Celebrating A First Birthday Or Mom And Dad Surviving The First Year?

by admin on June 5, 2014

I have a 9 month old daughter who will be turning one in August. I really want to throw her a huge first birthday party, but not one of those “everyone sit around and stare at the baby” 1st birthday parties.  Instead I want throw a barbecue for all of our friends and family where copious amounts of burgers, hot dogs, cornhole, and beer will be the main stars of the show.  Of course we’d have a few other babies in attendance, do a little cake for my daughter, and put up some cute decorations.  My husband thinks we should do something tiny with just grandparents.  I’m not against that for future years but let’s face it….1st birthdays are really for the parents and I think this is a great excuse to get all our friends together and have a blast (and celebrate that we made it through the first year despite quite a few unexpected medical issues with our daughter).  The problem is, how do we specify that if people want to bring a gift for my daughter they can, but there’s absolutely no obligation to since this will be more of an adult bash anyway? 0529-14

You invite your guests to a BBQ Bash with no mention of it being a birthday party, that’s how you “specify” to guests that gifts are not necessary.  Given that the celebration of the baby’s birth is really a secondary reason for having this adult oriented shindig, a low key approach with the invitations seems quite apropos.   You can still do the birthday cake during the dessert portion of your festivities so there is little hoopla and guests won’t feel like they have somehow goofed by not bringing a gift.

But my questions are these…do you intend to host future huge parties on the occasions of your daughter’s birthdays and significant life events to celebrate her parents surviving the Terrible Twos, the hormonal teen years, drivers’ education, 12 years of education, etc.?   I’m not sure it’s a great precedent to start off celebrating a child’s first birthday with the idea that the party is more about the adults’ needs than the child’s.    (Psst…in other words, you sound like you want this party to be about you, not your daughter, and if you were really putting your daughter first, you’d probably have a small birthday party more in keeping with what she can handle and save the BBQ Bash for another date.)

{ 124 comments… read them below or add one }

Brit June 5, 2014 at 3:33 am

I’d have the tiny party with GPs and throw the BBQ on a different date.

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Brit June 5, 2014 at 9:29 am

And I meant to say, if this is about the parents, shouldn’t you be taking your husband’s wishes into account anyway? The father of this baby would like a small celebration with both sets of GPs. Why don’t you want to consider this? It’s hardly a lot to ask. If my husband had suggested this, I’d have agreed without thinking twice (despite having had IL issues at times) – this is his child too, and his parents. It sounds as if it is important to him.

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Wild Irish Rose June 5, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I didn’t even think of this, but you’re right.

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whatever June 5, 2014 at 4:11 am

A one-year-old doesn’t care about what goes on at her birthday party. She doesn’t even have any idea that that day is different from any other. Also, since children are best served by consistency (and definitely not by eating frosting), it’s doubtful that *any* celebration would be in her best interest. Given that neither a small, “appropriate” party nor a large BBQ would really be about what’s best for the baby, why not choose the party that the parents would most enjoy? I’m sure that once the child is old enough to understand and enjoy a birthday party, the parents would switch to making the party “about” her.

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Marozia June 5, 2014 at 4:42 am

You DO NOT ever throw a child’s birthday party for ADULTS. As far as I’m concerned, that is anathema! This is precisely what my parents did for me and my older siblings. The parties were all for adults, not for children.
It was the same with my 21st. I didn’t want one and fought my parents the whole way. We finally agreed (i.e., mum & dad did) to hose 2 parties, one for me & my friends and the other for ‘adults’ (work that one out!!!!). I hated every second of it!
And then they wondered why I didn’t want to make my debut!! Figure that!!

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Tracy W June 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm

It sounds like your parents were throwing adult birthday party for kids long past the age of 1. Either that or you have an incredible memory.

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Rosie B. June 5, 2014 at 5:33 am

I’ve always heard that there really is no way to politely specify “no gifts,” because you shouldn’t assume people will bring gifts to begin with. If people ask you about gifts then it’s acceptable to say “don’t worry about it,” but the host should not be the one to bring it up.

Personally, though, I agree with the Admin–keep the barbecue and the birthday party separate. Perhaps you could say that the barbecue is to celebrate her good health after the medical issues you mentioned? It would still be in honor of your daughter (and the fact that you survived the first year!) but it’s something everyone in your family and friend circle can (and should!) celebrate. Plus there wouldn’t be a ton of people singing Happy Birthday and watching her open gifts and such, which can be a bit overwhelming for a one-year-old. Make her actual birthday all about HER, though–get her a cake and a few gifts, take her to her favorite places, have the grandparents over, etc. Even if she won’t really know what’s going on you can still give her a fun day!

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Lo June 5, 2014 at 6:11 am

I agree with admin 100%

I do not understand the trend of huge birthday parties for kids who aren’t old enough to understand them.

