We had four days to plan Ella Grace’s birthday. I may have questioned my sanity at some point, but like any good party, it turned out to be chaos, laughter and fun, but mostly, it was a whole lot of love.
How did we do it? Read on and find out!
All this would not have been possible without our genius move to hire a planner. It’s a luxury but it was one of the best decisions we made. Not only was she my hands and feet the days leading up to the party, but the most precious gift she gave to us as a family was taking care of everything so I could be a mum, a wife, a friend, and just really enjoy the party.
I gave the team directions on what I wanted (which, when you’re a child and family developmental specialist is A LOT and very specific!) and they were able to make it come to life for me….with a smile!!
As a mama, the biggest gift I could have given Ella Grace for her birthday was just to be present. Did I need a planner? No. Was I incredibly grateful for one? Absolutely.
The theme of the party (unicorn-ice cream-spa-pool) was the ultimate party of everything Ella Grace loves, but more so they were things that she could participate in with her allergies and limitations while still being age-appropriate.
Ella Grace is obsessed with anything sensory and one of our very favorite things to do together is making slime. A couple bottles of glue, a whole lot of glitter, some baking soda and contact lens solution and voilà, the kids had a wild time making and playing with slime!
To keep it safe for all the other children, I hunted down some non-toxic, water-based, quick-dry children’s nail polish. The brand we bought is called Sati but Nailmatic is also recommended. I liked Sati because you don’t need to use any nail polish remover, just soak and peel off – or in our case it came off with all the swimming.
UNICORN BATH SOAK MAKING
I thought it would be fun for the kids to make a bath bomb for themselves and for their mamas but to accommodate allergic kids I had to tweak the idea a little to eliminate the chemicals and colouring so it became a bath soak instead.
I bought little tea bags from Daiso and everything else from the supermarket. The party planner’s team made pretty labels for the ingredients and the uses. The options for the bath soak packets included things like organic oats (instant is better than rolled for a bath), Epsom salt, pink Himalayan rock salt, lavender, chamomile and peppermint. You can shop for food-grade organic dried flowers in the tea section! Depending on the age of the child and how much they stuff in, you can staple it shut to keep it secure during transport and use.
The little ones had a wild time scooping them up and making their own concoctions to take home! For inspiration, you can check this link.
Our water baby really wanted a pool party so to make it extra fun and to keep it in theme, we rented giant floats – unicorns, flamingo and a Pegasus. It was as colourful as it was entertaining and some of our guests were in the pool from start to finish with the exception of cake time!
For the younger ones or those that didn’t feel like going into the big pool, we had a bunch of different splash paddle pools blown up and filled up with cups, balls, flowers, etc. Some even had mini slides and water jets!
I want to also note that we hired a lifeguard exclusively for the party. Accidents happen so fast and it is so easy to lose track of little crazy people high on sugar and fun. Remember also that drowning is silent and in a big party, you might not notice immediately. I wanted someone’s exclusive job at the party to just be in charge of keeping everyone safe in the water and to only have eyes on the pool – and if anything happened, that they were professionally trained and knew what to do in an emergency. It is depressing to talk about but so so very important and definitely something to think about if you’re having a pool party.
BALLOON ART AND BUBBLES
We had the incredible team from Supa Dupa Circus come and make the kids awesome balloon art. They didn’t disappoint with creations like Thomas the train, dinosaurs, fairy wings, jet packs, etc. I hear they can also make amazing princesses and lion dance heads – too bad no one requested them! They also provided the much loved and much requested bubble station.
I can be really particular about the food! I wanted it to be fresh, nutritious, healthy-ish and went with a caterer that offered a signature fruit platter.
Not only was there no processed junk but it was colorful and awesome with vegan and nut-free options too. They even asked what the theme of our party was going to be and with no direction at all, matched our décor with beautiful food styling and personalised food tags and menu!
The food we chose suited adults and kids alike: fajita wraps, oven baked corn on the cob, baby nasi lemak cups, nutless pesto, chicken wings and a crudité bar with veggie sticks.
We also had treats from SquEEEze Me Baby (check the sidebar for an offer to try them out) and the Inside Scoop, who set up a little booth featuring Ella Grace’s favourite Unicorn ice cream. Not only did they bring ice cream balloons but they also custom-made our batch to be less sweet for the little ones!
We opted not to have a dessert table but just did a small cake and small cupcakes in two flavors instead. Bite-sized for little mouths and because it beats trying to cut cake for 150 – plus this way, all the little ones got their own little unicorn topping which we all know is very, very important!
A little mama tip, when you set up your cake area, make sure to include a little place for your toddler to stand or sit during the singing. If your little one loves their personal space, you can use part of your décor to build this in for the birthday child so they won’t feel overwhelmed as everyone gathers.
Ps. If you’re looking for cake toppers for any occasion, we have worked with Aku dan Kraf three years in a row and they are amazing! They can customize the design and really deliver in terms of service, quality, and awesomeness! Bonus? They are reusable!
When I asked Ella Grace what she would like to do, she surprised me with “lots of friends come to Ella Grace house sing Happy Birthday!”
