21 Fun Baby’s 1st Birthday Party Ideas from Local Experts | Santa Barbara, Ventura County & Westlake Villager

Yes Mama, you did it! Soon you will add another notch on your “Mom belt” as baby’s first year comes to a happy close. You’ve survived. You’ve conquered. Bring it on two’s, we’re ready! 

Before we move on, we first must celebrate the milestone! And to help you celebrate baby’s (and Mom’s) first year, I’ve asked local children and party experts for tips and tricks to make your baby’s party fabulous and stress free. A little bit of direction to help with planning for the party will give you the cute party you want for this special occasion, filled with fun and unique birthday decorations and activities.

Every tip you could want is here – from birthday cakes to party supplies.

Custom Unicorn Sugar Cookie by CookiesbyMAC
Instagram: @cookiesbymac

Your baby is 1, and it’s time to celebrate. This is your celebration for getting through the first year.  I asked Missy Cardoza, founder of Cookies by MAC and baker specializing in custom sugar cookies, for ideas on planning the first birthday party. She has two tips to get you started on the right foot – more fun and less stress:

1. Create a budget and try your best to stick to it; otherwise it could lead to overspending.

2. Organize and delegate tasks between both parents, and even grandparents if they’re available. Yes, Mom is superwoman but every once in a while (like now) we need to remember to ask others for help.

Balloon Design by The Deluxe Balloon Company
Instagram: @thedeluxeballooncompany

Dakota Paige, owner of The De Luxe Balloon Company, wants you to think big with balloons. “Balloons elevate every party,” says Dakota, “we enjoy learning about our clients’ design themes, and creating the perfect balloon install to match.” Here’s a tip for balloons for your  baby’s party and one year photoshoot:

3. Let balloons steal the show. Adorn highchairs with balloon garlands in custom colors to fit the theme, as well as birthday bouquets, tasseled balloons and giant balloons. A baby with a balloon always steals the show in photography, and on party day as well.

Paper goods made by Papeleria Y Mucho Mas
Instagram: @papeleriaymuchomas

Ambar Esqueda, the owner of Papeleria Y Mucho Mas, a small online paper party supply shop that specializes in custom work, loves helping clients make their events memorable with custom cake or cupcake toppers and custom banners. Ambar recommends the following for planning a memorable celebration:

4. Plan well and get organized. Having a clear picture in mind (or better, on paper) of how you would like the event to be remembered will help you stay on track and avoid getting carried away or becoming overwhelmed.

5. Stick to the basics. If you want the party to be simple and more focused around family, stick to the basics with a simple “one” topper for the cake, and decorate the party with a few pictures of the baby from various milestones throughout his or her first year.

6. Make a priority list and tackle the most urgent items first. A “priority list” includes all of the urgent items needing your attention immediately due to longer lead times or customizations.  For example, finding a baker who can create the style of cake you want or a cater to make a specific type of food to be served at your party. The more personalization needed, the more urgent it is to find and secure the businesses to provide those goods and services for your party.

Custom lettered signage by Brown & Co Designs
Instagram: @brownandcodesigns

Having customized pieces for your party that are meaningful has become quite a trend for one year birthday parties and photoshoots. Heather Brown, a local from Ventura, boy mama of two and owner of Brown & Co Designs, knows a thing or two about design and creating the perfect look for the big day. She is the creator behind our area’s first monthly Calligraphy workshops. The other part of her business is designing, lettering and building one-of-a-kind pieces for weddings and events. Heather offers the following advice:

7. Invest in party decor that can be repurposed. Custom lettered signage made for the party can be used in bedrooms and nurseries, or on the set of your baby’s photoshoot, and could even be repainted and used for other events!

8. Don’t go overboard. A few statement pieces is all you need to tie a theme together and wow your guests!

9. Get creative! You don’t have to stick with generic themes found at party stores and Pinterest. Your child’s favorite book, activity or even their nickname could be turned into a theme for their first big birthday. Custom decor is surprisingly affordable to help bring your unique vision to life!

One Year Old Birthday Cake Made by The Golden Mittens Bakery
Instagram: @goldenmittensbakery

Now for the cake — the star of the show (after the Baby of course).  Eileen Villa, owner of Golden Mittens Bakery, services the Ventura County area with custom cakes, wedding cakes, dessert tables, pastries, and more. Eileen gives us three ideas to make your cake perfect for baby’s first birthday party or cake smash:

10. Choose a buttercream frosted cake rather than a fondant cake. Buttercream is much softer and easier for babies to enjoy.