People will bring gifts for your daughter because it’s a birthday party. There is no polite way of saying “bring a gift or don’t, I don’t mind.” People will expect your daughter to be the center of attention because it’s her birthday.

There’s no reason you can’t throw a big party for it’s own sake. You don’t need an excuse. Not everything has to be a centered around a life event.

Why not do both? Big party for the friends and small birthday for your daughter?

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Katherinne June 5, 2014 at 6:12 am

Im gonna have to agree here. My father is a huge fan of throwing birthday parties for my siblings that really have nothing to do with their birthday. If you don’t think kids notice, they do. My dad and all his friends will end up drunk and completely out of it….4 hours after the cake was sliced. Imagine having to put your drunk parents to sleep on your birthday. If it werent for my mom, I would have been victim to these too, but thank god for my first birthday she had a sit down dinner for all her friends and family with activities for the little ones. Accompanied by a two tier tweety cake of course (there was even a guy dressed in a full tweety suit…kind of creep but fitting still!). Unfortunatley I fell victim to one of my dads parties on my 16th. I was tired and trying to get the man to stop crying and clingjng to his cousin at 4 in the morning (I hadgone to sleep at 11) if you dont think we kids dont notice, we do! I hope OP changes her mind, annd doesnt make a habit of this.

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Cecilia June 5, 2014 at 11:25 am

My neighbors recently had a huge, all day party for their grand daughter’s second birthday. There was a bounce house, tents, all kinds of DJ-equipment (CD’s, ginormous speakers, strobe light, some kind of ball that rotated & had different colored lights in it), at least 75 people and about 10 coolers full of alcohol. They even went on a “beer run” when they finished what was in the coolers. And when I say all day, I really mean all day- started at approximately noon, ended at 1 am, when the police had been called the 5th time for loud music, cars blocking driveways & the entrance/exit to the subdivision, the apparently unsupervised children running all over the neighborhood, darting out in front of cars. When the police arrived at 1am, someone was arrested and taken to jail.
So, how much of that was for the 2 year old birthday girl and how much was for the parents/grandparents? She was probably asleep by 7 or so and was probably cranky from being overstimulated/overwhelmed.

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Moo June 5, 2014 at 6:12 am

I really agree with admin in this one, 2 events = double the fun. Not to mention you can get lots of cute pictures of baby cuddling with the grandparents on their first big milestone to remind you the stress was all worth it… Then have a grownup party with all your friends to celebrate that you pulled through :)

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Ruby June 5, 2014 at 6:12 am

Years from now, when your daughter asks to see pictures from her first birthday, how will she feel if she sees and is told that it was a celebration for you two for getting through the first year? Have a proper little thing for her – cake with the grandparents or something small.

If you want to have a big BBQ, by all means, do that separately on a different day. And don’t say it’s a celebration for having survived the first year, because honestly, you’re not the first parents of a baby and won’t be the last. Parenting one child for a year is not a huge, special feat.

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Calliope June 5, 2014 at 11:20 am

I’d argue that making it through the first year with a baby is a “huge, special feat.” That first year can be uniquely difficult. So what if other people do it all the time? People get married all the time, but most people feel that their own wedding day is a special day. People graduate from college all the time, but that doesn’t make it any less of a feat when you do it yourself. I don’t see any need to minimize what the OP has been through this year.
And I don’t see any reason the OP shouldn’t throw whatever kind of party she wants for this birthday. (With no mention of gifts on the invitation.) The baby is not going to remember it or care. For later birthdays, absolutely. When the child is old enough to understand what a birthday is, the party should be the kind of party the child wants, within reason. As for how the child will feel someday to see pictures of adults enjoying a barbecue on her first birthday, we can only speculate. I truly can’t imagine a reasonable, well-adjusted adult getting upset over such a thing.

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Agania June 5, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Totally agree Calliope. I had twins so it was a huge feat to get through the first year. For our girls first birthday I had family and a small handful of friends for a sedate morning tea – because that fitted into our girls’ nap time routine. OP, for the first year, keep it sedate so as not to overwhelm your daughter. If you want a huge blow out party for all and sundry, have it a bit later and call it a survival party and have it at an adult time – ie evening.

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Cherry June 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm

The OP said that her daughter had some medical issues throughout the year. It sounds to me like the party is a celebration of her daughter being in better health, not just a “whew, we survived a year of limited sleep and changing nappies”

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Livvy17 June 5, 2014 at 3:46 pm

^^ yes, but it’s still not FOR the daughter. OP should have the party and call it a Summer Celebration, or whatever, but a birthday party is supposed to be FOR the person with the birthday, and ought to include activities appropriate for and enjoyable by the honoree.
But by all means, have both! Too few people entertain these days. :)

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Tracy W June 5, 2014 at 3:11 pm

I agree with other people responding. People throw parties to celebrate common achievements all the time.