Logistically though, this was a bit of a nightmare. Between playgroups, church, school and our friends, Ella Grace had an insane guest list. Could we fit everyone? Who do we invite?
In the end, we went back to the heart of the party and asked Ella Grace who she wanted at the party. What this did was really narrow it down to a party for her with her friends and people she really knew and loved and loved her back. While we had 50 kids and their parents, it still felt intimate and fun. She had an absolute blast and still talks about it to this day.
I know a lot of times there’s a lot of delicate politics when deciding on a guest list, but for our little introvert extrovert, having people she was familiar with meant that even though our guest list topped at about 150 people, she danced, played and splashed and soaked it all up.
We toyed with the idea of having it at a hotel, it would be so much easier but it also would have meant a huge additional cost as well as time. After we decided to have the party at home, we made some additional rentals like canopies, seating, air coolers, extra help for that day and additional cleaners to come the day before and after. I also made sure that the pool guy and gardeners came that week!
Having it at home was a lot more relaxed for everyone as set-up and take-down happened over a few days instead of intensely in a few hours and we didn’t have to worry if we forgot to bring anything or rush anywhere!
I am not super green by any means, I love fast, easy and cheap! But I want to show you how just making a few small mindful changes you could make a difference. There was so much more we could have done and will try to the next time, but little steps, little drops in the ocean, we can do this, mamas.
1. No straws
Ella Grace is already vigilant about only using reusable straws or no straw at all. Imagine 150 people having at least 2-3 drinks with a fresh cup and straw each time. That’s 450 straws in 2 hours!
2. Biodegradable plates
The other thing we worked with our incredibly accommodating (and patient!) caterer was having biodegradable plates. It costs an additional RM10 for glass plates, RM6 for melamine, and RM5 for biodegradable plates made from palm leaves but that were sturdy enough.
3. Biodegradable balloons
I had absolutely no clue this was a thing until I mentioned to our balloon team that we were trying to cut down on our eco footprint and they told me that their balloons were biodegradable! We still tried to use as much natural décor as we could trading flowers for single-use ware and giant beautiful helium and regular balloon arches.
4. Reusable favours
Instead of disposable loot bags, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and support a local social enterprise. I also splurged a little bit more and got good quality reusable containers to put their slime in to take home that they can wash out and use again for snacks etc.
5. Single-use plastics
We had a couple of individual servings at the party. Ideally, it’s best to serve family-style buffet with reusable plates but some we just couldn’t avoid. What we did instead (remember, every little bit counts!) was have them come back and refill their cups if they wanted more so we had less wastage. Afterwards they got washed and saved to be used again for various things like to organize, water play, sand play, etc. instead of just throwing them away. We also paid a little extra to make the cake topper reusable so we can wash and reuse it for every birthday this year regardless if your name was Ella Grace or not. ?
6. Rent, don’t buy
We tried our best to rent whatever we could and reuse or repurpose instead of buying new.
Instead of boxed gifts, we asked for experience gifts. “No presents, just your presence” was how we phrased it. Whether it was just coming to the party and celebrating with us or making a date to have lunch together or a play, I knew that for the little girl that has so much, a gift of time and experience would mean so much. What I wasn’t expecting was how incredibly creative and awesome everyone got with their gifts, drawing out vouchers and, oh my heart the little scribbles and homemade cards were the very very best. Not to mention, less plastic, less waste, less wrapping and bows and bags but still so so rewarding!
I admit, I didn’t go eco-friendly on these because I wanted something tangible a little different this year so we worked with the Batik Boutique, one of our favourite social enterprises that empowers mamas to provide for their families. They made most adorable bags that the little ones used to take home their slime, bath soaks, and balloons from the activity stations. We also had super fun protective UV sun hats for the little ones from Cheekaaboo that went well with the pool theme.
One of my favourite parts was sitting down to read all the ad-lib cards after. I love ad-lib cards and it’s been a tradition for us to have some at every birthday for guests to fill out. I love that they capture and save such a precious moment in time for her, of who she was at this age or of who was there and what they hoped for her.
We also always hire a photographer because I cannot tell you how special it is to be able to save all these memories for us and for her.
I loved Ella Grace’s excitement for the party and it was an honor and privilege to be able to celebrate her. That’s what I want you to remember most of all: you can plan and plan and plan, and like motherhood, you can make so many mistakes but in the eyes of your little one, you are super mama.
You got this, mama!
Planner: Pretty Little Things
Photographer: Roshambo – All photos in this post are by Roshambo.
Catering: Brickhouse // Squeeeze Me Baby // Inside Scoop
Cake: Delectable by Su
Cake Topper: Akudankraf
Favors: Batik Boutique // Cheekaaboo
Nail polish: Sati
Entertainment: Supa Dupa Circus
Outfit : Mabel + Honey // Cat & Jack // Disney
Unicorn headband + bow : The Bling Fairy
Racheal Kwacz is a Child & Family Development Specialist by trade but her favorite job in the entire world is being mama to the most curious, fiercely independent, joyful little THREE-year-old foodie who she hones most of her parenting workshops with. Follow their adventures on FB (@rachealkwaczworkshops) and Instagram (@rachealkwacz)!