Throw your own kids' birthday party

First birthday parties at home don’t have to be stressful


First birthday parties at home don’t have to be stressful or hard on the pocket. Dubai mum, Sophie McClean, tells us about her daughter’s party, the vision she had in mind and why she’d do it all over again

On hosting at home
I wanted to host Lilly’s first birthday myself and not book a venue as I wanted to create a warm, traditional environment for the party. I wanted home comforts around me and a relaxing environment so everyone could sit back and take it easy. The other reason of course, was the cost aspect. Everywhere is so expensive right now and for a first birthday I thought it was better to keep things simple. I had the party at my friend’s villa which is in the same estate we live in, as they have a lovely landscaped garden which reminded me of home. We had originally planned to have the party in the garden but naturally, it ended up being way too hot for the little people so we kept it inside. The party was a joint effort with my friend Louise and her son Stanley who had also turned one a few days earlier. We divided the food and the arrangements between us, which seemed like a great way to share the load but somehow we still ended up with so much to do! My husband was on hand to help and my parents flew in from England for the occasion, which was amazing, so we had plenty of people to help out. When I was younger I remember going to amazing parties where they had egg sandwiches and pineapple and cheese on sticks to eat, and I was surrounded by all my friends and family. I wanted people ringing the door bell like they would have at home, piling into the porch, milling around in the kitchen and sitting on the sofa enjoying fizzy pop and sandwiches.

On the food and drink
The fizzy pop and sandwiches, amongst all the other food and people feeling comfortable, was my main priority. I wanted traditional party food and a comfortable, safe environment as we had over 30 people attend and 95% of them had children. There was a good mix of people there, both old and new friends and everyone seemed to get along, which was great. In the end we went for egg mayo sandwiches, tuna mayo and tomato sandwiches, ham sandwiches, cheese and tomato sandwiches as well as various crisps, cheese and pineapple on sticks, cupcakes, cookies, and lots of cake. We offered everyone water and soft drinks and a few of the parents brought something a little stronger for themselves! As at most kids parties, the cakes ended up being the main feature. I shopped around and emailed quite a few people who had been recommended to me by friends and in the end, I found a lady from The Cake Heaven, who I would really recommend. I sent her a picture of the cake I wanted and she copied it exactly. It was so perfect I nearly didn’t want to eat it, but when I eventually did, it was delicious.

On the best bits
The best bit for me was seeing everyone together and watching the children playing nicely and exploring. To be honest, most of our friends just sat watching the kids - as it was better than any TV show! In the end, the party was exactly what I had planned. It was so lovely to see all my friends together and Lilly enjoyed herself as well. Initially, I thought she might be a little overwhelmed with everyone making a fuss of her but she absolutely loved it. Even the after party clean up was enjoyable, but that’s mostly down to my mum who did most of it. Thanks mum!

On doing it again
If anyone asks me for advice on whether they should have their own party at home I would say just go for it. It doesn’t have to cost a lot and the stress and workload involved can be reduced by just writing a list of everything you have to do. I know a lot of people argue that it’s pointless to hold a first birthday party when the child will never remember but it’s not just about the kids, it’s about the parents too. It’s a chance for them to look back on the first year of parenthood and congratulate themselves on getting this far. That’s what we did anyway! It can be very hard living out here without family and friends from home to fall back on so it’s important to mark momentous occasions with the friends you do have here. I would absolutely do it again as it was so enjoyable. Roll on birthday number two!

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