And I suspect the daughter’s later feelings will consist of “you were wearing that! What were you thinking?!?! And mum, that haircut!”

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clairedelune June 5, 2014 at 6:49 am

I’m not sure I really agree with the Admin in this case…small party, big party, her daughter isn’t going to understand this in any meaningful way anyway. She’s far too young to think “I don’t understand why they didn’t have the sort of gathering that *I* would appreciate,” and it really doesn’t sound like the OP does plan to make this a precedent.

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Charliesmum June 5, 2014 at 6:51 am

I think I get what you’re trying to say here – you want to have a large party, but you don’t want people to think you’re having a large party just to do a gift grab, but because you want to celebrate the birth of your child, and your first year of motherhood.

I had a BBQ for my son on his first birthday. I invited quite a few people, several of whom had children around the same time I did, so there were quite a few babies around. I don’t think anyone felt it was a ‘gift grab’ because they all understood that celebrating the first year of a new life is a good thing. I had tons of food, Cookie Monster cupcakes and a Sesame Street cake that my son smeared all over himself but didn’t eat because it turned out he was coming down with something, people brought small, age appropriate gifts (mostly clothes because the child grew like a weed) and a good time was had by all.

In short. Don’t over think it. Have a party, say it’s for your daughter’s birthday, and just enjoy all the ups and downs of parenthood.

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Miss-E June 5, 2014 at 6:52 am

I know a lot of people who host big first birthday parties with elaborate themes and I think its nice that the OP is conscious of the fact that this day will have no impact on a 1-year-old. Just because she’s doing this doesn’t mean that she’s going have parties for herself henceforth. I think its a nice idea.

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Horaldo June 5, 2014 at 7:06 am

I agree with Admin’s first paragraph, but not with her second. It’s easy to invite people to a celebratory BBQ without making it about the first birthday. Your closest friends might know her birth date, but probably not many, so it’s easy to set up without everyone automatically knowing that it’s the birthday.
But I do think it’s perfectly fine for the party to be about the parent’s ‘surviving’ the first year. We hear often on this site that young children don’t remember the parties anyway, so you don’t need to worry about inviting all their friends or making the perfect birthday cake.
And to be honest, a ‘survival’ celebration is exactly how I felt about our son’s first birthday. We had a heck of a year, with health problems for both my husband and myself, close family deaths, and so on. But we made it, and we invited all our friends for an afternoon in the park to just celebrate being alive. It wasn’t about his first birthday, or even about us, but about us being together as a family.
So don’t make the invitations about your daughter, or about you, just about wanting a get-together with friends. Enjoy it. And congratulations for making it, we know how hard the first year can be.

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Wendy B. June 5, 2014 at 7:16 am

I agree with admin. Have a little party for the daughter, have a big summer bash party at another time…maybe to thank people for being there for you, for example.

Think of this: 12 years down the road one of the adults at the event mentions to your daughter about the big party her parents had to celebrate surviving her first year. I have a feeling it will sound like, “You were a terrible, difficult baby and when your first birthday rolled around your parents had a party to celebrate getting through that rough time.” That might not be the intention, but that’s kind of how it sounds…and might sound to her. Your desires trumped her birthday. And that could make her question whether she was even “wanted” at the time.

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Rod June 5, 2014 at 3:21 pm

So what about knowing you were a difficult baby?

My sister was terrible. Mostly because of sleeping difficulties. We still had birthday parties and a very active social life (to this date, my parents host 4-5 parties per year, 20+ guests each).

By 12, she absolutely knew she was a little hellion when she was a baby. She was not loved, wanted, or cared for any less because of that. She’d even say “I bet being cute saved me!”.

Kids need education (I have two toddlers). If you feel like your kid’s raising is best served by always reassuring them they could do no wrong, that’s ok with me. Not my approach: when my 3 year old girl is being mildly scolded I tell her “don’t be a rat”. She replies “I’m not a rat, I’m a girl!”. I doubt her self esteem is being obliterated.

With regard to the party – we had a barbecue, both sets of grandparents travelled in. My mom brought little knicknacks common for kids parties. We had a few informal guests in the form of neighborhood kids (there is a large, enclosed, shared back area for our housing development). Beer and soda for their parents. There was cake too – my daughter couldn’t eat much but it was still served. What’s the harm even if the “guest of honour” had no clue of what was going on except that a lot of people were clapping.

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inNM June 5, 2014 at 7:28 am

Having observed my niece’s recent first birthday party, I agree that small and low-key may be the best way to go. My SIL hosted a small gathering of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and a few close family friend: in all 20-25 people. At first, my well rested niece was fine, even interactive. But about 2 hours into the excitement she started getting cranky and irritable because she was tired. She slept for two hours after that. The birthday girl missed half of her own party.
I know you may be happy you got through the first year of your daughter’s life, and you really want a huge “Happy birthday/We did it!” party but your guest of honor may not be able to handle all the excitement. So a smaller event may be best until the little one can last through her own party.

