What could I possibly love more than birthdays? It’s planning birthday parties!
While the event-planner-creative part of me wanted to go big for Evie’s first birthday, especially since Korean families also celebrate the traditional 돌 “Dohl” on the baby’s first birthday, this time I’m purposely choosing to scale it down to a small and intimate family celebration. Experience in my kids’ parties has taught me that babies have a strong “stranger danger” instinct that can make them very uncomfortable at huge celebrations with lots of pomp and circumstance, much in spite of a loving parent’s good intentions. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that this is going to be simple – anyone who knows me well also knows that it’s pretty much impossible for me not to throw a fun event. I’m still weaving in lots of details (my favorite and signature way to show love) but in a smaller, more DIY way. This year I also have the additional challenge of working with an extremely small budget as we are currently not spending while Brendon is between jobs. Still I’m hopeful this will turn out to be the thoughtful, decorated and overall peaceful, beautiful celebration of our baby girl that I can envision in my mind.
When I begin gathering ideas for a party, I like to collect inspiration and ideas on a Pinterest board. Below you will find the one I prepared for Evie. I go over my plan in more detail below so keep reading if you’re interested!
For the theme for this party I’m going with a simple soft florals and Dohl celebration or 돌잔치”doljanchi” which is a Korean tradition where close family and friends celebrate the first birthday of a baby. There should be lots of sharing of food and best wishes for long life and fortune for the baby.
The ritual of the doljabi is the highlight of a Korean first birthday party. The baby is placed in front of various items and encouraged to choose one. It is thought that the item the baby chooses predicts his or her future profession.
This should be fairly straightforward once we decide on the few objects. I plan on getting my older two involved in helping me with this.
Another part of the tradition is that the baby dresses in a hanbok, a traditional Korean dress for semi-formal and formal events such as festivals, celebrations, and ceremonies. We are borrowing one from my sister-in-law which is special as it’s the same one Audrey and their cousin Emily wore for their dohljanchi.
As part of the dohlsang (the table or altar as it was long ago set up for the gods), these towers are like glorified banners. They usually spell “First Birthday”, the child’s name, and in recent times, the baby’s Chinese zodiac animal is used. There are some really cute ones you can purchase on Etsy. Alternatively there are several DIY tutorials online as well. I decided to make mini versions of them with empty rolled wafer cookie tins (a great excuse to buy them!).
Rice cakes as food and decoration are a big part of the doljanchi. My mom is ordering a tteok cake for Evie as she did for Audrey and they are beautiful as they are delicious.
I’m a sucker for garlands. I feel like they add so much in setting a space apart. I have a few eucalyptus garlands (mine are from Hearth and Hand with Magnolia from Target) that I’ll be using with a bamboo room divider as a simple backdrop, and along the dining room table.
Balloons are always fun. I plan to reuse a gold foil 42″ mylar balloon of the number 1 from our pregnancy announcement photoshoot back in 2017. I consider these balloons good investments as they are easy to deflate and inflate with a long straw and therefore highly reusable. Plus you can find them readily these days.
I’m also considering jumbo statement balloons (think 36″) like these for pictures because I absolutely adore these photos!
Aren’t these beautiful? I love that you can use them as decor long after the party is over. My sister made something like this for her friend’s wedding. Naturally when I saw these cardboard letters on sale at Target, I had to grab them. I love a good craft!
There’s nothing that really pulls all the decor together like fresh flowers. They add softness and color. I like to pick up a few bouquets in the color scheme and arrange them in an array of vases.
Hand Lettered & Paper Products
From personalized name cards, signs, paper products that contribute to the decor, paper and lettered signs go a long way. I’m designing an “about me” poster highlighting Evie’s milestones which I’ll get printed and frame. I’m also printing photos from every month, which I will display pinned to a string along a frame or something creative.
We’re so lucky to have my mom who volunteered to cook a traditional birthday meal for us!
For sure on the menu are:
Miyeok-gook (미역국) – Seaweed soup symbolizing a healthy life and also a nod to the first meal new mothers enjoy after giving birth.
Japchae (잡채)- Korean glass noodle dish which symbolize a long life (just as the noodles are long).
Korean BBQ- because this is a party after all!
That pretty much covers everything but the venue. Our apartment is too small to host any gatherings more than just a few guests so the party will be at my parents. It works out well as my mom is cooking. I have a lot of work ahead of me to finish a few of these DIY projects but I’m confident everything will turn out. I think the most important thing to remember, however, is to be present the day of the party with a smile on your face and gratitude in your heart.