“Old McDonald had a farm E-I-E-I-O!” I feel like I have been singing this song to Nathaniel ever since he was born. Probably not long after his birth, I was singing this and any and every song I could think of to settle him down during a fussy time. When we got to “Old McDonald,” that was IT. He was happy. He was calm. He was settled. Therefore, mommy was happy. Mommy was calm. Mommy was settled. Needless to say, it did not take me long to figure out that Nathaniel’s first birthday party would pay homage to the song we have since sung at least a million times and has settled Nathaniel and mommy at least a million times.
We started planning Nathaniel’s first birthday about three months ahead of time. The first order of business was researching what we wanted to do for his birthday and how big we wanted it to be. (I will be using the term “we” throughout this post because my husband, Greg, was extremely helpful in planning and executing this party, as well as many members of our family.) We decided for the first birthday we would go all out, have a big party, and make it as great and memorable as possible.
The first step in making sure a party is great and memorable is to have the right outfit. I have my mother to thank for making sure Nathaniel did. She purchased his denim overalls and the cutest John Deere boots I’ve ever seen for him. I added the accessories of the bandana and straw hat ($6 for both at Party City). Although the hat and the boots did not last on him for very long, they lasted long enough for Greg to get a great picture of Nathaniel riding the giant turtle at his first birthday party.
Brandy Daigle Photography took Nathaniel’s one month pictures, so it was only natural that I contact her again when it was time for Nathaniel’s one year pictures. What better way to get one year pictures than during his first birthday party? Not only was she available, but she kindly offered me a 50% discount to photograph this momentous occasion. All the photographs in this post were taken by Brandy. She took TONS of wonderful photographs, and she gave us the CD with all the photographs to use as we would like (always giving her credit, of course!).
Originally, the plan was to have the party at Paul Cordes Park in Mandeville behind City Hall. While this would have been the perfect location if the weather was cooperating, we had to change locations last minute due to rainy weather. I still would highly recommend Paul Cordes Park for those throwing a party or having a family event they would like to have outdoors. It is totally free to have your party/event there, you just need to call a month or two ahead of time to reserve your spot. In the end, we ended up at Fontainebleau State Park, another beautiful park we are lucky enough to have here in Mandeville. Two of the large, fully covered pavilions there are also free; however, you do need to get there when the gates open at 7:00 a.m. to reserve your spot. It is first come, first served. We were able to reserve a pavilion, and we chose to pay the $1 entrance fee for all of our guests by pre-paying with a credit card. With all the kids 3 and under free and all of the adults 62 and older free, it did not cost that much at all.
With the bulk of the party budget going to entertainment, food, and cake, all the little details, i.e., invitations, decorations, etc… had to be done as budget friendly as possible. For the invitations, we found an inspiration on Pinterest we liked, then Greg, my artistic husband, got on the computer and worked his magic, with the final product being his own interpretation of what he found. He designed the invitation and printed them all out on regular printer paper. Then one large roll of craft paper ($6, Office Depot), a thick roll of twine ($3, Michaels), and a box of large envelopes ($10, Office Depot) later, and “Voila!,” we had 45 farm-themed invitations for $19.00. I framed the invitation with a slightly larger layer of brown craft paper. I completed the invitation by punching holes at the top of each corner and tying twine around each side.
The centerpieces were a labor of love that were also done very budget friendly. Greg picked up the small, wooden baskets that look like fences at Michaels for $1 each, and I painted them green. To make the hay to put inside of the “fences,” Greg shredded up a bunch of old Whole Foods paper bags we had on hand, and I scrunched it all up. Greg printed a bunch of free printables of barns, and I cut them out, laminated them, and hot glued them on the front of the fences. I bought the large carnival suckers from the Dollar Tree for $1 each, and cut, laminated and glued farm animals onto them. Greg worked his artistic magic again on the computer creating the cow print pictures of Nathaniel during different stages of his first year of life and the large #1’s in the bandana print. Then I used pop sticks leftover from Easter’s oreo pops and glued them onto the large #1’s in the bandana print and the circular cow print picture, and finished it with a bow. When I completed the centerpieces, the final total was $4 each.
