When our daughter turned 1, we wanted to celebrate not only her first year, but all the friends and family who'd supported us along the way. It was important to us to have a party theme that was flexible enough for both adult and kiddie friends to enjoy. We selected our theme based on all of the first-year adventures we had with Roo--She visited seven different countries and both US coasts before her first birthday! She's our adventurous little Globe-Trotter, so the theme fit her perfectly.
We are also very fortunate to have a dear friend who is a wonderful photographer: Justin Lee from justinleephotography.com really captured the event perfectly.
Once we settled on our theme, I was inspired by the colors and textures of globes and maps. My palette was predominantly the pinks, yellows, and light blues and greens used in road maps. All the food and beverages were inspired by the places Rooney visited: Charleston Fried Chicken, Hawaiian Chicken Skewers, French Macaroons, Swiss Fondue, German Cheeses and Sausages, California-style sushi, etc
Clean but eclectic with lots of subtle personal touches.
I purchased a dozen old road maps and one atlas from various eBay retailers and used them to create many of the party details. The maps became paper-airplane streamers, heart-shaped cupcake toppers, gift bags, plate-elevators, and tabletop confetti. I learned a lot about origami for this birthday party!
I put my Amazon Prime membership to good use in order to complete the gift bags. I bought globe-shaped chocolates, yellow and blue candy sticks, small "happy birthday" containers of bubbles, and two dozen inflatable globes from various Amazon retailers. The inflatable globes were wonderful because they doubled (tripled?) as party favors, decor, AND entertainment. We inflated the globes and scattered them throughout the living room with a sign that read "Roo's Global Dance Fest" (a nod to the annual music festival that takes place at Red Rocks Amphitheater). Kids and parents both loved dancing trough the bouncy globes! Each gift bag also contained a small container of bubbles and the message, "Thank you for being part of Rooney's journey!" Guests were invited to fill the baggies with the candies and reminded to take a globe before they left.
The other travel-inspired decorations were luggage tags, plane-ticket invitations from Zazzle.com, and old suitcases of various shapes, colors and sizes. I used the luggage tags as place cards with food descriptions and for the gift bag messages. I decorated the edge of each tag with bold colored travel stamps so they looked consistent and on-theme. The hard-side suitcases were a challenge to find because, as I learned, they are highly collectable and thus quite expensive. I didn't want to break my party budget, so I scoured local second-hand and antiques shops for affordable options. I managed to find a few good ones on Craigslist.org and eBay, too.
The "Passport Photos" were a big hit with guests of all ages. I turned my mudroom into the photo booth by hanging four yards of map-inspired material purchased at JoAnne Fabrics above a bench, and I provided various fun props (hats, feather boas, etc) which we had on hand from previous theme parties. Guests were invited to snap two mini instant photos with a FujiFilm Instax Mini camera: One to hang on a clothesline for others to appreciate, and one to take home. I bought both the camera and the film from Amazon, and this little gadget will get LOTS of use for future parties--I recommend the investment!
I made the "two-bite" strawberry cupcakes and Rooney's smash cake from a delicious recipe I found of Pinterest.com. This was my first attempt at creating rose-patterned frosting, and it turned out pretty well (as long as guests didn't look to closely!) The macaroons were amazing--they were made by a Boulder bakery called Tea and Cakes. The swiss fondue was also homemade, but I ordered the rest of the food from the Pearl Street Whole Foods catering department. They were wonderful!
My favorite items were the paper-airplane streamers and the gift bags, simply because I put a lot of effort and love into them, and I was very pleased with how they turned out. I also loved the photo booth because of the amazing pictures we have from it. We love the shots so much that we just left the clothesline of photos hanging in our mudroom to enjoy all year.
My advice when doing a lot of DIY for a party is to start early and do a little bit at a time. I made all my map decorations (bags, streamers, etc.) at night after Rooney was in bed while my husband and I watched movies. I started collecting all the party supplies six weeks in advance so I'd have everything I needed to avoid last minute stress and expense.
Also, I learned this tip from my super-organized big sister: At least one night before any party, take out all party platters and dishes, then set them up and label them for every food item. That way, day-of set up is fast and easy (and if you have helpful friends or family, the dishes are labeled so they know exactly what goes where.)