The Complete 1st Birthday Party Checklist

1st-birthday-party-checklist, first-birthday-party-checklist

This is the complete 1st birthday party checklist to planning a memorable and stress-free celebration for your little one’s first milestone. 

  • It covers essential aspects such as selecting a theme, scheduling, guest lists, entertainment, and photography. 
  • It provides detailed timelines and actionable steps for each planning phase, ensuring that you don’t overlook any detail. 
  • You will also discover valuable tips for customizing the party to suit your unique preferences, creating an unforgettable experience for both your child and your guests.
  • To start with you will find our clickable quick first birthday party checklist which you can use to keep track of your own party planning progress. 

Affiliate disclosure: As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.

Reflecting on the enchanting memories of our daughter’s very own 1st birthday celebration I understand that planning a first birthday party checklist can be both thrilling and a bit overwhelming.

And that’s why I am sharing my experiences with you, both as a parent planning parties for my own children and as a guide to other parents helping them create memorable celebrations for their young loved ones.

Let’s go!

1. Quick First Birthday Party Checklist

8 Weeks Before

  • Select the Party Theme
  • Pick a Date and Time
  • Set your Budget
  • Book the Party Venue (if not hosting at home)
  • Compile the Guest List
  • Choose your Invitations
  • Arrange for Entertainment (if required)
  • Arrange for a Photographer (if hiring one)

4 Weeks Before

  • Plan for Decorations
  • Plan the Party Menu or Place Orders for Any Catered Food
  • Order the Smash Cake (if not baking it yourself)
  • Decide on and Purchase Party Favors
  • Plan Entertainment (if you’re not hiring entertainers)
  • Send out Invitations

1 Week Before

  • Confirm RSVPs
  • Buy Non-Perishable Items for the Party
  • Double-Check Decor
  • Confirm Cake and Catered Food Orders (if you're not DIY)

3 to 4 Days Before

  • Decorate the Party Venue (with the exception of balloons)
  • Set Up Activity Stations and Games
  • Purchase Any Last-Minute Items
  • Confirm Entertainment Arrangements (if any)
  • Confirm Rental Space Booking (if any)
  • Confirm Photographer Booking (if hiring one)
  • Finalize the Party Schedule
  • Acquire Perishable Items for the Party
  • Ensure Camera Batteries Are Charged
  • Check Available Memory Card Space
  • Prepare a Playlist for the Party

Day of the Party

  • Collect Ordered Food and Cake
  • Arrive Early to the Party Venue
  • Prepare Food for the Party
  • Add Any Last-Minute Decorations (eg. balloons)
  • Greet your Guests
  • Stick to your Party Schedule
  • Serve Food
  • Capture Memories

After the Party

  • Send Thank-you Notes to Your Guests
  • Store your Decorations
  • Reflect and Improve

Now let’s explore in more detail the intricacies of creating an enchanting 1st birthday event filled with love, laughter, and everlasting memories!

2. Eight Weeks Before

1st-birthday-party-checklist, first-birthday-party-checklist

Select the Party Theme

The cornerstone of your first birthday party is the theme. Choose one that resonates with your little one’s budding interests or holds a special place in your heart.

Here are some popular themes to consider:

Cute Animals: Whether it’s adorable woodland creatures, playful farm animals, or lovable zoo animals, this theme is a perennial favorite.

Princess or Prince: Celebrate your little one’s royal status with a fairytale-themed party, complete with tiaras and crowns.

Under the Sea: Dive into an ocean adventure with a marine-themed party featuring colorful fish, mermaids, and seashells.

Jungle Safari: Embark on a safari adventure with cute jungle animals like lions, giraffes, and elephants.

Classic Storybooks: Bring beloved storybook characters to life with themes like Winnie the Pooh, Peter Rabbit, or Beatrix Potter.

Balloons and Rainbows: Create a whimsical and colorful atmosphere with a balloon and rainbow-themed party.