11. Be mindful of decorations used on cakes (safety first). After photos are taken be sure to remove anything from the cake that could potentially poke baby’s little hands, then let baby dig into the cake.

12. Choose simple flavors for baby’s cake, something not too sophisticated for baby’s palate. A cake with fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, or any other berries is the perfect option for baby. Bananas are also a good option.

Floral Design by Tangled Lotus
Instagram: @tangledlotus

Having some sort of floral design is always a nice touch for a party; from garlands to wreaths, even a flower crown for the birthday girl. Bouavon Vongpanya owns Tangled Lotusa floral design business specializing in weddings and events, and even provides event design so she knows what Moms need to know most about planning the first birthday party:

13. Choose a color scheme for your party. Not only will a color scheme make your party look fantastic, but by selecting and sticking to a set of colors you will be able to narrow down your choices for decorations, giving you better focus as you make decisions for the party. If you have a complex theme, your color scheme will help tie everything together.

14. Don’t be afraid to DIY. The first birthday party is a great time for crafty Mamas to try out their favorite DIY projects. However, keep your deadlines and stress level in check, and remember that there is always someone out there that can do custom work for you if DIY becomes too much. Don’t try to do too much at once.

15. Don’t forget to have fun. At the end of the day, it’s just a party. Don’t forget to have fun. Your baby only turns one once, so enjoy it. Even if things don’t go as planned, guess what? Your baby won’t remember it.

Tiger Face Painting by Leylany of La Catrinita Crafts
Instagram: @lacatrinitafacepainting

One of the key ingredients for throwing a good birthday party, is to make sure that the kids in attendance are entertained with activities, and that they have fun.  Leylany Rodriguez, a self-taught artist and face painter at La Catrinita Crafts, has been face painting since she was 15 years old for parties and events such as Halloween and Day of the Dead (Dia De Los Muertos). She’s been booked all around Ventura County and shares some of what she’s learned about face painting for parties:

16. Make sure you get the right number of hours for the right number of kids when booking a face painting service. Kids left out because the time ran out is the last thing you would want for your party. Two hours is the average length of time for face painting at a typical party.

17. Let your face painter know if you are on a budget.  Your face painter can paint smaller and simpler stuff, which takes less time per kid, allowing more kids to enjoy face painting within the allotted time (and within budget).

One Year Cake Smash Baby Girl Pink Flower Dress Sitting
Rosalind Prieto Photography

One of the most important things, and yet something that we Moms always leave for the last minute, is the birthday outfit. Lucky for us, Shanna Lucero, a local stylist for Mac and Mia with a love for kids fashion has some tips for us. Mac and Mia is a kids online clothing boutique. As a stylist, Shanna helps you shop for kids clothes based on your little one’s individual style and then, a box gets sent to you. You keep what you love and send the rest back, making shopping convenient for busy parents. Here are her tips for your baby’s first birthday party:

18. Find something adorable that matches your theme, but don’t forget about comfort! As much as we want our little ones in cute outfits, we also don’t want them tripping over their outfit or constantly scratching because they are itchy. If they’re uncomfortable, believe me, we’ll know about it. The last thing we would want is to have an irritated, crying birthday baby.

19. Play with different textures. Some outfits photograph better than others, so play around with different textures to give your baby a unique and interesting look for their one year photoshoot and first birthday party.

20. Have back-up pieces. Having an extra top and bottoms isn’t a bad idea in case there are spills and messes (cake smash, anyone?)

Baby Girl One Year Cake Smash Unicorn Dress
Rosalind Prieto Photography

And finally, here’s my advice about photographing baby for their one year milestone.

21. Get photos taken when your baby turns 10 months old. The one year photo session needs to be scheduled ahead of time, but the actual photoshoot should take place when baby is around 10 months old. This gives you enough time to get the images back from your photographer and get them printed for party invitations. Decorating your party with framed pictures from your baby’s photoshoot is also a nice touch, and a great way to show off your gorgeous baby.

Did we miss anything? Leave questions in the comments section below, and I’ll get our panel of experts to answer your questions.

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