Les Deux Princes Turn One

I'm finally sitting down to do this post. I don't really know where to begin. I had never really planned a big party before. Somehow bachelorette parties don't count and even the baby shower I threw was requested to be low-key so it definitely wasn't on the same level as a themed-out first birthday party. I was excited to plan the big day for the boys, but at a loss as to how to go about it all.

Luckily, I had two great resources. First, Ashley, who is amazing at party-planning and anything decor-related. She gave me plenty of good tips on how to get started and then as I got the process going, I ran ideas by her and she came back with great suggestions. Annie was also a good sounding board. Second, I posted on the GGMG forum: 'Need Advice from Party-Planning Moms'. I listed out a bunch of questions and got awesome suggestions.

After all is said and done, here are my tips:

  • Start planning as far in advance as you can - I literally had it on my to-do list back in January. At that point, I was only browsing for ideas
  • Make a timeline of what needs to be done and by when. Not only will this help prevent getting too stressed at the last minute, it will also help you avoid express shipping fees when you realize you don't have what you need and can't find it locally. I had my to-do list broken out by week, and as it got closer, would hopefully delete everything off of that week, otherwise move any outstanding items to the following week. For the last week before the party, I had it broken out by day. I ended up having plenty of time to finish everything up using this system.
  • Use pinterest to map out your ideas, then narrow it down to what makes sense.
  • Decide on a budget - I was shocked to learn how much certain things were (smash cakes were often quoted around $120 each), but having enough time to research allowed me to manage the budget more
  • Choose what you want to do yourself and what you want to pay to have done/made for you. Check in with this list as it gets closer as things on your to-do list may get moved to others as you run out of time. For me, there were certain things I spent a lot of time on that I could have paid to have done, but learned how to do them myself which I looked at as an investment. Other things I knew I could have attempted, but it wasn't worth the time

General party-planning:
  • Call around/get multiple quotes but decide where you want to spend your money. I found a small SF-based party rental company that was about half the price of Classic Party Rentals. After much debate, I settled on a cheaper one-woman operation for the smash cakes and cupcakes, and am glad I did. I didn't skimp on the photographer and the photos were totally worth it.
  • Party-inspiration sites: Hostess with the Mostess, Catch my Party, Kara's Party Ideas, Pinterest
  • Unique and affordable party decor: Save on Crafts (though shipping is oddly expensive)
  • Hire help! I hired a taskrabbit from 9am-3pm to help set up and take everything down, as well as pour drinks and keep food replenished. So worth it!
Lessons Learned:
  • Outdoor parties are really tough. This isn't exactly news and we knew April (or really any day in SF) could be hit-or-miss, and while we were so grateful it didn't rain that day (there were points the few days before where Saturday was listed at a 50% chance of rain...), it was unseasonably cold and VERY windy.
  • If you're having your event somewhere other than your home (where you potentially have endless time beforehand to set up), leave more time than you think it will take to set everything up. We were down to the wire, mostly because we had to set things up multiple times because the wind kept knocking everything over. 
  • Rethink how many decorations you're having, especially if the party is outside. Much of what I spent time on prepping and setting up, was lost in the wind.
  • Know that in most cases, you'll be the only one noticing all the little details. In some ways this is good, but following up on the last bullet, don't get sucked in to all the little things as most are too busy to notice.  
  • Do an online invite. I wouldn't trade my paper invitations for anything, I was in love with them, but realistically, they're not very effective in garnering RSVPs. I did 'regrets only' and I would say 1/4 to 1/3 of people did not RSVP but also didn't show up. Obviously I was bummed not to see these people, but you also end up spending more on food, alcohol, dessert, table rentals, etc., etc., when you're expecting a larger group than actually show up.
  • If you're having a photographer, even if you're so busy with the party, take 5 minutes to let them know who to get photos of and any specific shots to get and yes, make sure to get in some photos! Mine did an awesome job, despite little input from me. I'm glad I emailed her my ideas in advance, but I feel like I could've been more present for the 'photo shoot' before the guests arrived.
  • Catering is the way to go! We got food from La Boulange and it was a hit. Looked elegant and fit with the theme, tasted great and was easy to finish prepping/set out. Well-priced for what you get.
  • Be very clear about what you're expecting from others. I actually think I did well on this - Dave had 3 jobs, my mom knew what she was responsible for, etc.
  • Especially if you have little kids (and twins!), plan on having several people in charge of them. We were lucky and had Dave's mom, my mom and our nanny, who while none were 'on duty', I knew between the three of them, Dave, and other guests who wanted to play with them, they were in good hands. I found myself dealing with a lot of the party stuff so it was nice not to be worrying about them.
After the party was over, I was just wishing I could do a do-over. I had such a vision for the event and a good chunk of it didn't turn out quite as I had hoped because the wind was blowing everything away. This had a snowball effect and had me preoccupied for the first half of the party, just trying to keep stuff from blowing away, that I felt rushed to see everyone, spend time with the boys and just enjoy the day. Though I'm bummed I didn't get to display all my hard-work and fun ideas (I really enjoyed putting everything together and hadn't been that excited for anything in a long time!), Dave put things in perspective and reminded me three things that were also out of our control and could've changed the outcome of the day greatly:
1. The boys were in the BEST mood. They had a blast, were so happy and had so much fun playing with all their little friends. You never know what you're going to get (especially since William had a minor breakdown that morning), but we couldn't have asked for better moods.
2. They LOVED the smash cakes and the whole thing was just classic.
3. The bathtub I borrowed from my photographer friend was the cutest.thing.ever.

And a bonus, it was so much fun to look through all the photographs. In a way, it was just like a wedding day -- always goes by way too fast and there's no way to take it all in, talk to everyone, capture the moments. But the photos highlighted a lot of the little things, the interactions between people and best of all, the joy of the two little princes on their first birthday. So it was all worth it :)

More photos... way too hard to narrow it down so including WAY more than Dave would think appropriate for a blog post.


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