Throwing parties is one of my greatest pleasures in life. One of my only mottos I consistently stick to is: celebrate everything! Firm believer that every day should be a little party. As bigger bashes go, alas, I have to say that hubbie and I are not too fond of celebrating our own birthdays. I always say that I’ve had enough awesome, magic, wonderful birthday bashes as a kid (all thanks to my amazing mom!) to last me a lifetime, so I just don’t feel like being in the spotlight anymore. But! having a child is really priceless for it. She’s still too small to object to a fête – or be against anything from motto to execution – and so mama is free to go all in. It’s my highlight for months before the occasion to plan a day with festivities of any sorts, it’s kind of my favorite pastime (here I always ask myself why I didn’t become a wedding planner).
We held E’s 1st birthday very small. Mainly because it was such a beautiful, emotional, whirlwind first year and we really only wanted to keep it to ourselves and high five each other, hubs and me. So it was just a cake to smash (which she ended up not wanting to smash, duh), balloons and gifts (and I realised only now that there isn’t even a blog post on it, covering the milestone) last year. But we decided that we might as well celebrate the 2nd a bit more lavishly. Also, E would enjoy a day full of attention, fun, games, balloons, friends and family visiting just for her and showering her with love, so much this time around. Hubbie kindly agreed and so I was starting to dream up by November.
The motto was a no-brainer, though: E loves dogs and whenever she spies one, she goes “Wau-Wau! Wau-Wau!”, even immitading the puppy’s wriggly walk. It’s quite the show, super cute really. So it had to be a puppy party, right? I’m so glad I thought of this theme, deco ideas came so easily to me. From paw prints on the walls, to bone confetti, “dog treats”, hot dogs, a dog house and puppies to adopt for the guests, there are about one million and seven ideas on Pinterest, all saved in my boards, here and here, too. I will tell you just how I go about planning any kind of celebration yourself, in a sort of DIY attempt, in 7 easy steps, alright?
7 Tips for your successful at-home DIY Party
1. Get inspired, dream big
The inspiration and planning phase pre party is always the phase about celebrations. It’s where you can go a little or a lot crazyyy! And where can we ever go crazy in life, really? Dream big! Pinterest is a huge help for this, so much inspiration! I like to draw inspiration from everywhere and from different sources, layout everything, save tons of ideas in different Pin boards (I have a lot of boards related to parties, filed under “bash”, the order is alphabetical, have a look!). Sometimes I even set up a specific board for an occasion (like this one here). You can not go overboard with the inspiration! Dream up anything, and don’t feel guilty for dreaming big!
2. Stick to a theme
Defining a theme helps you to really think inside and outside the box. For small people’s parties it’s a good opportunity to create a day around something they are really into. But it’s also a good way to give the day a special twist, like a framework. People will know what to expect. Maybe they want to dress accordingly, maybe they want to bring thematic gifts or treats. Let them know in advance so they can go all in, too. A theme can be anything from a color, a character, a flower, an animal, a food, a place or an activity – or anything in between, really. We had a little “theme” going on even for E’s private family affair birthday last year, and it was “snowman”. We had one center piece, giant paper tissue honeycomb ball snowman that C and I DIYed the night before, and it was cute and perfect to set the tone. It can also be a picture you really love. Or a story book you really like. I would love to throw E a rainbow party, or a paint party (maybe these two can be combined?) one day. Saving my ideas for the years to come!
3. Focus on highlights
Third step to narrow everything down. Of course, a party is always also a question of resources. Budget, obviously. But also time and skills! How much are you willing to do before the party? How much help can you get? When planning a bash, I usually come up with a “must have” list of essentials – decor, food and activities that are mandatory highlights to make the day special, convey the theme or be the eye catcher or main attraction. Kind of like the thing people will talk about for years. For example with the dog / puppy theme, the highlights for me to make the theme stand out were: a dog cake, dog treats in bone shape, plush puppies to take home for the guests, hot dogs (of course), dog balloons and a dog house for the kids to sit in and maybe even decorate the day of, as an activity. Getting your priorities straight helps you not to go overboard with the budget and not to lose yourself in things to do. I then make a second list with optional, additional ideas, that are nice to have but not mandatory for a successful and beautiful bash. For example thematic confetti, a photo backdrop, party favors, table decoration etc. I figured that if I still had the time, I’d love to make my own thematic confetti mix, with cut out bones and puppies in various glittery paper! It would have been so lovely, I love a good confetti. But the cutters (puppy shaped) that I ordered arrived much too late and I was left with no more time to make it. So I’m glad I didn’t set my heart on it too much beforehand. It was an option for an “ideal” party, but not an essential. And I was okay without confetti, thanks to expectation management!
