Ari’s Under the Sea 2nd Birthday Party {aka low pressure birthday party planning}

I really love party planning but I’m definitely guilty of biting off more than I can chew. Having Ari and now Liam has taught me to lower my expectations and accept that I might not get everything done the way I want it, and the same goes for planning parties (does anyone else feel like planning kid’s parties is almost like planning a mini wedding with everything that can be involved???). I must admit it’s partly my fault; I always get carried away and one year even booked Exposure Photo Booths because I just loved the idea of all the fantastic pictures you’d have to remember the event by! I’ve learnt one trick that has saved my bacon many times: start in advance and give yourself lots of time. That way you won’t get as stressed if something goes amiss. This year that really paid off since Ari was sick the week leading up to her party and if I hadn’t organized everything the week before and enlisted two of my talented friends (Brownyn from Mama B’s Treats & Jena from Pacific North Photography), the day would have gone very differently.
We had the party on a Saturday and by the Friday before I was exhausted from running my little lady to doctor’s appointments all week. I did most of the set- up the night before the party and only left the food set up for the day- of. It was a busy week, but I was looking forward to the party all week and was glad that Ari had recovered enough by Friday to not cancel the party (last year I had to re- schedule her party because she was sick and it’s becoming a bit of a running joke that her birthday parties may be jinxed). Thankfully my Mum helped out a lot with prep the night before and day- of and wrangled the 2 kids while I set everything up. But even with Grandma available for extra snuggles Ari was clingy and still a bit cranky the day of her party. Instead of getting photos of her with all of her friends I felt like a mama koala bear toting the birthday girl with me everywhere and only got a handful of my own photos. Ah, the many mishaps that come along with birthday parties ;). Thankfully Jena did an amazing job capturing shots from the day and I can’t thank her enough. Despite the chaos leading up to party, it was all worth it and I’m sharing about Ari’s mermaid/ under the sea themed party below.

The Cake & Food
Even though Ari has been gluten/ dairy free for a while I didn’t want to tackle the cake myself. Thankfully one of my close friends also has these dietary restrictions and just so happens to have a little baking business (see her Facebook page here). I scoured Pinterest and sent her a few ideas around the mermaid/ under the sea theme (she also made cookies & the cake pops for the goodie bags). I was so happy with the results.
In addition to the sweet treats I also served up fruits & veggies and Will grilled up some salmon. There was also some popcorn and ‘pet fish’ jello for the kiddos and parents to nosh on. This is also ties in for a present that they may or may not be getting, we’ve yet to see. A small aquarium with some tropical fish from Odd Ball Fish online. We’ve wanted fish for a while, and this just ties it together nicely.

The Decorations
Before Target closed up here (who else misses Target???) I stocked up on party decor including bunting, lanterns, a cute table cloth, and a few other things. I repurposed some of the decorations from Ari’s birthday party last year (see that post here) and made the food table the centre of attention with the decorations. Ari and I also had some DIY fun making a salt dough starfish garland for the table and a splatter- paint treasure chest (made from 2 diaper boxes + paper mache) for the goodie bags.

The Fun
When planning the party I wanted to make sure there were things for the kids to do inside or out, in case the weather wasn’t the greatest. Thankfully we had a beautiful sunny day to let the kids run around outside. We decided to buy a bounce house from The Outdoor Play Store as it is an investment for all future birthday parties. In the long run it will be so much cheaper than hiring one each time. The kids absolutely loved it, as I’m sure you can imagine. We also put out little pools, a playhouse, and a sensory play tub for the kids to play with. Yay for fresh air & sunshine! The kids were all sent home with little prizes like hair accessories, a wooden beaded necklace from Coral and Cloud, bath toys from Bag O’ Swag , and stickers (originally I was going to set up a fishing game, but with Ari being clingy I didn’t get a chance to set it up, but they seemed more than happy just to play with the sensory tub and the toys in it).

