• Jenny

Sweet Willow Turned One: Pink & Gold First Birthday Party with a Sweet Twist

This post originally appeared on our old blog, Born to be a Bride.

It came up out of nowhere, or did it? My first baby’s first birthday. A party I started planning in my head when she was around 8 weeks old and first began to threaten growing out of her newborn clothes. A party for a princess who was prayed for, and who came to be. I wanted no detail overlooked — but I also wanted it to feel like what it was. A kid’s party. A baby’s party. A homey party, in the place where we now live.


If I had a big old mansion in the suburbs with tons of light streaming in through the windows, and could afford to spread out silk tablecloths and not worry about the potential stains from candy and wine. If I wasn’t running two businesses while simultaneously taking care of a growing baby whose needs have only grown. If, if, if… if I could go back and do it any other way I wouldn’t, I realize.


We threw our beautiful baby girl a grand old party right at the end of the hall. Our apartment is not a mansion in the suburbs and the lighting required some adjustments. The tablecloths were plastic because that is normal and fine and they went in the trash when it was over because I was tired and it was time to relax. I am fortunate to be running my businesses and having a good season — one in which I can help with my share of the bills while staying home to be there for those moments with her that I do not want to miss. So, the party was perfect. It was dreamy and special and elegant and most importantly, it was filled with love. Here are the sweet details:

D E C O R  We included so many handmade elements in the decorating. I painted and adorned the picture frames holding photos of Willow throughout the space. I also procured pink clothespins to string up a Willow-by-the-month banner above the food table. We reused the vessels that adorned the candy display table at our wedding (minus two that Willow broke this summer — those had to be replaced) and filled them with an assortment of pink, gold, and white candy (I may or may not be snacking on a leftover handful this moment).


Other key elements were big balloons and paper tassel banners from Glam Fete; O-N-E and 1 numeral Mylar balloons by Studio Pep; and a custom chalkboard from Once Upon a Stencil. In lieu of a guest book, we ordered a gorgeous paper print from Sweetie & Roo and asked partygoers to each put one word in a balloon for Willow. I will then affix them all and get it framed to hang in her room.

F O O D We centered the food on the party girl’s preferences, but in an elevated way.  My dad made baba ganoush and my mom supplied platters of Italian favorites from Long Island. Rice balls, chicken fingers (gluten-free and non), a large antipasto spread, and fresh pizzas were among the popular items. But my focus was on dessert. In addition to the candy table, we got a stacked strawberry shortcake for Miss Willow to smash. And man did she ever. Of course, the real cake was infinitely more special and beautiful.


When Josh and I were living in Dallas, I stumbled upon an incredible place in Uptown called Tu-Lu’s gluten-free bakery. This was a place I could swing by for a treat, whether it was a piece of quiche or a cupcake. Something special and tasty that I could feel comfortable eating because it was made in a kitchen that was safe for me — absolutely gluten-free. At our wedding, we “split” the cake so the top layer would be gluten-free and the rest not. I ended up never getting to taste my wedding cake because the top layer was accidentally shuttled off to be frozen for us and wound up in the wrong car or whatever. So, I was adamant about being able to taste — no, enjoy — my daughter’s first birthday cake.


Cake is a big deal. Sweets are a big deal. To me, they are special things reserved for special days, and I wanted the big cake that the whole party enjoyed to be one that I could safely enjoy alongside them. Call me selfish, but I wanted the whole thing to be gluten-free. I wanted to celebrated a year of being this one’s mama with a big old piece of real birthday cake, not some dry, token treat I could have on the side. So! When I found out that Tu-Lu’s has a New York location (what rock have I been living under?) I decided that was the way to go.


We selected their classic vanilla birthday cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and a colorful border of sprinkles. It was inscribed with “Happy Birthday Sweet Willow.” The texture of the cake was absolutely perfect — moist, soft yet not mushy, with a perfect balance of flavor. And the frosting. Oh, my heavens. Absolutely divine. It’s funny being Celiac because I do remember certain flavors and textures from before I was diagnosed at 15. Perfect birthday cake is one of them, and I haven’t had it since then… until now.

The guests all loved the cake and some are still talking about it. We allow Willow to have some gluten here and there but try to keep her on my diet as much as possible. I’m so thrilled that we have a place where we can procure these incredible treats for her… and her well-deserving mama!


M O R E   T O   C O M E So, I was teased a bit about planning three outfits for Willow for the party, but my choice worked perfectly in the end. There was a natural flow that kept her comfortable and ensured she was happy and could get messy when necessary at the party. I will do a full post on her birthday wardrobe later in the week, as this one was dedicated to the sweet little details. Thank you to everyone, near and far, who helped make our little one’s first birthday a smashing success.

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