can keep it simple with a guestbook or play up your theme.  We had a wish tree using a cactus for Jack.  Asking guests to bring a special something to make a time capsule for your child to open on their 16th birthday is another popular idea – just remember to plan ahead on this one and write your request on the invitation.

Three photographs from top to bottom, left to right: A cactus tree behind a framed sign with the text: Write a wish for the birthday boy and hang it on his cactus tree, a framed photograph of a baby, a rope with pictures hung from it with clothespins of a child at different months.

Party Favors

It’s a nice gesture to give your guests a parting gift for taking the time to celebrate your child.  If you are in Houston, I’m going to make this very easy for you – Paulie’s.  Write this down.  Favors are done!  Paulie’s is known for their beautiful {and delicious} custom shortbread cookies.  I have used them for years for showers, birthday parties, even as introduction gifts when we were new to the neighborhood.  You can browse their website for cookie ideas or tell them what you are looking for and they can create a custom design.  For Jack’s fiesta they made me a horse pinata to match our invitation and other themed shapes.  Fun for kids and adults!  Our activities also doubled as favors too – coloring books, crayons, pinata candy, and silly glasses.

A basket of frosted cookies wrapped in cellophane with attached thank you cards. Two photographs. Left: Small packages of toys with a happy birthday tag and a coloring page with the text Happy 1st birthday jack. Right: A photograph of a child wearing toy glasses, a moustache and a birthday hat.
[Related Post: On Birthday Party Favors]

Other Advice

  • Hire a photographer or have a friend take the pictures.  Best money we spent on the party – hands down!  You will have way too much going on to try to capture pictures of every detail.  This was so important to me since Jack won’t exactly remember the party himself.  I can’t recommend Studio Ainsley enough who we used for the party and throughout Jack’s first year of life!
  • Use the internet!  As I mentioned above I took to Pinterest early on in the planning process to help me with ideas.  Remember, I’m so not creative!  I used elements from many different sites, but found the majority of my ideas from two of my favorite bloggers: Darci from The Good Life Blog and Erin from Blue Eyed Bride.  Both did amazing fiestas for their little dudes!  Why reinvent the wheel mamas?
  • Delegate on the day of the party.  I’m really bad at this since I’m a control freak, but you can’t do everything!  Give yourself a break and focus on the guest of honor.
  • Schedule the party around your baby’s nap time, not for anyone else.
  • If nothing goes as planned, just remember what the party is all about – celebrating the life of your most precious person and YOU for surviving the first year.  Nothing else matters.

A photograph of a mother and father holding a child and a small dog.

Vendors I’ve Used and Recommend ::

I hope you found this post helpful if you are in the midst of planning a first birthday party!  Leave a comment below if have any party planning tips to share.


  1. Thank you so much for putting this great how to guide together. My first child is turning one and I was freaking out about what to do- your article gave me a great timeline and place to start! Thanks again!

    • Hey Jennifer! Thanks so much for stopping by! Good luck with your party planning. Looking back almost a year later, I am still so happy with how things turned out. I love looking back at the pictures. My only regret is that I let it stress me out a little too much so my best piece of advice a year later is to HAVE FUN!

  2. Hi! This is my first child and will be turning one in a few months. We dont own a house. Just a small apartment for now.
    Do you think throwing a party at a park would be ok? Setting up balloons, decorations, etc would be good at a park?

  3. Also, we are planning his baptism in the same day for his 1st bday!
    Baptism in the morning and give few hours off in between to set up at the park and party will maybe start around 3-4ish.
    So Do you think it is a good place to do at a park.


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