When it was time to plan Merritt’s first birthday, choosing the theme of the party was easy. My initial inspiration came from a shirt she has with a little deer on it. Combined with the fact that our nickname for her is Mer-Bear, and that we’d be having it in an outdoor setting at the lake, I immediately loved the idea of a woodland creatures theme. Since the invitation is the first impression that guests get, I spent a long time hunting down the perfect design.
I went back to Basic Invite because I had such a good experience with them creating these personalized thank you cards. After searching the whole site and not finding exactly what I had in mind, I used their option to upload my own design instead. I found the bear design on Etsy, tweaked the wording a little, and had them printed on the same velvet paper I used on our thank-yous. I was so happy with how they turned out! It set the stage for the entire party and was my jumping off point for the rest of my inspiration.
As for the tablescapes, I’m lucky that my mother-in-law practically owns a small shop’s worth of party hosting supplies! She had so many pieces that were perfect for the woodland theme, like tree bark platters and ceramic birds and bunny figurines. It really allowed us to embrace the theme without spending a ton of money on decor. We added touches like wildflower bouquets, bits of moss, and a cedar menu sign that Blake made from scrap pieces of wood we had. I also put a few Bambi Little Golden Books on an easel, and each of the kids at the party got to take one home.
We kept the beverages simple and refreshing with blueberry-mint and lemon-orange infused waters and iced tea. We used a collection of blue and clear glass mason jars and pink soda-lime drinking glasses for color and variety. For planning the menu, I had the idea to create a meal centered around all of Merritt’s favorite foods. We first listed out what those were, and then used them as the main ingredients for each dish. We started prepping and cooking two days in advance, but it was so worth the work to watch Merritt (and our family and friends) eat the food that we created and to know that she loved every bite. After all, it’s the only aspect of the party that she probably has an opinion on at this age! The final menu was: shredded chicken and avocado sliders, mashed sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, cowboy caviar dip, carrot cake, and banana chocolate chip bread.
After everyone ate, we laid some blankets in the shaded grass and opened up presents. It was so fun to watch Merritt discover and play with all her new toys! One of my favorite gifts was a little watermelon sweater that my best friend hand made. She knits the most adorable baby clothes, hats, booties, blankets, and even stuffed animals! She’s only done it for family and friends but will probably (hopefully) start selling them soon because they are seriously the cutest thing. Everybody who’s seen them raves about them!
After we finished opening presents, it was time for dessert. I initially considered making Merritt her own smash cake but decided to just give her a slice of the bigger cake instead. I did want to make it healthy for her, though, so I forewent the family recipe and found this healthy version carrot cake on Pinterest. It was so delicious and I got several requests for the recipe. I may just make this version from now on! The Greek yogurt made it so dense that the slice stayed in one piece when Merritt picked it up. She loved it and ate every bite! I also made this healthy version banana chocolate chip bread. It was just as popular with the crowd and everyone kept saying how they couldn’t believe both desserts were healthy.
After dessert, everyone mingled for a bit while the kids played in the water and ran around. We were so happy with how everything turned out! The setting was peaceful and perfect and we got to throw a party that was just for our little Bear. And though she won’t remember it, we know she experienced a fun day filled with love and special things, and our memories of it will last forever!
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