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Rieslingbamko June 5, 2014 at 8:02 am

Why do you need to use your daughters birthday as an excuse to have a barbecue? Just have a fun summer barbecue completely separate from her birthday and then on her birthday just do a family thing and let her face plant into a cake.

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Girlie June 5, 2014 at 9:13 am

Lolll .. “and let her face plant into a cake” I LOVE IT.

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Wild Irish Rose June 5, 2014 at 8:22 am

Personally, I’ve never understood birthday parties for children who are too young to appreciate them. My kids didn’t start having birthday parties until they had started kindergarten. I realize that’s a personal thing, but it’s been my observation that toddlers tend to get overwhelmed by all the attention and fuss, to say nothing of the sugar rush from the cake, etc. I’m with your husband on this one, OP. I’m happy that your daughter’s medical issues appear to be over, but a big birthday party for a one-year-old just doesn’t make any sense to me. On the other hand, having a bash for no particular reason is almost never a bad idea, so go ahead and have your barbecue, and as Admin suggests, make no mention of it being your little girl’s birthday. It’s just a party to get together with loved ones, and it just happens to fall around the time of her birthday. Congratulations, BTW, on getting through that first year! Oh, another suggestion, which we did for our kids on their first birthdays: We boxed up and wrapped toys they hadn’t played with in a while, and they had the fun of ripping paper to shreds while we saved money by not buying new things. They never knew the difference.

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LonelyHound June 5, 2014 at 8:25 am

I am sorry, but I am of the school that a first birthday party is just as important as any other birthday a child might have (I might be in the minority here). I have had friends do large shindigs that had their adult friends and their friends who have small children. I have had friends do small family affair parties where it is just family members within close driving distance. We did something very small for our firstborn because we have no family in the area, and, though invited, all of our friends are childless and did not feel comfortable coming. Traditionally, long ago and far away, first birthdays were a monumental milestone, not because the parents survived baby’s first year of life; but because the first year of life was so fragile that a baby making it to one year old was worth celebration.

My thoughts are, if you want a bigadults only party have on a day other than your daughter’s birthday.

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Shannon June 5, 2014 at 8:29 am

Let’s be honest – first birthday parties are for the adults. They’re a way of cheering the parents on for making it through the first year, and to let family and friends in on the celebration. The baby isn’t going to know what’s happening, and the baby isn’t going to remember any of it anyway. The baby does not care.

I don’t think that means the mother is going to throw herself a party for every milestone or make her daughter’s childhood a parade of maternal narcissism. I mean, wow, that’s a pretty harsh and judgmental way of looking at it.

I do agree that a cookout with a large amount of people and alcohol might be a bit overwhelming for the child. I would set a time limit – say, 2-3 hours, and after that ask guests to clear out so the birthday girl can get some rest. And some rest for the adults, too. I can’t tell you why, but I’ve come home completely exhausted from every first birthday party I’ve ever attended.

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Tracy W June 5, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Renting a hall is nice as people then have to leave on time.

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A.Jain June 5, 2014 at 8:42 am

I agree with the Admin. Our little one turned 1 in March and we did a small party at home with my Dh’s brothers family and friends of ours who have a child the same age as my daughter. Thy play together often. It was held in the afternoon, we did a smash cake etc however the important thing is that she was not overwhelmed by this party and she had fun. Large parties for 1st birthdays are very common in my ethnic community but they are all about the parents.

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Lee June 5, 2014 at 8:52 am

I don’t think there is any problem making a big deal about a baby’s 1st birthday with a big party. You can have a 1st birthday party without it being a “sit around and stare at baby” event. Personally, I would tell everyone we are hosting a BBQ to celebrate our daughter’s 1st birthday, no gifts required.

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NostalgicGal June 5, 2014 at 8:53 am

Agree totally with the admin here; have your BBQ bash because you want one; hold it at a convenient time this summer, say a month or so before the birthday; then have a small birthday celebration at the time.

I have many ‘very small’ memories but I do NOT remember either of the first two birthdays OR my first two Christmases (I was born a few months after Christmas). I vaguely remember my third birthday because I was given a ‘hold her hand and she walks’ doll that was bigger than I was, and I remember putting my arms around the doll and dragging her, with her feet on the floor, off to by my bed to play with it. Third Christmas and fourth birthday, yes…

This is to point out, that at least until that age (3-4) any party that you toss for your little one is more for YOU than for them.

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Rae June 5, 2014 at 9:02 am

Maybe I am wrong, but I do not like OP’s attitude regarding this, they sound incredibly selfish. I vote for a small private party with close family and then have the BBQ a different day.