Travel and Adventure: Explore the world with a travel-themed party, featuring airplanes, maps, and globes.

Garden Party: Transform your space into a blooming garden filled with butterflies, flowers, and ladybugs.

Superhero Fun: Celebrate your little hero’s first year with a superhero-themed party, where everyone can don capes and masks.

Time Capsule: Consider a “Time Flies” or “One Year in a Flash” theme, where you reminisce about your baby’s first year.

Pick a Date and Time

Ensure the date and time you choose to align with your baby’s schedule, considering their nap times and mood swings. 

Do you know what time of the day is best for a first birthday party? Find out here.

What Time Of Day Is Best For A Kid’s Party?

What Time Of Day Is Best For A Kid’s Party?

If you’re planning a special event for your kid, you surely want it to be a success on all fronts. One thing you definitely want to get right is the time of day you throw the party.

Read more…

Set your Budget

Before diving into the details of your first birthday party, it’s essential to establish a budget. Determine how much you’re willing to spend on this celebration, as it will influence your choices throughout the planning process.

Book the Party Venue

Decide if you’ll host the party at home or a suitable venue, making sure it accommodates your guests and complements your theme. If you’re not hosting the 1st birthday party at home book the preferred venue now, at least eight weeks before.

Compile the Guest List

For a 1st birthday party, invite close family and friends who have been part of your baby’s life. Keep it intimate to create a cozy atmosphere and ensure the little one feels comfortable and loved.

Discover more on how you can create a party guest list in no time: Party Guest List: A Comprehensive How-To.

Party Guest List: A Comprehensive How-To

Party Guest List: A Comprehensive How-To

To create the perfect party guest list, consider the occasion, venue capacity, and your budget. Prioritize close friends and family, and aim for a diverse mix of guests. 

Read more…

Choose your Invitations

Design or buy adorable 1st birthday invitations, whether digitally or on paper. Get to know which wording is most suitable for your invitations in our guide: Best First Birthday Invitation Message.

Best First Birthday Invitation Message

Best First Birthday Invitation Message

One of the most crucial aspects of any celebration is the invitation message. Your first birthday invitation message sets the tone for the party and gets everyone excited for the big day.

Read more…

Arrange for Entertainment

The key consideration for a first birthday party is to select entertainment that is suitable for the age of the birthday child and the young guests attending. Keep in mind that one-year-olds have limited attention spans and may get easily overwhelmed, so simplicity is key.

Book a Photographer

It’s essential to book the photographer well in advance of the first birthday party date. Photographers, especially those in high demand, may have busy schedules, so securing their services early is advisable.

3. Four Weeks Before

1st-birthday-party-checklist, first-birthday-party-checklist

Plan for Decorations

Start sourcing or crafting decor pieces that seamlessly align with your chosen theme, creating an inviting ambiance.

Quick Tip: Basic decorations for a 1st birthday party typically include colorful balloons, a “Happy 1st Birthday” banner, a themed tablecloth, and highchair decorations. You can also add a cake smash backdrop and some age-appropriate toys to enhance the atmosphere.

For a baby girl’s first birthday, the decoration set below is adorable and for a baby boy, I think the one beneath it looks fantastic.

1st-birthday-party-checklist, first-birthday-party-checklist


1st-birthday-party-checklist, first-birthday-party-checklist


Plan the Party Menu or Place Orders for any Catered Food

When planning the menu for your baby’s first birthday party, it’s essential to consider both baby-friendly finger foods and options that will satisfy your adult guests.

Check out food suggestions that work for one-year-olds and just as well for accompanying adults at the Baby Center website.

Important: If you are opting for outside catering, place your order now, 4 weeks before.

Order the Smash Cake (if not baking it yourself)

Order or prepare to bake later on, a special smash cake designed to captivate your baby’s taste buds and create picture-perfect moments.

Decide on and Purchase Party Favors

Assemble delightful goodie bags filled with small, safe toys or soft books for the little ones to treasure.