I bought nearly all of the balloons, cups, napkins, plastic silverware, plates, tablecloths, and other decorations at the Dollar Tree. The balloons were blown up the day of the party for 69 cents a balloon at Party City. The plastic silverware was wrapped in napkins tied with leftover twine to make grabbing utensils easier for little hands and busy mom hands. I used confetti left over from many Easter’s ago, along with Nathaniel’s stuffed duck, stuffed horse, and a little pine straw to decorate the food table. The pine straw bales were bought at Gomez Pine Straw in Mandeville for $5 a bale, and he even gave me a lot of extra pine straw to use for little decorating details throughout the party for no extra cost.
We ordered most of the food came from Rouse’s, and the menu included everything from “Chicken Feed” to “Old McDonald’s Yummy Fried Chicken.” I made sure there was plenty of bar-b-q sauce and ketchup for dipping. My mother-in-law made a veggie pasta salad that was called, “Neigh, Neigh Noodle Salad,” and the veggie tray deemed “Farmer Nathaniel’s Vegetable Garden.” Instead of a fruit tray, I piled up a basket I already had in my pantry with red and green apples, and we had an “Apple Orchard.” The “Chicken Feed” was actually cheddar Chex mix put into gingham printed cupcake cups ($1 at Party City). My mother made “Mrs. McDonald’s Scrumptious Sandwiches,” and I made sure there was plenty of mayo and mustard for people to add if they wanted. To complete the lunch, my sister made “Baa, Baa Baked Beans.”
There were desserts beyond the traditional cake and ice cream. The cake was chocolate, so I wanted people who did not care for or could not eat chocolate to have an alternative. My mom made the “Cockadoodle Cupcakes” with white cake and icing, put into farm-themed cupcake cups ($1, Michaels), and topped them with farm animal rings and sprinkles. My sister made the “Cow at the Haystacks” by following an inspiration I found on Pinterest, so that some could have a non-cake option for dessert. The haystacks were actually rice krispy treats with melted white and regular chocolate on the end to resemble a cow print.
The food tables were completed with small signs labeling each of the food items printed with a bandana print frame. This, again, was courtesy of my husband’s awesome artistic talents!
We decided from the beginning of our party planning that Nathaniel needed farm animals at his party, so I called Zoo 2 U from Folsom, LA and booked the petting zoo. They come to you, and they bring a giant turtle, pigs, chickens, bunnies, goats, and even a tiny alligator (don’t worry, the alligator’s mouth is taped shut). They go so far as to provide hand sanitizer for everyone to clean their hands after petting all the animals. The petting zoo was a hit, and all the kids had a great time petting, holding, and playing with the animals. My favorite part was that this was something Nathaniel could equally enjoy. What happens many times is the one year old doesn’t have nearly as much fun at their party as the older kids. This did not happen to Nathaniel. He was so excited to ride that turtle, he was even kicking the sides with his John Deere cowboy boots and eventually took off his hat and flung it in the air.
The cake was made by Kakes by Kristen. I found a picture of the cake I wanted on Pinterest, then posted to Facebook and asked all of my friends who could make the cake for me. One friend suggested Kakes by Kristen, and I was not disappointed. In fact, the opposite. Her artistry is awesome and inspiring. I had full confidence in her to make the cake and do it well after going to her Facebook page and looking at all of the awesome and beautiful cakes she has made. She made the main cake chocolate with strawberry filling, and Nathaniel’s smash cake was included. His cake was yellow with butter cream filling (I wasn’t sure about him having chocolate yet). Kristen was also kind enough to do the cake at a 50% discount, and I am extremely happy with her work. I have already had several people ask me, “Who made that cake?!”
By the time we got to favors there definitely was very little money left in the budget. So, you guessed it, lots more stuff bought from The Dollar Tree. I filled a large basket I already had with farm animal sticker/activity books and taped two pencils to each book wrapped in a pretty piece of ribbon. I also bought four or five farm puzzles, mainly for the kids age 5 and up. I spread six or seven farm animal coloring books on the table. Taped to each of them was a treat bag filled with crayons and tied with the ribbon. I saved money again by buying only one box of crayons and dividing the crayons amongst the coloring books. Next to the coloring books were farm animal board books, and on the other side of the basket were nine, brightly colored bottles of bubbles. The board books and bubbles were purchased with the ages 0-3 crowd in mind. Then, because I knew there would be some older cousins there (ages 10 and up), I made sure there was a bin full of farm themed pins and note pads so they would not leave empty handed.
I was very happy with how the party turned out. Moreover, I was excited that the rain ended just before the party. Thank you, Lord! The best part though, was seeing Nathaniel’s face and how happy he was. More importantly, he will be able to look back and see the effort put forth for him and how many people love and care about him.