Decision on My Son's 1St Birthday

Updated on May 28, 2019
M.N. asks from Morrisville, PA
18 answers

I'm having a hard time on getting a party together for him. I've been looking into a picnic pavillion but that will cost $200 a day and then guest entrance into the park. We live in a different state from my son's father and sisters. I'm trying to make it easy for my son's grandparents to attend. I'm only inviting family. Would it be unreasonable to ask them to pay admittance to the park? I wouldn't if I could afford it and the family wasn't older and in the same state. Any suggestions on a party that might accommodate everyone? Elderly grandparents, a father that doesn't drive, a 12 and 10 year old, and two separate states.

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answers from Boston on

I wouldn't spend the money on a 1st birthday party like that. I'd find a public park throw up a sun shelter from walmart and some decorations from the dollar store and call it a day. I see parties at the playgrounds all the time in the summer. Food, fun and the playground is right there for the kids to run off some of that cake energy.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

why does it have to be such a huge deal? you know that a one year old baby doesn't care, right?

i'd have it in my back yard.

if that won't work, why not just go to a public park and picnic under the trees? if you bring folding chairs and a folding table, no need to rent a pavilion.

if it rains, go to the pizza parlor.


4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Denver on

The only thing that families want to do at a child's first birthday party is watch the cute one-year-old try to eat cake and get a messy face, and enjoy seeing the baby with his new words or cute sounds, and exclaim over how big he's gotten. The baby has absolutely no idea that this is a party for him. There might be some gifts, but to the baby it's just colors and wrapping paper to crinkle up, and a box to bang on.

In other words, just find a simple way to get your extended family together. A $200 pavilion plus park entrance is just too much. Can everyone just come over to your house, where you'll have a balloon and a cake and some sodas or punch? Do you have a friend or nearby relative who can let you hold the party there if your house is too small? To rent a pavilion at a park where there's an entrance fee just means that next year, and the year after that, you'll be expected to host something just as expensive. Don't get caught up in the tornado of elaborate birthday parties.

The easiest thing to do would be to take your son to visit his grandparents. Let him wear a cute "I'm 1" shirt. If his father and sisters are absolutely planning on traveling to your home, let them, and order a pizza delivered to your house, and take photos with the baby.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

We have lots of parks in our area that do not have entrance fees. (I've actually never heard of a park having an entrance fee ... unless you mean amusement park.) Some might charge to reserve a pavilion ($50), but that would be the only cost.

I would look for a park that has a pavilion with rest rooms and a playground nearby. If you can't find that for under $100, maybe ask a local church what they charge to rent their hall.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Are there other picnic pavilions near you that don't require a guest entrance into the park? We have many parks near us with picnic pavilions that are just free parks with fields, playground equipment, etc. No one has to pay to enter the park. Surely there are parks in that area that are free. I'd look into a different park.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

This sounds more like a family reunion than a party for a one year old, to me - is that what your intention is?

Parties have gotten really out of hand in the last few years - when mine (oldest teens, youngest elementary) were babies, we still just had simple family affairs where we did stuff at home. You could do an easy afternoon tea/coffee and cake. Or you could barbecue and do salads.

If it's bigger, you could go to a park, bring some folding chairs for the older family members that are comfy (bring stuff in on a wagon, coolers, etc.) and one of those tent things people mention below, and you're set - the picnic tables will suffice. 12 and 10 year olds can amuse themselves (frisbee, kites, football..) and you're good. Usually there's playground equipment.

You can use the water, barbecues, picnic tables, washrooms and amenities at most parks, campsites, etc. for free. My husband's family has for family reunions. If you don't feel you can host it at home (keep it simple) then I would suggest looking into other places.

I'm not even sure we had family parties now that I think about it for our babies at 1. We usually just made it a family visit - we didn't get people to travel and do a special day. If it sounds complicated and expensive, then maybe that's a sign to downsize the whole thing.

You want to enjoy this, not stress :) It's about you guys and your little one after all. Just keep it simple if it were me.