1st-birthday-party-checklist, first-birthday-party-checklist

Plan Entertainment (if you’re not hiring entertainers)

Instead of hiring external performers, consider setting up interactive play areas. For example:

  • Ball Pits: Soft ball pits are safe and can provide hours of fun for young children.
1st-birthday-party-checklist, first-birthday-party-checklist
  • Baby-Friendly Games: Create simple games like stacking cups or soft block-building stations. Discover more games for a first birthday party at
  • Sensory Stations: Set up sensory play stations with textures like sand or playdough. Ensure that all materials are safe for babies.
1st-birthday-party-checklist, first-birthday-party-checklist

Send out the Invitations

By sending out invitations well in advance, you increase the likelihood that your guests will prioritize attending your event.

4. One Week Before

1st-birthday-party-checklist, first-birthday-party-checklist

Confirm RSVPs

Reach out to any guests who haven’t responded yet to ensure you have an accurate headcount.

Buy Non-Perishable Items for the Party

Make sure you have all the ingredients for your menu.

Confirm Cake and Catered Food Orders

Check all is okay with the caterer if you’re not baking and cooking yourself.

Double-check Decor

Confirm that all your decorations and supplies are in order, ready to transform your space into a wonderland.

5. Three To Four Days Before

1st-birthday-party-checklist, first-birthday-party-checklist

Decorate the Party Venue

Decorate the party space with love and attention to detail. Leave setting up of balloons for the day of the party. Check out why in our article: How Long Do Balloons Stay Inflated?

How Long Do Balloons Stay Inflated?

How Long Do Balloons Stay Inflated?

You can prepare most of your party decoration items from as much before as your schedule permits, especially if the celebration is going to be held indoors. There is one exception, however. Balloons.

Read more…

Set Up Activity Stations and Games

Ensure everything is set up for the little ones to have a blast.

Purchase Any Last-Minute Items

Burst into action and get any last-minute items you may need for the big day, ensuring that no detail is left to chance.

Confirm Bookings

  • Entertainment Arrangements (if any)
  • Rental Space Booking (if any)
  • Photographer Booking (if hiring one)

Finalize the Party Schedule

Wrap up the party schedule, ensuring that all activities and timing align with your plans for a smooth and enjoyable celebration. Here’s what a first birthday party schedule should look like: The Ultimate Birthday Party Schedule.

The Ultimate Birthday Party Schedule

The Ultimate Birthday Party Schedule

Organizing a birthday party is an exciting endeavor, and crafting a well-planned party schedule ensures that the celebration flows smoothly and everyone has a memorable time. 

Read more…

Acquire Perishable Items for the Party

These items typically include: 

  • Fresh produce
  • Dairy products
  • Meats
  • Seafood
  • Other items that require refrigeration or careful handling

Ensure Camera Batteries Are Charged

Charged camera batteries are crucial for capturing the special moments and memories of the party.

Pro Tip: Backup Batteries – In addition to ensuring that your primary camera batteries are charged, consider having backup batteries on hand.

Check Available Memory Card Space

Alongside charged batteries, ensure that you have sufficient space on your camera’s memory card(s) to store the photos and videos you plan to take. If necessary, clear space or have extra memory cards available.

Important: Before the party starts, it’s a good idea to test your camera to make sure it’s working correctly with the fully charged batteries. Take a few test shots to confirm that everything is functioning as expected.

Prepare a Playlist for the Party

Create a playlist that reflects the theme of the first birthday party, if there is one. For example, if the party has a specific theme like “Safari” or “Under the Sea,” include songs that align with that theme.

Pro Tip: Make sure your playlist covers the duration of the party. It’s better to have more songs than you think you’ll need to keep the music going.

Caution: Be mindful of the volume of the music, especially when young children are present. Keep it at a comfortable level that allows for conversation and doesn’t overwhelm sensitive ears.