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lakey June 5, 2014 at 10:25 am

I don’t think she sounds selfish. I think she is unclear to herself about what she actually wants. What she seems to want isn’t so much a huge birthday party for the one year old, who won’t even know that it is her birthday. She wants to have a big barbecue to celebrate the past year. There’s nothing selfish about that. I think it would be clearer to not call it a birthday party for the 1 year old, but to call it a barbecue, just as has been suggested. She’s been through an exciting year with ups and downs. Have a party. Just don’t call it a birthday party. The people who are closest to the family, such as grandparents, will give gifts to the baby. The rest of the people won’t feel obligated. Problem solved.

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Tracy W June 5, 2014 at 3:28 pm

I don’t see that at all. By her description the bbq will be casual and she doesn’t want gifts. Selfish people view parties as opportunities for gift-grubbing and/or to impress.

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OP June 5, 2014 at 9:23 am

OP here. Just to clarify, this will definitely not be a tradition in the future. The next few birthdays will be very low key with just a few family members, and when she’s old enough to enjoy her birthday we’ll do low-key events at the house with a few of her friends and cake. Maybe we’ll splurge and do a “big” birthday at a roller rink or something for her 10th birthday.

Thankfully, I have a VERY happy, social baby. She loves being around people, and will get a second wind if she’s tired when there’s people she doesn’t see often around. If we were to throw a big barbecue, we’d throw it to coincide with the end of her afternoon nap (3:30 pm) and then she’d go to bed at her normal bedtime of 6:30 pm. So I’m not very concerned about her being overwhelmed or tired. I agree that maybe we should separate the two events, but so many of our friends love her dearly and have been so helpful with a lot of her medical issues that I’d love for them to be able to celebrate with us. A big barbecue just seemed like the best way to do that.

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e. June 6, 2014 at 3:38 pm

We have family friends who had twin boys, and for their first birthday party they threw a backyard party. I wouldn’t call it a bbq, because they didn’t grill, but rather had some non-fancy but perfectly delicious catering. They have a big family, so it was probably 25 or 30 people all told, and the kids had a blast. They got them smash cakes, and it was so fun to see their little personalities come out – one made a huge mess and the other barely got into the frosting. This event was held at the grandparents’ house, and there was lots of close family there to help if and when the boys got tired or cranky. It was a lot of fun. People brought gifts, but I don’t believe they were opened during the party. A thank you note arrived soon after.

People should definitely have whatever kind of party they want to have. Just because it is a child’s birthday, doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable for the parents as well. I wouldn’t throw a raucous free-for-all, but if the adults know how to moderate themselves, a good time can be had by all. I don’t quite understand all this “don’t overstimulate the baby!” “Keep it small, at your peril!” advice. If they’re tired, they’ll go to sleep, or they’ll recuperate the next day. These boys were also social, and had a great time. They may not be able to remember it directly, but there are some great photos and video that await them as they get older!

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remi June 7, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Why not have both events? You can have a quiet dinner in with the grandparents one night, then the next day have the big bash. It seems like a good compromise; a quiet dinner in wouldn’t be too expensive or exhausting to prohibit the big party too, and both you and your husband get the party that you want.

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hakayama June 5, 2014 at 9:35 am

Hey… It’s not too early to plan the Kindergarten graduation.
Ooooops! Did I forget nursery school? ;-)

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Rebecca June 5, 2014 at 9:40 am

I always like being invited to BBQ’s, and any reason to celebrate is good enough for me. If I got an invite to something like this I’d be fine with it. Maybe just call it a “we survived year one of parenthood” bash. Describe it just enough so that people will know it’s not a “sit around and watch the baby get a sugar overload” party and they will actually want to come. Then when they get there, have the party you described on the invite, but set aside a bit of time to bring out the birthday cake; also have some balloons and what have you.

I don’t get how this would be a problem to make it about the parents and not the child. The child doesn’t even understand the concept of birthdays. Have child-oriented birthdays later down the road when she understands what’s going on, and then invite the child’s friends, not yours.

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BellyJean June 5, 2014 at 9:44 am

Two parties!!! :)

First one for you surviving the first year and having a great BBQ. Second one for the kid’s birthday party – quiet with the grandparents. HAVE ALL THE FUN! :D

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DGS June 5, 2014 at 9:47 am

I don’t think OP is selfish at all; she sounds like an overwhelmed new Mom excited to have overcome some challenging medical issues and eager to celebrate her daughter’s first big birthday milestone. Given that the one-year-old is too young to recognize that this is her birthday party, go ahead and have the BBQ or a quiet party with grandparents or whatever you and your DH want to do and just get a themed cake or cupcakes and some small decorations for some cute photos with the birthday girl. And happy birthday to your little daughter!

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Magicdomino June 5, 2014 at 9:51 am

Speaking as a possible guest, I don’t care to attend birthday parties for small children. Just not my thing. Invitations for children’s birthday parties are automatically turned down. Barbecue party? I’m all for it, even with small children running around. Have your big barbecue bash for your own enjoyment, and if just it happens to fall on the exact date of your daughter’s birthday, you can have a cake on the dessert table.