ETA: To answer your question (since we're all advising you to keep it simple, and you may already have made your mind up and this may not be helpful to you if so), then I think being invited to something and being expected to pay is a bit ... iffy. Some people might not have money on hand, there can be miscommunication about it ... generally it's just simpler to cover everything if you're inviting, that's just been my experience. We once hosted a party at a museum type place and parents ended up staying and we had to foot the bill at the end, and it was so expensive, we decided never ever to do that kind of thing again. The parents would never have shelled out the money if it had been up to them, and honestly, who could blame them.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

How many people are you inviting? Why not just do it at a restaurant?
If it's a large number then have it at a regular, public park, not an expensive theme park. You may still need to pay for a picnic reservation but it will be so much eaisier for everyone.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

First off... NO do not ask your guests to pay to come to your Party. That is cheesy.

If you can't afford 100% of the expense then DO NOT do it. DO something within your budget. Keep it simple.

If you live in different states from the dad, let dad throw his own party.

Your child is turning 1, he will not remember the party.

A 1st birthday party is all about the adults. Sadly, it sounds like this child does not have both parents in his life per your living in another state from the dad.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Hold it at a playground that has a picnic table or two. No reservation or anything required. If you are worried about shade or rain, you can buy one of the pop-up tents for about $50 (8x8 of shade or $100 for 10x10 of shade, depends how big you want). Add a foldable table for another $40 so that you have somewhere to set your food, and for $100-$150, you have what you need, you can use it anywhere not just a pay-per-person park, AND you own it so that you can use it again in the future. Much better than renting a pavillion in a park with an entrance fee.

You can find these lots of places, but these are examples of what I mean.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

I think it’s incredibly kind you are including his dad, grandparents etc. you could easily do something private and leave the others out or have them do their own celebration.

I think having an outside bday party is a great idea and like others have said maybe not do the pavilion. I understand completely if you’re trying to have it at a neutral location. Maybe you can find one that’s not as expensive or maybe a small local zoo?

I want to share about my daughter’s first bday party. I did a kiddy pool in the backyard with lots of sandwiches, fruits, chips etc. parents stayed (had maybe 5 friends) to help watch their kids. It was simple and fun. BUT - 1 year olds tend to get pretty cranky when they’re over stimulated and don’t really understand the whole thing that’s going on. We did a 2 hour party, strategically planned around naps, and anything over that probably would’ve been too hard on everyone. Just something to keep in mind.

Have fun and try to keep it very simple. Happy bday to your son!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

First birthday I get that you want to celebrate.
What we did for our sons first birthday was to give him a cupcake and gave him a ride on toy.
It was fun, low key, we have great pictures and it didn't blow the kids college fund.

I worked with someone who for his son's 3rd birthday held a block party, hired a magician, bounce houses and had someone giving pony rides - the whole block loved it, they have great pictures and his son never remembered it.
If you want to throw a family reunion that's fine but it might be better to get folks together over summer when school is out in some central place that's easier for everyone to travel to.
My family will travel for weddings and funerals but not for birthdays.
In a few years the birthdays will be about having some school friends over.
If the bulk of the family you want at the party are in another location, maybe you and your son should travel to where they are and have the party there.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New London on

Hi---- I agree with the others that a one yr old has no idea that a party will be taking place. If u could, I would have a simple backyard party or a park that does not charge, Plan it on a Saturday and have a rain date on Sunday.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Wow - you are doing a lot of work and going to a lot of expense for something your child will not appreciate or remember. I get that you are trying to accommodate a whole bunch of relatives, including the child's father and his siblings/parents, which is very kind of you, but it's causing you headaches and stress, and now a big expense.

Is there a particular cultural reason why everyone comes across several states for every child's birthday? Is this a family tradition that you cannot go against even though you do not live with the child's father?

Do the elderly people in the family have the ability to navigate a big park? If they can drive from far away, maybe they can.

I wouldn't spend $200 on a pavilion for a party that will last a few hours (or at least that's how long your child will hold out). Are you also providing the food? If not, are people bringing their own picnic lunches? I think it's reasonable to invite people to a picnic, but I don't think you can or should pay for the parking fee for a bunch of vehicles unless they all agree to meet somewhere else and shuttle in using one or two large vehicles.

Is there any other facility available for free, or just the parking fee? That might make more sense. If you want to invest in a pop-up tent that you will use again, in your own yard or at the beach and that you can manage alone, fine. You could use that in a free park and at least you'd have use of the tent for next year and the next, as well as other occasions. I live in a great neighborhood and we borrow/share tents and folding tables and lawn chairs all the time, so if you have neighbors with whom you are friendly, I'd ask to borrow before you invest.

