It all started with tiny hats. Well, that’s not entirely true. It actually started with tiny mustaches; the theme of our friend Kathryn’s daughter Evan’s 1st birthday party. Faux facial hair on nearly bald babies is hilarious and and let me tell you, an event focused on them is a winner! It was that day that my friend Noelle (whose son Quinn is 11 days younger than my Clover) and I became crafty competitive in our plans for what would be the joint party for our kids’ big 0-1. It was that day that we knew that tiny top hats, jauntily askew on both adults and babes alike, was our party-planning destiny.
As it so happened, Tim Burton’s Alice & Wonderland was set to hit theaters around the same time that our party was to take place so the natural, pop-culture-embracing progression of our theme was to become not just a tiny hat party but, a Tiny Hatter Party *insert jazz hand presentation*! And so it began, the preparations and execution of a ridiculously overboard baby party that our kids won’t likely remember…but we’ll never forget!
Here’s our recipe for making a Mad Hatter-inspired party, the absolute tops!
Come up with a unique card image that will set the scene for your party. Either draw one yourself like Noelle did, recruit a friend to do it for you, or collaborate with an artist. There are several on Etsy who will design something for a very reasonable price. We saved money (and a tree) by using our image to create an e-invite through Pingg.com.
The Craft Table
Make crafting part of the event. I’m a big fan of incorporating a handmade activity into parties (painting bibs was the craft du jour at our baby shower), especially for those that will include people of various ages and backgrounds. It not only acts as an ice-breaker but is also a great way to get guests to play along with your theme. Since the success of our vision required a certain level of costumes–as any great party does–we thought that top hat decorating stations were in order. We loaded a couple of tables up with tiny toppers (found at an online doll supply shop) that we’d hot-glued ahead of time onto plain headbands, a melange of ribbons, buttons & trims, scissors, and several bottles of Quick-Grab Tacky Glue that the folks at I Love to Create were kind enough to send us. Make sure to provide plenty of seating so people can craft comfortably and stick close to encourage those who have not yet crossed over to the DIY dark side!
Make your food thematic, rather than expensive. Since we were doling out the cash on very important things like baby Alice & Mad Hatter costumes from Basil & Buttons, we decided to be smart about the costs of food. We chose to have the party after lunch so that in lieu of a full meal, we could serve more snackie items. Fortunately, the whole tea party theme lends itself well to that plan. We offered finger sandwiches, several types of sweeties, chips & dips and white rabbit shaped crackers. We bought cupcakes but made them our own by creating card stock wrappers which we cut into shape using a borrowed Sizzix Big Shot. We topped them off with “Eat Me” signs made from die-cut, heavy-weight paper and painted toothpicks. Oh and of course, there had to be “Drink Me” tagged sippy cups for the kiddos’ juice!
Treat the birthday girl/boy to their own cake. Let’s be honest, when people come to a baby party they expect to see some messy cake eating. Make the main event even more magical by having a small cake (ours were only about 4″ in circumference) that’s especially for the kid(s)-of-honor. It’s fun to watch them rip into it without worrying that other guests are going to have to eat up the wreckage. These AMAZING hat cakes were a gift from our friends who hired Austin’s Cake, Please to create them for us. There are some great, mini-cake options at most grocery stores though that we would’ve gone with had these not been made for us.
TIP: While the kids are still too young to care about how many toys they get, don’t be afraid to tell guests who ask what to buy as gifts that contributing something meaningful like a special cake or other treat would be really appreciated!
Go mad. The great thing about a (tiny) Mad Hatter theme is that it calls for nonsensical design. It’s pretty easy to come up with ideas straight out of Lewis Carroll’s story but really, anything goes. We utilized our aforementioned food to set the partial scene and then went for what I like to call whimsical minimalist for the rest. I should stop here to say that there were many times we had to reign ourselves in from over-decorating. Not because it wouldn’t have been fantastic to erect an over-sized looking glass, hang garlands of pocket watches and fill vases with hand-painted roses but because, we all have our (financial) limits. We decided to instead go for just a few, eye-catching displays. I found tea cups at a thrift store for $1-$2 each. We used jewelry chord to hang them from one of the backyard trees; we filled in the space on that tree with turquoise tissue paper flowers. On another tree, we hung red and white tissue flowers along with “hearts” playing cards. The look was simple, but effective.
Fabric goes a long way. Find a fabric that goes with your theme and use it throughout your space to tie your overall look together. This black & white striped canvas acted as a cover for the food table. The remnants, thanks to some red felt and glue, turned into a last-minute “Queen of Hearts” runner.
Recruit older kids to help. It’s easy for siblings to feel left out when there’s an event being planned that’s not necessarily focused on them. By encouraging them to be a part of the party prep though, not only makes them feel invested but also gives you the much needed extra sets of hands to get things done! When my oldest son Tanner saw me cutting the leftover scraps from the cupcake wrappers into circles and then sewing them into a streamer, he asked if he could give it a try. Little boys love machinery, so he had a blast and I could move on to something else! My youngest son Tristan opted for getting a head-start on decorating his top-hat so it would be ready to wear before guests arrived.
Create a photo opportunity. One of the easiest ways to create a party to remember is by giving your guests a reason to take pictures. Photo booths are a big trend right now but renting them can be pretty spend-y. Another option is to create a cut-out mural for people to pose behind. Noelle drawing pencil drew her original image on a much larger scale onto a piece of canvas which then filled in with fabric paint and markers. I added some fabric applique clouds and used a craft knife to cut out the faces. By sewing on a pocket at the top, we were able to run a curtain rod through it and hang it from some hooks and chain in the carport where it added to our outdoor decorations.
Choose one keepsake instead of a bunch of disposables. I have a love-hate thing for party favor bags at children’s parties. On the one hand, they’re fun to put together and the kids dig ‘em. On the other, they’re expensive to fill with a bunch of junk that the parents will ultimately trash anyway. Alas. So, why not just spend the money on one, nicer item instead of many junky ones? We had planned on getting some small, board books in which to put our customized “Thank You” bookmarks in for each child guest. Due to an ordering snafu however, Sterling Publishing (thanks, guys!) generously stepped in and sent us these gorgeous Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland chapter books instead. We were blown away and although under ordinary circumstances these wouldn’t be an affordable option for favors per se, a copy or two would make excellent door prizes or special parting gifts for the grandparents. White rabbit plushies (either handmade or store bought), thematic coloring books, screen printed bibs, or small character prints for framing would all make equally awesome favors. Have fun with it because all in all, that’s what really matters. Enjoying the process of creating the event is as valuable as experiencing the event itself. Let yourself go overboard once in a while so you can enjoy the simplicity of the times when you don’t.
Next year, baby girl’s getting cupcakes with the family and a little time in the baby pool. That’s it.
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