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PrincessButtercup June 5, 2014 at 10:00 am

Clearly you don’t want to celebrate your kids birthday (no presents, all adult food, etc) you just want an excuse to throw a party for your friends. So have a little thing with grandparents and other close family on her birthday that is short (come join us for cake and pictures to commemorate this day). Then at another date have a summer BBQ. That’s the party you really want to have. No need to use your kid as an excuse. Besides, a child’s birthday party where beer is served is such a massively horrible idea and sets a bad precedent.

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Calliope June 8, 2014 at 11:58 am

Sheesh, people really seem to enjoy judging parents. The OP is not “using her kid as an excuse” to throw a party. She wants to celebrate her child’s first year in a way that she and her friends will enjoy. And having beer at a children’s party is not a “horrible idea” unless the adults there have drinking problems. There was beer and wine available for the adults at every single family gathering I attended growing up, from children’s birthdays to holidays. Nobody ever got drunk. Alcohol is a social thing in our culture, and it’s not out of place at a party. If that’s not your preference, that’s fine, but you don’t have to be so harsh on OP over it.

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Jane June 5, 2014 at 10:06 am

I’m sorry, but I’m going with the OP. Have the party. My sister went through this, the incredibly hard first year with medical problems, and by the first birthday they were absolutely thrilled to still have two living twin girls. They threw a PARTY. I don’t know how they dealt with gifts, but it was an awesome party, with whole families invited. There are lots of pictures. The girls just turned 15 this year, and there hasn’t been a party like that one since. Have your party. Enjoy.

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Tracy W June 5, 2014 at 3:33 pm

I had a very easy first year wirh virtually no medical problems and threw a large party to celebrate. I like seeing my friends and I like occasionally doing so via a large party where I can introduce friends to each other who probably wouldn’t otherwise meet.

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AthenaC June 5, 2014 at 10:07 am

If the kid is old enough to know it’s their birthday, then they are old enough to have a kid-centric birthday party. The first birthday is definitely a birthday where they 100% do. not. care. No, you’re not setting a precedent that kids’ birthdays are about the adults. No, you’re not selfish. No, you’re not doing anything wrong. My kids are 11, 8, and 1, and I can assure you none of them were traumatized by having a kid-friendly, adult-centric first birthday party.

Admin’s advice is good. Have the BBQ with a cake for the baby.

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Miss L June 5, 2014 at 10:19 am

I’m one of those people who believes that kids shouldn’t have birthday parties until they get into school system, because they won’t remember them as they grow, and they are probably too young to enjoy the trappings of those. Like babies being given a First Birthday Party with a piñata bigger than themselves and a cake they are too young to consume, or parties to celebrate the Baptism of the kid (very common on Catholic circles, when the kids is baptised waaay before they can even understand what’s happening) as the party is very often a baby-themed adult affair with the recently baptised in their carriage watching around dumbfounded while the adults drink.
But the OP is bringing this to a new level of Speshul Snowflake. It’s a very adult BBQ, with her baby’s birthday as an afterthought. This lady is giving me the vibe that all the future parties for her kids will be exactly the same, things to the full glory of herself, ah, and my children are there too.

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Tracy W June 5, 2014 at 3:43 pm

I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that your fears for the lady’s children are probably unfounded. We did the big party end of first year but following birthdays have been child-centered. I think most people know the difference between a one year old’s understanding and that of an older child’s.

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Lisa June 5, 2014 at 10:30 am

I respectfully disagree with Admin. OP is not saying she wants to turn every birthday into an adult affair, just baby’s first birthday which of course baby will have no recollection of, and is indeed a great event to celebrate. And the photos of baby’s first birthday; there will be plenty of them showing all of the guests celebrating with the baby.

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Raven June 5, 2014 at 10:35 am

I don’t like the idea of big parties for kids’ birthdays. Having been to a few over the years, I’ve often felt they are way over the top, not what the kids seem to really want anyway, and whether intended or not, they do look like a gift grab. (There is nothing interesting about watching a 2-year-old open a mountain of gifts, sorry.) At the risk of sounding like a total grouch, I feel like a lot of these parties are

A) a competition among parents (“Look at all the time/expense/energy I put into my kid’s party!”)
B) more about the parents, in general, than the kids
C) a gift grab

Have a little party for your daughter that won’t exhaust her or overwhelm her. Have a regular, non-event summer bbq for the adults that has nothing to do with your daughter.

