After struggling with overwhelming emotions preparing for motherhood, heightened by a pandemic, I wanted a space to share my experience to help other Mamas feel prepared and confident in all that motherhood brings.  I hope my insane tendency to over-research, test and trial everything simplifies the many choices you're in the midst of making!

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DIY First Birthday Party

NEW MODERN MOM

How to design an Instagram-worthy first birthday party on a budget.

We finally got to celebrate Caden. Since the pandemic started, all the typical moments I expected to experience as a first time mom were just canceled. No big baby shower, no friends coming over to meet the baby, no mommy and me classes, no big family holiday “firsts.” When my shower was canceled, we thought we’d do a “Sip and See” a few months after he was born, when that couldn’t happen I staked my claim on hosting a big first birthday celebration with all of our friends and family.

It’s surreal that we were able to make this birthday party happen. How far we’ve come.

Tons of friends reached out after seeing some of the decor from Caden’s first birthday and asked to know more.

So here are the key ingredients to hosting a memorable DIY first birthday party:

Pick a theme. Don’t go overboard.

Caden’s theme was “Growing up up up.” Find subtle ways to incorporate your theme – don’t go crazy on themed decor. I chose a couple of ways to incorporate hot air balloons and clouds.

More important than a theme: choose a consistent color scheme and incorporate it in all the details.

I used a free blank template on Paperless Post and purchased this customizable digital card to upload from Etsy – it even let me customize the colors!

Growing Up Up Up Birthday Invite

Growing Up Up Up decor: digital invite, cloud one cupcake toppers, hot air balloon garland, napkins.

Budget: $40

Curate that picture perfect photo spot.

Instead of paying $400 for a balloon garland, I purchased the necessary items to DIY. Blowing up the balloons take about an hour, then plan for another hour for assembly and hanging (convince some friends to help you and cut that time down).

Recreate the look: Custom balloon garland (select a pre-designed color scheme, or pick your own. I did the 8 ft. option), electric balloon pump, string, stake.

Budget: $70

Provide entertainment for the babies.

The ball pit was a winner. Easy to set the kids down in, no concern over drowning in a baby pool, fun to pick up and chew on the balls, or throw around for the bigger kiddos.

DIY First Birthday Party

Recreate the experience: Inflatable baby pool, plastic ball pit balls.

Budget: $50

Prepare quick, tasty bites.

DIY First Birthday Party

Here’s our menu:

  • Bite-sized sun dried tomato, spinach and goat cheese frittatas
  • Mini homemade cinnamon rolls
  • Mini homemade cheese pizza bagels
  • Individual salad bowls
  • Individual veggie and dip cups
  • Fruit platter

Budget: Lean on friends or family to bring a dish!

Make a beautiful smash cake

Instead of purchasing an overpriced custom cake to then just be smashed by a 1 year old, I decided to bake Caden’s smash cake then frosted it and hand painted it all myself to match the color scheme.

I know what you’re thinking… you painted a cake? The answer is yes, yes I did. And it was so easy, not to mention fun!

DIY First Birthday Party

Here’s how to paint a smash cake:

  1. Bake 2 layers in a tall 5″ pan
  2. Frost the cake with white vanilla frosting
  3. Smooth it out
  4. Purchase a variety of food coloring and fluffy makeup brushes
  5. Add a couple drops of vodka to the food coloring for the right consistency – do not use water, it will not dry!
  6. Paint away!

Budget: $20

Do it yourself: 5″ cake pan, 6″ cake board, icing smoother, food colors, brushes

And our highchair is the Lalo if you were curious.

And don’t forget about the adult beverages to guarantee a good time for all.

We recently did this amazing at-home wine tasting kit that came with cute glass mini bottles, so we decided to make a signature summertime drink for the adults: an Aperol Spritz!


I’ve learned so much this past year. Thank you for supporting me and following along on this wild ride.

Still need a link to something from the big first birthday party? DM me on Instagram @newmodernmom

  1. Emma says:

    Well written! I buy a ball pit for my son’s first birthday. Everyone recommends the one from Kiddymoon (great quality at a good price). Friends did that too and it turned out great 🙂

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