Celebrating life's big milestones during a pandemic is rough. A few months into this whole situation, I realized that Alice's first birthday celebration would look a little different than her sisters, which we threw just three years earlier. No big group of friends, family and neighbors packed into our little house... no finger foods, and definitely no bear hugs and baby kisses.
So I pivoted. And decided to throw a small patio party with the grandparents and a handful of cousins. But then.... 2020 gave us something worse than a stay-at-home order. Our whole family came down with Covid-19 just ONE WEEK before Alice's big day. So instead, she got a cake and some streamers on her special day... served from parents in their pajamas, who really wanted to be in bed.
If you know me... you know I couldn't let this big milestone pass us by without a proper celebration! So I sent out some emails, updated my cupcake pick-up date and moved the *whole* celebration online. The day was still so perfect -- Alice (and big sister Ava) had a blast eating all the sugar and seeing their friends -- and I felt all warm and fuzzy hearing our favorite people sing an off-key and slightly delayed version of Happy Birthday, from two live-streaming laptops!
So now that we've done it... here are my tips for throwing an awesomely festive party, during a pandemic!
1) Send out real deal invitations (digital or hard-copy). This sets the tone for a real party -- rather than a boring email with the information. Plus, it's a nice memento to print the invite for the baby book!
2) Decorate to the nines! It's not a real party without a cute theme and some gorgeous party decor! Alice's theme was "Alice in ONEderland" (how could I not??) so I went all-out with banners, a dessert table-scape, flowers in tea pots (a silver heirloom set from my great grandma... I placed small glass vases inside to keep the silver clean and in tact) and an AMAZINGGGG balloon arch from SYS Balloon Design.
This arch totalllly stole the show. Nancy from SYS is an artist when it comes to her balloon creations. I explained my vision and colors, and that same night she was already sending me sample playing card and toad stool shaped balloons. When she arrived to do her install the night before, I was absolutely blown away with what she came up with!! It was everything I had imagined and more, and truly made our modest front patio look SO SO magical. It also made all the neighbor kids excited to come by, see what all the fuss was about, and of course grab a cupcake to-go! I'm listing Nancy's contact info at the bottom of this post - so if you live in So Cal, you can save it for your next party.
3) Take professional pictures! Pandemic or not, I knew that I wanted to do a cake smash photoshoot with Alice, plus some family pictures from afar. Candice from Candice Swanson Photography is an OC photographer I've followed for some time. She is the QUEEN of newborn/baby photography, so I knew she was my girl for this socially-distanced session. Candice came first thing in the morning to do a little session outside of our house. I set up two backdrops for the cake pictures and dressed the girls up in Alice in Wonderland-esq dresses (think Alice and the Cheshire Cat) for our family shots.
They came out SO NICELY and I am so grateful I will have these pictures to remember this unconventional but super special occasion.
4) See friends and family from the computer screen. We sent out two separate Zoom links and streamed the party from two different laptops - pointed right at the birthday girl. I split it up so that it wouldn't get too chaotic with so many people on one screen. I also grouped the families together with people they knew so they could chat amugst themselves and not feel awkward when they didn't know the weird guy in the top right corner having a 10 minute conversation with Grannie.
5) See friends from the sidewalk. Whether its a wagon parade or a drive through town waving to friends on their lawns, it's really nice to see some familiar smiling faces on these special days. We invited a handful of our neighbor friends and the girls' nanny to walk by the patio to say hello and pick up a party favor after the Zoom party ended. It was so nice to visit and give air hugs/kisses... social distancing style.
6) Keep it short! No one wants to sit on their computer for more than 30 minutes making small talk. So we kept the time to 30 minutes. Just enough time to say hello, sing happy birthday and watch the baby get covered in cake.
So that's it! No matter your level of comfort, party size, or venue (digital or otherwise), these quarantine birthdays can feel strange... the traditions we've grown so accustomed to have been turned upside down and we're left to adapt, adjust, and make the memories just as special for our kids and the people we love.
S O U R C E S
SYS Balloon Design - Website | firstname.lastname@example.org
Candice Swanson Photography - Website | email@example.com
Birthday Crown - Etsy
ONE banner - Etsy
Invitation and Time Capsupe - Etsy
Alice in Wonderland Dress - Etsy