Happy holidays from I Dream of Pretty Things! Our family has a lot to be thankful for, especially at this time of year. November was a big month for our family, filled with visits from family, Thanksgiving and our daughter, Jillian’s, first birthday!
Planning a birthday party in November can be tricky. Houston weather is notoriously up and down, and Jillian’s party day was no exception. We ended up having some intense 20-25 mph winds, but it didn’t dampen our spirits or prevent our 50 guests from getting together for an afternoon of celebrating and good old-fashioned fun.
Party Theme: Storytime!
Brent and I have always been avid readers (thank you, parents) and so we’re really doing our best to make books and reading a part of Jillian’s life. We keep books in the car, stroller, nursery, grandparents’ houses, etc. and, over time, her interest in the books has increased exponentially. Nothing gives me greater joy than reading to her and seeing her excitement as she turns the pages herself and babbles out loud!
So, this got me thinking that it could be a fun theme for a first birthday. After all, most young kiddos like going to library story times for the social interaction and environment, if not the reading itself. 🙂 The theme is so easy to work with and lends itself well to DIY decorations (if you’re into that kind of thing). It can also appeal to kids of varying ages which you usually have when older or younger siblings attend with the family.
I headed to Pinterest and Etsy just to get an idea of what was out there for book-themed children’s parties. As you can imagine, there’s a TON. I spent a few days just picking my favorites and then got to work. I couldn’t believe how expensive children’s book crafts were on Etsy and I couldn’t bear to take apart my beloved books. So, what’s a girl to do? Well, I headed to a resale store and found a few volumes of an awesome children’s Britannica set from the 80’s for under $1 per book. These trusty books became the source and inspiration for all of the decor!
Note: If you’re thinking that hosting your own party with a lot of DYI elements is impossible, think again! I started my planning and decorations months before the party so that I could do a little bit at a time. (It’s amazing what you can accomplish over nap time each week.) Doing a little bit each week made the process more enjoyable and allowed me to find the best deals around town.
If you’re interested in tutorials or notes on how to make any of these things yourselves, please e-mail me at idreamofprettythings(at)gmail.com and I will gladly help you out! While you’re at it, make sure you read these excellent tips for hosting children’s parties by Jenn Hultz.
I am so excited to share some of the highlights and my favorite moments and some of my party planning tips with you! I hope you enjoy!
I Dream of Pretty Things
Like my friend Sarah advised in her event planning guest post, details and setting the scene for a good party is paramount! Invitations set the tone and give an idea of what your guests can expect. Jillian’s invitations were one of my favorite things to make for this party and, although they were labor intensive, I’d do them again in a heartbeat.
The invitations I made are inspired by some that I found on Etsy. I didn’t feel like paying $5.50 EACH (can you believe that??), so I made them myself for a fraction of the price! For those of you who are old enough to remember the good old days of library check out cards, you’ll have special appreciation for these pretties.
It wouldn’t be a book party without a book for each child to take home as a party favor. At first thought, you might think that this would be cost prohibitive. It really isn’t, especially when you think of all the items you have received in goody bags that eventually make their way to the trash. Scout out great kids books at discount retailers such as Dollar Tree, Walmart, .99 Cents Only Store, Marshall’s, Ross, TJ Maxx or wholesalers such as Costco and Sam’s Club.
I chose a variety of books, wrapped them in kraft paper and baker’s twine and made a handmade “J” tag with a cute thank you message on the back. In the end, I would say each favor cost me under $2.50 a person. Not bad!!
Thank you cards
Last but not least..the thank you cards. These days, the art of correspondence is on the decline. This makes me sad because it’s such a joy to receive a handwritten card in the age of text messages and one line e-mails. These cards were a breeze to make and it was so nice to have them completely done before the party so that Jillian could get her notes out in a timely fashion. 🙂
As any host/ess knows, decor can really transport ordinary spaces into something fun, whimsical or fantasy like for a special event. Luckily, the storytime theme lends itself very well to DIY decorations. Here are some of my favorite decorations from the party. Inexpensive and colorful, they made a big visual impact and are things I can use in the future for Jillian’s school days or class parties.
Fed about 50-55 adults and children, with a reasonable amount of leftovers
- Costco was my best friend. Food and drinks are usually a big part of your party budget. Make the most of it and buy wholesale for expensive items such as fresh fruit and beer!
- These dips will be real crowd pleasers at your next party. We tripled the spinach and artichoke dip and it was. all. gone.
- Chick-fil-a nuggets for the win!
- Don’t get stuck with lots of leftover $3.50 fancy cupcakes! Donut holes are fun, inexpensive and small. People will eat 1 or 4, but you don’t hear any complaints of “Oh, this is too pretty to eat” or “this is so big; I’ll pass.”
Chick-fil-a nugget platters
Prosciutto and cheese roll-ups (Costco)
Fresh Fruit (Raspberries, grapes, strawberries, blackberries)
Baby/Toddler Snacks (pouches, Veggie straws, animal crackers, puffs)
Beverages: Bottled water, cokes, lemonade, assorted Karbach beers, Shiner
Dessert: Munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts
Smash Cake for Jillian, made by Lena Carlson
Knowing we were going to host it at our house, we wanted to achieve a cozy, casual, personal, and festive environment where kids and adults felt comfortable . Fancy schmancy isn’t our thing and, besides, it doesn’t lend well to little fingers that want to touch everything.
Story time was obviously the main attraction and it was definitely entertaining (re: a zoo) with 20 kids running around. BUT, the kids did have a great time listening to our special guests, Harry Potter and the bunny from I Am a Bunny, one of Jillian’s favorite books. (A big thank you to my friend, Jasmine, and my brother, Lu, for being our awesome storytellers.) In addition to story time, we had a high-output bubble machine (this thing puts out serious bubbles), sidewalk chalk, a play kitchen, tons of toys and balls, fall/Thanksgiving-themed arts and crafts and coloring pages, and a photo booth.
Get the Look
- Jumbo Mylar “1” and “J” balloons, Bargain Balloons
- Bubble machine, from Amazon
- Custom “Year in Review” chalkboard poster- PDF design by PersonalizedChalk, Etsy
- Edible Children’s Book images by PoshPartyFairy, Etsy
- Guestbook book, A Birthday Cake is No Ordinary Cake by Debra Frasier
- Boardwalk Paper Fan Set, by BoBunny (fans only, does not include added pom pom embellishments)
- Photography, Mindy Melendez of Happiness is Life Photography (based in Houston)
- Photo booth App, Simple Booth
- Mini Kids Book Favors, Costco and Dollar Tree
- Free fall coloring sheets, Red Ted Art
- Library cards and pockets, theBirdandtheBeard, Etsy
- Kraft paper products, chip board pennants, card stock, colored paper, Hobby Lobby