4. Simplify (especially when it comes to food)
Focusing on highlights and being able to prioritize and simplify has saved many a day for me, party planning wise. Being a host or throwing a party doesn’t mean you have to go overboard with everything. You don’t have to offer appetizers, starters and mains alongside with nibbles here and there, a cocktail bar and a sweets table. Simplify! Reduce! Think of the one thing that will make a difference, and that people will love. For us, it meant: cake and hot dogs. E loves sausages – “Würschtli” – so why offer anything beyond hot dogs? Kids love it too, and grown-ups just as much. And a cake is kind of key to a birthday for kids, even if just for the candles. So these two were our basics in terms of food. Also, hot dogs are so simple to make! You don’t even have to spoil the kitchen for it and have no cleaning to do! Simply arrange the hot dog breads and condiments, heat up some Wieners and let people assemble their own dogs. A couple of the best dinner parties I’ve attended were with hosts who dared to really focus on the one thing they’re good at and simplify radically, and omit the rest that doesn’t really weigh in or stay with the guests, anyway, but still means a lot of work for you. A simple, super good pasta is much more special than anything fancy that’s half good. The best parties I attended served only one signature drink, one highlight meal and had quite minimal but impactful approach to decoration. Less is more – more or less. Think impact – and focus on impact. Ah, and also about simplification: Get some help, outsource – to friends, family or suppliers! For your own sanity. Like, we bought the cake (we got it from Emi’s Sweetroom), and although buying a cake is never the easiest on the budget, it also saves a lot of time and energy on my side, and means I can focus on other things that I’m good at. Like decoration. I also sourced a lot of my decoration from Alibaba, actually, and it helped me a great deal because I found everything in one spot, more or less, and didn’t have to run from A to Z to find balloons, paper plates and decor elements! It all conveniently arrived in the mail. Strike!
6. Start ahead
and then stick to a timing and plan! I mean, on the day of the bash, you don’t want to run around cleaning the house, decorating, cooking, wrapping last minute gifts – when it’s your special someone’s big day or birthday, right? You want to be able to actually enjoy the day together. To be able to do that, you will have to make a plan – and stick to it. Do stuff ahead in the weeks – or at least days – before the party. Wrap those gifts, create those table decorations, make your cake topper. And start early! This is also a friendly reminder to myself, because as much as I like to start with the dreaming up bit very early on, I tend to always start with the actual crafting and DYIing a bit last minute, to put it nicely… (Like, night before, last minute). The point is: I know it will work out even if it is last minute, because I know my energy levels and I know the kick I get out of a good craft DYI session last minute, but for the people around you (hubbies! family in general, even kids) it might be stressful to watch you being stressed. You don’t want to be stressed. So start ahead and let everyone help a little bit in advance. It only adds to the anticipation if you can start early and are involved, even kids can help. Like, you could craft some party hats together with your toddler as a family weekend activity weeks ahead. Just saying, you could. On another note, we also received tons of stuff that I had ordered too late, after the party. Pity! It wasn’t super important stuff, just little touches, but still, would have been sweet to incorporate them. For example tiny squishy (chocolate scented!) dog poops that I ordered on Alibaba. They would have made the perfect party favors for the kids! Duh. Now E plays with all six of the identical poops ahaha. And I admit; I even had to order one thing with express priority overnight shipping (the bone cookie cutter!) – otherwise that wouldn’t have worked. It arrived very last minute (like the day before the party). That being said, it really is important to start ahead, especially starting to order early on if you buy online!
7. Plan fun activities
A good game or fun activity adds to any party! Bonus if it’s thematic. We bought a cardboard house to house all of E’s dogs, that would also suit as a playhouse for the little guests. We also prepared some paint and color for the guests to paint the house in, if ever there should have been a boring moment. Remember that if you celebrate at home, it’s import to make sure you have enough “room” to play (especially with kids). We like to put away every piece of furniture or decoration we don’t need on the day of, so that the planned activity is really the main attraction.
And most importantly…
Have fun along the way! Don’t be the stressed perfectionist host (I have been there), remember to actually enjoy it and go with the flow. Sit down with your guests, have something to drink, enjoy a piece of cake. Take tons of pictures! Let others take pictures, too, and share them in a WhatsApp group afterwards. Be present and soak it all up, and don’t forget to file the memories for the years to come.
Dog balloons: Alibaba, and also Amazon
Woof gold letter ballons: Amazon
Tissue paper tassel garland: Alibaba
Plush puppies: Amazon
Cake: Emi’s Sweet Room
Cardboard dog house: Opitec
Wau Wau sign on the dog house: hand made (we also had a “Beware of the Dog” on the front door)
Beware of the dog signs (not pictured): hand made
Sausage dog “Dackel” custom made print: Von Rike
Paw print wall decor: hand made
Dog treat bone shaped cookies: hand made
Bone cookie cutter: Kitsch Cakes
Hot dogs (breads & sausages): IKEA
Paper puppy plates: Meri Meri Party via Stadtlandkind
Other paper tableware: Der Verpackungs Profi
Cardboard favor boxes: Der Verpackungs Profi
* Not sponsored, no gifts, everything bought and paid for myself. No affiliate links.