Otherwise, I'm a firm believer in having the party you can afford, not in trying to afford the kind of party that will make other people happy. And I agree strongly with the responder below who said you are setting a precedent for what these relatives from far away will expect every single year. Unless they are likely to spend a huge amount of money on gifts, and you need those gifts because of your financial situation, I see no reason to go broke over this. Please reset your expectations, of others and of yourself, so that you can manage this, and so that your son does not grow up expecting birthday parties with huge numbers of people and high expenditures. We had a small family party with whoever was around, and after age 4, we had parties with the number of guests based on the year (5 friends when he turned 5, 6 when he turned 6, etc.). We almost always had at-home parties in the basement or the back yard (with simple and classic games, no bouncy house or pony rides). One year, we went to a little candlepin bowling alley with 7 kids - they bowled 2 games, and the place had a party room where we could take our own cake and drinks. There was a pizza place across the street, so we brought in a couple of pizzas. It was great and the kids had a ball - and the parties lasted 2-3 hours tops, and that was plenty.

Rethink this unless you have a really firm cultural tradition that you have to uphold.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


Welcome to mamapedia.

The 1st birthday is for the parents - not the child. He/she will NOT remember it - at all.

Have a party at your place or someplace that is convenient. Or have your son's father throw a party at his house. It's okay to have two parties. Your son's father can pay for his side of the family party and you can pay for yours.

DO NOT stress over this. this is a party for YOU. For making it past and through that first year.

Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Generally I would discourage this but it seems like in your case that you're really trying to make it work. How much is the entrance fee? Is it an amusement park? If it is then I say no don't do this. I also think that if you feel this is the best way to accommodate people then call the grandparents and say hey I'm thinking of having it here and it costs this much...are you willing to do that? Maybe it's a state park?

That being said, I really do think you can find a different park or maybe just don't rent the pavilion. Bring a folding table or commandeer a picnic table and do it for free. You don't really need the pavilion if it's just a few people. Plus, if you don't rent the pavilion maybe you could pay the entrance fee for the grandparents.

What about doing it at a restaurant? Find some place kid friendly that maybe has a separate room like a pizza place or Red Robin. If you're willing to spend the $200 from the pavilion you can get people lunch or dessert.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Tyler on

There won't be many more birthday parties you will throw where you don't have to worry about a ton of dirty, screaming kids running around. Since this will be primarily adults, just have it at home. Most importantly, make sure you ask someone to be the designated photographer! I was always the one holding the camera and I'm so grateful I have so many pictures of my kids with their grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. We do have some pictures with me, but precious few. Make sure you are a documented part of your kids story!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Can you just have it at home? one year old's really don't remember their birthday parties and you could lead into bigger ones as the years go by. In my life if I was asked to pay an entrance fee, well I probably wouldn't go unless it was going to be featured in some magazine and I was very nosey.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I agree with what lots of moms have already shared. It's the 1st birthday and the folks who will remember it are the parents, the adult attendees and the children over 5 yrs of age. It is challenging to want to make everyone happy and stay within a budget, but it makes sense to stay within (make/keep-?) your budget and then let the guests enjoy and make of it what they can. Planning events are not easy and simply cannot please everyone. But the memories can be wonderful. I suggest you stay within something affordable and accessible for everyone. Keeping the elders in mind is important, so make sure it's something they can get to & from with relative ease. And as was suggested, find a park or playground that does not charge and has bathrooms. It may take some more research or asking of other parents or neighbors, but it can probably be found. All the "party gear" can be bought at the Dollar Store or Party City, so that doesn't have to be a big expense. Also, with regards to food, you can make (or buy) a few dishes such as a fruit salad, a pasta salad and maybe a sandwich or pinwheel wraps platter. Then you provide the cake and/or cupcakes and WATER (gallons and cups, not individual bottles that get wasted). You can ask everyone who's attending to also bring a dish and/or beverage. Just ask that they bring something to feed at least 5 ppl. Our family has done this from our sons' 3rd b-day up to his 12th. This year for his 13th, we'll probably do something different since he's getting older. But our Park Day b-day gathering has become an annual tradition that LOTS of folks look forward to. As long as you can find a place that is as centrally located and geographically close to those attending, you can make it work. Best Wishes for a Great Party!

1 mom found this helpful
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