I've officially earned my Girl Scout badge in throwing 1st birthday parties. And it's not even over yet. I'm earning another one this weekend because it's L's First Birthday: The Sequel on Saturday. And even though The Sequel has not happened yet, I already feel like it's taught me so much about what I did wrong the first time around.
Let's briefly recap, and you, too, can learn from my experiences. (Unless otherwise stated, it can be assumed that everything in the "wrong" category was done for First Birthday: The Original. Everything "right" will be done/has been done for First Birthday: The Sequel.)
Wrong: Stress out about decorations. Spend hours scouring the internet (with special attention paid to Etsy) looking for cute, unique themes that no one in your circle of family/friends has recently used and then torture yourself by trying to figure out ways you can duplicate the adorable and professional-looking decorations yourself for cheaper.
Right: Order 1 dozen balloons from Party City in a specific color scheme, buy streamers that match and call it a day.
Wrong: Research every cake bakery in a 30-mile radius to try to find the one that can best-match the vision in your head. It's helpful if the people at the bakery can also read minds, since you'll likely have great difficulty communicating the vision in your head. Try unsuccessfully to convince your husband that it is not uncommon, immoral or just plain wrong to spend $200 on a birthday cake for a one year old. Drag out the entire process for so long that you eventually realize you don't even have time to commission a professional cake and resign yourself to making cupcakes. But promise yourself that you'll decorate them with your fancy piping gun and envision how impressed everyone will be that you made those delicious, professional-looking cupcakes.
Have an emotional breakdown the night before the party when the frosting is too thick for the piping gun so you'll just have to spread it on in the old boring fashion but the cupcakes are still a little crumby on top so you just end up ruining half of them and they look like hell. Half-heartedly select the least-terrible looking cupcakes to display in the cupcake trees and put the remaining cupcakes on a tray out of sight.
Right: Plan to make cupcakes from the start. Realize in advance that homemade cream cheese frosting will be too thick for the piping gun and let yourself off the hook by purchasing store-bought whipped frosting. Assume that they will come out looking terrible and be happy and surprised when they don't look that bad after all.
Wrong: Convince yourself that, because you are punking out and not serving an actual meal, you need to make some kickass appetizers that both look incredibly impressive and taste like little morsels of heaven. Comb every recipe and cooking website you can think of for said appetizers, and try not to think about the fact that you are spending your monthly grocery budget on ingredients for party snacks. Get stressed out by the thought of trying to prepare all these appetizers and the worry of "what if they aren't good?" and cope by ignoring the food entirely.
Have a panic attack three days before the party when you realize that you were ultimately successful in your mission to passive-aggressively forget about the food and frantically go back online to re-find all those recipes. Get 100% overwhelmed and defiantly relay a mental message to your guests that they'll be getting cupcakes and taco dip and they'll like it, and if they don't they can leave. Still manage to be crabby and surly and stressed beyond definition the day of the party as you prepare the significantly narrowed-down menu. Be mean and snappy to your husband, mom and brother as they simultaneously try to help you and not set you off like the minefield that you are.
Right: Ask your mother-in-law what she thinks we should do regarding food for the party. Happily and heartily agree with her when she suggests ordering in party subs. Do not prepare any other food, in the realization that people love subs and no one will ask to your face why there was not more food. Further realize that no one will likely ask why there was not more food behind your back, either. Enjoy the knowledge that the hours before the party can be spent relaxing and sucking a bit of weekend out of your Saturday morning instead of running around like the proverbial headless chicken.
So just a little bit of my hard-won wisdom for you today. It should come as no shock that I'm feeling much more at ease and relaxed about The Sequel than I felt about The Original. I might actually be able to enjoy it rather than having to race to the bathroom to practice deep breathing, tone down my crazy eyes and paste a happy smile on my face.
And to my family, who put up with my psycho-ness and didn't even say a word about it after the party was over: thanks. I can't imagine how psycho I would have been if you hadn't been around.