6. The Day Of The Party

1st-birthday-party-checklist, first-birthday-party-checklist

Collect Ordered Food and Cake (if any)

When collecting the ordered items, it’s essential to verify that you received the correct food and cake orders, matching what you initially arranged with the vendors. Double-checking the order can prevent any last-minute surprises or mistakes.

Arrive Early to the Party Venue

Arrive at the chosen party venue well in advance of the scheduled start time of the party. The specific arrival time may vary depending on the complexity of your party setup, but it’s typically recommended to arrive at least 1 to 2 hours early.

Prepare Food for the Party

Start preparing the food items that can be made in advance and remain fresh and safe to eat for up to 5 hours before the party begins.

Add Any Last-Minute Decorations

Last-minute decorations, including balloons, are typically added shortly before the guests start to arrive or at a specific moment during the event when you want to create a particular visual impact.

Greet your Guests

Greet your guests with warmth and enthusiasm as they arrive, setting the stage for a day of shared joy.

Stick to your Party Schedule

Adhere to your party schedule with some adjustments as needed.

Serve Food

Serve the scrumptious food and drinks at designated times, keeping everyone well-fed and content.

Capture Memories

Be sure to capture all those heartwarming moments as your baby explores and enjoys the celebration. 

Pro Tip: If you’re not hiring a photographer, designate an adult to take photos for you.

7. After the Party

1st-birthday-party-checklist, first-birthday-party-checklist

Send Thank-you Notes

Send heartfelt thank-you notes to your guests, expressing your appreciation for their presence at this momentous occasion.

21 Kids Thank You Notes Following A Party

21 Kids Thank You Notes Following A Party

In order to encourage you on this journey of getting your kids to write thank you messages following a party, we are providing you with 21 suggestions you could easily get your kids to write in their post-party thank you cards.

Read more…

Store your Decorations

Store your cherished decorations carefully, knowing that they may light up future celebrations and serve as beautiful keepsakes.

Reflect and Improve

Take a moment to reflect on the party’s success, drawing from your wealth of experience to note any areas for improvement. Your insights will be invaluable for future birthdays.

happy-3rd-birthday, happy-third-birthday, happy-birthday-3

Final Thoughts About 1st Birthday Party Checklist

This first birthday party checklist included vital elements such as selecting themes, choosing a suitable venue, curating the guest list, crafting invitations, setting up decorations, and planning a menu with both baby and adult-friendly options, desserts, and beverages, all while prioritizing safety and age-appropriateness.

Now, it’s your turn to embark on this wonderful journey of creating a magical first birthday celebration for your little one. With our checklist as your trusted companion, you’ll be well-equipped to craft an event filled with love, laughter, and timeless memories. Let’s get started on making your baby’s first birthday truly unforgettable.

More About First Birthday Parties

5 Best Tips For Your Kid’s First Birthday Party

5 Best Tips For Your Kid’s First Birthday Party

Uncover practical solutions to the 5 questions every parent should ask if they want their baby’s first birthday party to be a complete success.

Read more…

Which Ages Are Important Milestone Birthdays For Kids?

Which Ages Are Important Milestone Birthdays For Kids?

For some parents, celebrating every one of their kids’ birthdays with a party may seem daunting or unnecessary. They would rather focus on milestone birthdays. But which ages are important milestone birthdays for kids?

Read more…

How To Celebrate A First Birthday Without A Party

How To Celebrate A First Birthday Without A Party

Whether it’s due to budget constraints, time limitations, or other personal reasons, there are plenty of creative and meaningful ways to celebrate a first birthday without a traditional party.

Read more…

Hi I'm Ann

Hi I'm Ann

Mom to three kids, I am the proud co-founder of Easy Kids' Parties. After a career in journalism and education, I diverted my skills to creating this website, with the aim of helping all those parents out there who wish to organize amazing and memorable parties for their kids but feel overwhelmed at the idea.  Discover more...

Legal Information

Easy Kids Parties is a participant in Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases. We also participate in other affiliate programs. Easy Kids Parties is compensated for referring business to these companies at no extra cost to you.