Planning your baby’s first big bash can be a lot more fun – and exhausting – than you realise. From who to invite and what to serve, to getting the perfect birthday cake, the logistics can add up. Here, mums and dads share 10 practical tips from their experiences on what they did – or wished they didn’t do!
1. PREP THE CHILD
“The 3-D train cake we ordered turned out really impressive. As everyone gathered around my baby’s cake, cameras started flashing. He was so taken aback and burst into tears. We had prepared everything for the party – but him!”
– Josephine Koh, 33, founder of a baby foods eatery. She has three children, aged eight, six and two.
2. CONSULT THE ELDERS
“From the buffet catering to the birthday cake, and guest list to party decorations, my wife and I did all the planning. We didn’t include our parents in the preparation because we thought they wouldn’t be interested.
“On the actual week, my mother started asking about what we had planned so far. When we filled her in, she said solemnly: ‘You forgot the red eggs!’ That was, to her, a sacred Cantonese tradition.
“She then took it upon herself to prepare not just the red eggs, but also some bee hoon and glutinous rice. These were the first dishes to be wiped out!”
– Rayner Mak, 39, an assistant vice-president and dad of a 17-month-old.
3. GET A CATERER
“I was glad I held my daughter’s celebration at home. I have a big family; it would have been extremely costly to organise it at a party room or restaurant, which usually charge based on head count.
“What I wished I had done was to cater the food instead of cook it. I was very exhausted by the end of the day.”
– Shahnaaz Sidik, 33, a teacher. She has a six-year-old and a 20-month-old.
4. PLAN THE DATE
“We had our son’s birthday party at home on the second day of Chinese New Year (CNY). My Muslim friend cooked Malay dishes for the little get-together, which was a nice break from the usual CNY goodies. We had to choose cakes from bakeries that were open during the festive period, and did our own cake decorations with a car theme.
“On hindsight, even though everything went well, I wish we had held the party on another date. We were exhausted by the CNY visits, the birthday preparation and the clean-up.”
– Winnie Ng, 33, a principle specialist in marketing. She’s a mum of a five-year-old.
5. GET HELP FOR POST-PARTY CLEAN-UP
“I had a part-time maid to help clean up after my first child’s party at home, so I didn’t have to do much – which was good, as I was so tired by the end of it.
“For my second child’s party, I rented a function room at a nearby community centre and it turned out quite well.
“Most community centres nowadays are nicely designed and you can choose from several rooms. Plus, they even come with their own housekeeping, so it was really hassle-free. All I had to do was to arrange for my own buffet catering.”
– Jacqueline Lim, 37, a stay-at-home mum. She has three children, aged 10, five and two.
6. WORK OUT THE SUMS
“The clubhouse at my parents’ condo is big and air-conditioned, so we housed all our guests comfortably. We hired a party planner to entertain the children and were more creative in decorating.
“The only thing I wish I did was to hire a professional balloon artist instead of renting a helium tank and inflating the balloons ourselves. This took a lot of time and cost almost the same amount of money!”
– Carrie Yap, 33, a deputy director. She’s a mum of two kids, aged four years and 18 months.
7. HAVE A WET WEATHER PLAN
“We had gazebos erected around our condo’s function room and pool area, so guests could still enjoy the party even if it rained.
“It turned out to be a sunny day, but the gazebos served as a shelter from the heat. We also had a portable air cooler to keep the guests comfortable.”
– Dr Luke Toh, 35, a radiologist. He has four children, aged seven to one.
8. PLAN YOUR GUEST LIST
“I had a big bash for my son’s first birthday, complete with the ‘perfect’ cake. But, at his age, he didn’t know how to walk, blow the candle or even understand what was going on around him.
“It was really more a party for my husband and I than for our son! I invited so many, I hardly had time to catch up with them all. On hindsight, I should have kept the party small.”
– Lini Lory Sulasmi, 33, a business development manager. She is a mum of two kids, aged three and one.
9. KEEP IT INTIMATE
“I kept my son’s party very simple. I invited only eight close family members and friends to our home. My family doesn’t like crowds and my son is slow to warm up to strangers.
“I cooked all the food and even baked his birthday cake. It took a lot of planning to make everything, but it was worth it. It was also more cost-effective. Plus, my son napped in the afternoon while the adults continued to chat.”
– Meri Matthies, 33, an accident benefits claims representative. She has a two-year-old.
10. HAVE A GETAWAY INSTEAD
“My husband and I decided to go the unconventional way. There are always other occasions to meet up with friends and family, so we marked our daughter’s first birthday with a trip to New Zealand. It turned out to be two weeks of bliss for the three of us.
“We are doing it again when our second child turns one. We are also making a travel scrapbook for the memories, so both daughters get to relive it when they grow up!”
– Junia Neville, 32, is a stay-at-home mum and has two kids, aged three and one.