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kingsrings June 5, 2014 at 10:39 am

Just because the baby won’t remember their first birthday doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be celebrated. The birthday celebration is for their parents and family too, as they have the desire to honor and celebrate their little darling. I would just caution on the size and scope of the celebration. The baby could be overwhelmed and exhausted by a celebration that is too big and grandiose. Usually a small, low-key gathering is fine. I liked my mom’s 1st birthday celebrations for us kids. She just invited a best friend and their baby(s) over for a small celebration. We got our own little birthday cake to chow down on while Mom took cute pictures.

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Unsanctimommy June 5, 2014 at 11:01 am

Have a big party if you want to! We did a big party with lots of food and beer, invited all of our family and friends. I did evites and FB which is standard for our family. Some people brought presents, some did not, and everyone had a great time. Birthday boy had a blast bouncing from relative to relative and destroying his cake. After a few hours it wound down and just a few close friends stayed to “close the bar.” First birthday is about the baby AND the parents. Celebrate any way you please!

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Alex June 5, 2014 at 11:28 am

Admin I think you missed the mark slightly with your second paragraph. I noticed the OP said …”celebrate that we made it through the first year despite quite a few unexpected medical issues with our daughter”. It seems she wants to celebrate that their little one overcame her medical issues and survived her first year and that she and her hubby survived the stress and worry. In other words a celebration of life and making it through some rough times. The OP isn’t saying she is celebrating making it through the first year of motherhood but rather their family and their daughter surviving despite the medical issues.

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Dee June 5, 2014 at 11:28 am

At first I thought the OP was going to express all sorts of greediness, trying to have her guests do all the work and then dictate the presents. I’m happily surprised that the OP wants to be a gracious hostess. Refreshing!
A child’s birthday party should be something they can handle and I really doubt any one-year old would enjoy a large, lengthy party. How would OP deal with this? Is she ready to put her daughter’s needs aside for a few days doing all the prep and then handling the baby all alone on the day, while hubby does all the hosting and cooking? Is she prepared to give her daughter an “out” by putting her down early when she (inevitably) becomes very cranky and out-of-sorts? Will she be satisfied hosting a party that she misses most of, and that her daughter can’t really participate in? All these things are pretty much guaranteed; however, if it’s just a regular everyday BBQ then the guests will not be put out if the guest of honour doesn’t participate for most of it, and it won’t seem odd if a teen is hired to care for baby and even take her away for walks, etc., so that the hosts can spend time with their guests. With an intimate party, if the daughter finds herself overwhelmed then it is not so difficult for those few guests to understand and accommodate her. Have two parties, OP, and you’ll get the best of both worlds.

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e. June 6, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Why would she be doing all the work alone?? Perhaps there would be grandparents, aunts and uncles, or friends there that also want to help her celebrate and are willing to lend a hand with the baby, opening a bottle of wine, or setting out some cheese. Entertaining is really not that hard, the OP will not be a short-order cook all night. I recently went to a big birthday part for twins, and the kids, parents, and guests were all fine. No one was overwhelmed or needed constant tending to.

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Jasmine June 5, 2014 at 11:33 am

When my daughter turned 1, we threw a huge backyard BBQ, complete with “First Birthday” decorations and invited somewhere around 45 people. Before you think this was a gift grab– ALL of our parties are huge gatherings of friends and family (usually around 30-40 people) and almost always have some sort of theme. Our friends with kids are always invited to bring the kids (even before we had one of our own); our friends without kids happily help with/interact with the kids; and the kids are impressively respectful, well-behaved, and just plain awesome. For her first birthday, some friends asked if they were required to bring a gift and our response was always, “Of course not. The best “present” is your presence in our life and hers.” The party was fun, a good time was had by all, and my daughter turned her smash-cake into a full facial.

Now, I do have a question that piggy backs on this: once my DD turned 3, we started having birthday parties for her and her friends at daycare. We were careful to pick a safe, “netural” location (a local park with a playgound and bathroom facilities) and kept it short (15 minutes for each year of her age). Her 4th birthday is fast approaching and I’m wondering if there’s _any_ way to word the invitations to alleviate or eliminate the idea that they need to bring a gift. I was thinking “Your presence is the best gift you can give!” but after reading this site and some of the above comments, now I’m wondering…

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Kimstu June 5, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Nope. Sorry @Jasmine, your parties sound great and your planning admirable, but gifts are traditionally associated with birthday parties, and if you invite people to a birthday party the guests are going to assume that they should bring gifts.

You can try to specify some form of “No gifts” message, but it’s not etiquette-approved. Explicitly asking for no gifts is less presumptuous than explicitly asking for gifts, but both are attempts to control or direct other people’s generosity, which is rude. Besides, it won’t really work: some people will follow instructions while other people will assume it means “gifts optional” or “gifts desired but we don’t want to look greedy”, so they’ll bring a gift anyway. Then the non-givers will feel bad about having interpreted “No gifts” literally, and you won’t be able to reassure them without implying criticism of the behavior of the people who DID bring gifts. No-win situation.