To make the sensory play tub uber bubbly I mixed:
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup dish soap
1 tbsp cornstarch
bath dye tablets
I then filled the tub with water and added the bubbly foam mixture.

For the sensory items I went through our house and collected things that have an interesting shape and/ or texture. I used some of Ari’s old baby toys, a loofah, and a squishy ball to name a few.

The Goodie Bags
I love thinking of ideas for goodie bags and putting them together. Making some or all of the items can help save moola and doesn’t have to take a lot of time to put together (check out this post for great DIY crayons). But if you’re strapped for time or ideas you can also buy the goodies or pre made goodie bags online (check out Bag O’ Swag for some great goodie bags for kids of different ages- I really love their selection of goodies that you can add to bags or custom make your own).

This year I kept the goodie bags simple since I also gave little prizes to the kiddos that were supposed to be for the fishing game.
Each goodie bag contained:
A homemade colouring sheet
A cake pop from Mama B’s Treats

Photos: K Petrunia

Each little guest also got to take home a mystery prize:
Photos: K Petrunia
Bath/ bubbles goodie bag- Bag O’ Swag
Hair clips- Cutie Pie Boutique
Wooden beaded necklace Coral and Cloud

My Tips for Stress- Free Party Planning
This year proved that taking the pressure off and planning in advance can really pay off. See below for my other party- planning tips.

– Give yourself lots of time (I started even earlier than usual- 2 months before- since I didn’t want to leave all of the planning for after Liam was born). That way if you’ve got lots of time to organize things without getting stressed out.

– Pick up things like decorations & paper cups/ plates when you see them, that way you don’t have to stock up on everything at once.

– On that note, use paper cups/ plates to save yourself doing dishes. Simple tip I know, but one worth noting. I like paper over styrofoam so they can be recycled.

– Be inspired by Pinterest, Instagram, etc, but don’t be too tough on yourself/ expect everything to be perfect. Pick a few things that you’ll focus on and then relax about the other things. Decorations and DIY projects are two passions of mine, so I enjoy putting time into them, but I picked just a few projects and then kept the rest simple.

– Make sure you have plenty of pictures of the day. Pictures bring back memories and make sure that you won’t forget all the fun that was had that day. Some people choose to have a professional photographer to ensure the highest standard of photographs, so if you choose to do the same make sure to check online for the best photographer for you. Many photographers will have online galleries to give you a feel for their work – Olga Topchii ( has a brilliant gallery that showcases her work. You want the best photographer to catch all those happy faces.

– Outsource the things you don’t enjoy/ have time for. Whether you have friends/ family who can help or you hire/ buy, you’ve got plenty of options for everything from the decorations to the food. Baking a gluten free/ dairy free cake was not something I wanted to tackle this year and was so grateful that Mama B’s Treats could take care of that and the other baked goodies for me. Another great time saver is to get pre- made goodie bags; check out Bag O’ Swag for their great bags and goodies. The other thing that I wish I had done was pick up pre- made veggie and fruit trays. I spent a lot of time the night before with my Mum prepping everything and I could have used that time on other things.

No matter how the food and decorations turned out, what was really important was celebrating my little lady turning two and I’m so glad to have shared the day with some of our closest friends and family. Even with the stress of the week leading up to the party, I was so happy everything worked out. Now to go track down a good glass of wine and unwind… 😉

All photos by Pacific North Photography unless otherwise labelled

A huge thank you to these partners for helping make this birthday party so special!

Photo: K Petrunia

Pacific North Photography (day- of photos)


Mama B’s Treats (gluten/ lactose free cake, cookies, & cake pops)


Cutie Pie Boutique (Ari’s outfit & hair accessories)


Coral + Cloud (wooden beaded necklace- given away as a prize)

Bag O’ Swag (bath/ bubbles goodie bag items given away as prizes)

Glitter & Spice (Ari’s necklace & bracelet)

*** Enjoy 20% off your purchase from Glitter & Spice when you use promo code TPB20 at checkout! Promo code valid until June 29, 2015.
June posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting

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