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rachel June 5, 2014 at 11:39 am

OP doesn’t sound like she actually wants to throw a birthday party. Rather, it sounds like she feels guilty that she wants a party that won’t actually be for the daughter around the time of her birthday and is just calling it that to assuage a guilty conscience.

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Ann A. Thema June 5, 2014 at 11:51 am

By any chance, is the OP or any part of her family Hawai’ian?

A huge Baby’s first birthday is a central part of Hawai’ian family tradition; indeed, many Polynesian cultures celebrate the first year with a huge gathering that can involve hundreds of people. Some Asian cultures adopt this custom too. I suppose in ancient times it was a way of celebrating that the baby survived its first year, and can now be welcomed into the community, but at this point it is an honored tradition.

I’m a little taken aback by all the responses saying that this is rude and selfish.

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MichelleP June 5, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Good grief, Marozia, dramatic much??? Rae, your post is absurd. How on earth is the OP selfish??

There is nothing wrong with having either party the OP thought of, or both.

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Filiagape June 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm

I did this, and great fun was had by all. We had the Bar-B-Q, volleyball, lounging, and when it was desert time I set my son on a tarp with a piece of cake and let him feed himself. I still have no idea how he managed to get chocolate cake inside his diaper. I at first thought there was something wrong because of the color difference until I noted the scent difference. And I have the photos of him smeared head to toe with cake to remember it by. He is now 23 and that was the only time I celebrated his event with an adult-oriented party. It was not a omen of things to come and a sign that I would make his milestones all about me. Almost no one brought presents for him to drown in affluenza, and I didn’t have to write a bunch of thank you notes proclaiming how much he loved X or Y that he didn’t really notice. Invite the friends for a Bar-B-Q and enjoy! All future birthdays will be his.

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imc June 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm

I think the OP should have the BBQ in July, and provide a few treats for the toddlers and children in attendance. A BBQ doesn’t really need a reason to happen. Or maybe you can just have it as a celebration of your return to social life after the first almost-year with the baby.
On the child’s birthday, have a dinner with the grandparents (and maybe godparents, if the child has them) or any other form of celebration which allows the child to take as much enjoyment from it as possible. A 1-year-old may not realize it’s her birthday, but I’m pretty sure she would enjoy a night being coddled and entertained by her parents, grandparents and maybe other adults she’s familiar with.

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Angel June 5, 2014 at 12:11 pm

I think the OP’s attitude is actually pretty common. The first birthday is one the child will not likely remember, so no need for the elaborate party celebrating it. We had a big family bbq for my oldest daughter’s first birthday–but we had kid activities there because we knew lots of her older cousins would be there. Each year the celebrations have been different–some years we will have a smaller party–some years a bigger party–but I don’t think we necessarily set a bad precedent by having a larger party for the first birthday. We got a moon bounce and had a piñata. I think as the kid gets older they tend to narrow down their circle of friends and have specific requests of what they would like to do. One year my daughter had a gymnastics party. Another year it was bowling. Next year she will probably do a sleepover party with movies and pizza. But to me birthday parties for kids, ought to focus on the kids themselves–the guest of honor as well as have kids their age in attendance. It should have activities/food, etc., that the kids will enjoy. And have an adult bbq with beer and such on a different day.

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Anonymous June 5, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I think it’s possible to do one event that serves both purposes. Invite friends over in the late afternoon/early evening, put out appetizers for the guests, and do gifts and sing Happy Birthday to the child, and give her a cupcake/smash cake to enjoy, and take lots of pictures. Then, put the child to bed inside, and continue the barbecue with the adults (followed by cake for the adults) outside.

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Jayjay June 5, 2014 at 12:45 pm

I’m against not telling the people invited that it is going to be partly a birthday party unless you are absolutely sure they would be ok with it.
I would find it incredibly awkward to be invited somewhere only to find out its a birthday party or a celebration for someone. Those things need to be known before hand in my opinion.
But my opinion is biased, as I have religious views against doing birthday parties.

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Ruth June 5, 2014 at 1:02 pm

I vote to have the BBQ. When the baby is old enough to express a preference, then she gets a say.

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Jenny Islander June 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Kids that age don’t get parties anyway, and everybody looking and talking at them tends to make them cry. In my extended family, infant and toddler birthdays were an occasion for a low-key family potluck or barbecue that happened to include some family friends and their kids, and also some cake and ice cream. Having “Happy Birthday” sung to them and then being put down on the floor and allowed to mangle some wrapping paper was all the babies needed or wanted.

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Jenny Islander June 5, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Forgot to add: If you don’t want to seem like a gift grabber, describe the get-together as a barbecue with a little dessert treat for a baby who happens to have a birthday, and don’t mention presents at all unless somebody asks what the baby likes. “A small box full of crumpled brightly colored wrapping paper” is an acceptable answer; those are a baby’s favorite parts anyway!

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