Eli's First "Carnival Themed" Birthday Party

First things first: The winner of the Little Love Lane giveaway is Danielle Meder. Danielle, check your inbox for an email from me to claim your prize!

Wowza, It took me a lot longer to pull this post together than I thought it would. The past couple weeks have been absolutely crazy and it was all I could do to keep my head above water with all that was going on. Plus, on the day of Eli's party I got pretty sick from a short bout of food poisoning (from food earlier in the day, not the party food). Because of that, I didn't quite capture all the photos I was hoping to get. In particular, I completely missed taking photos of the pi├Ęce de r├ęsistance - the food table! I kept waiting until the food arrived (we had it catered) to take the photos, but once it did arrive it was pretty much my mission to stay as far away from any food as possible, and I completely spaced on the photos. I'm super bummed, but I have lots of photos of the rest of the space, so you'll get the general idea. 

Over the course of the next few weeks, I'll be sharing detail on the DIY's involved to make this party a reality, and if you're looking to see where some of my inspiration came from - it's all on Pinterest. The board for a "carnival // circus themed party" has lots of specific theme inspiration and the general "party time" board could be great for anyone planning a party. 

Another note before we get this party started - I learned a TON about hosting a party outside your home. Not everything turned out perfectly or how I imagined it, but that's real life, right? When you rent a space out, you don't have time to trial, test and tweak, which is probably good for someone like me who is always tweaking (not to be confused with twerking) things, but is tough when you have a vision and it doesn't turn out quite right. Anyway, lots of thoughts there, but I'll save them for another day. On to the party!

For the space, we rented out a local community center. I needed an indoor spot since Minnesota is finicky in April (we received 8" of snow the day before Eli's party) And community centers are super cheap to rent out - this one was $20 an hour. Everywhere else I looked would have cost upwards of $1,000 when it was all said and done. We rented this space out for $80 which also included tables and chairs. It's not the prettiest, but it certainly did the job. 

We had about 60 people there, 40ish adults and 20ish children - all under the age of 2. Yes. I can hear your thoughts now: That's INSANE. And yes, it was a little insane. And a lot awesome. 

Because of all those kiddos, I set up a little space for them to play - even though they pretty much ran and screamed all over the room - it did keep them semi-occupied and contained. For the toy area, I just brought an indoor/outdoor rug from home as well as a few of Eli's toys. I brought a couple plush toys, and looking back, I would have left them at home. It's a lot easier to disinfect the plastic toys after the party....  The ball pit was a HUGE hit. I think I saw up to six kids crammed into there at one time - that thing was rockin'. 

We also had a popcorn machine to go with the carnival theme. I didn't want it to be a crazy-themed party, but this was one fun thing I couldn't pass up. We were able to borrow it from a generous friend of my sister-in-laws and it was treat for everyone to enjoy. 

On the main wall I threw up a huge (12') banner I made, as well as displayed Eli's monthly photos. I printed them as 5x7" with a coupon at Target, but I'll be honest, printing 5x7" are expensive - especially when you have 24 to print. I'm trying to figure out what to do with the prints now that the party is over - any ideas are welcome!

Here's a close up of the photos - and a perfect example of how not everything goes perfectly. Please check out the photo on the right. See it? Middle row, right side? Yeah, printed the wrong picture - TWICE. I printed them the day before and realized I sent in the wrong photo for six months, then I resent a photo and had Mike pick it up, and didn't look at it until we were decorating - STILL the wrong one. 

Whatever. I was bummed for about five minutes. Then I remembered it was a first world problem.

For the table cloths, I hunted around forever for some cheap striped tablecloths to no avail. So I made mine. Tutorial to come - but let it be known. These table cloths ran me $2 bucks a piece. Plastic table cloths from Dollar General are ze' best. I made the peanut buckets from old formula canisters. Just hot glued paper on them and printed out a lil peanut sign, which was also hot glued on.

Some of you got a sneak peak of the party animals on Instagram. We gave these away as party favors to the kiddos at the party. Tutorial to come on these as well. And yes, they are another Dollar General creation. 

We also did the whole 36" helium balloon thing. And let me tell you - these were a HUGE hit with the kiddos. I'm pretty sure every kid who could walk grabbed one and held it for the entire party. They were also a huge hit for the adults when it came time to deflate a few (very difficult to fit these in a car to bring home) and suck the helium out.

Below is the single shot I have of the food table - which isn't much I know. But here's what we did for food. As I mentioned, we catered in the food (know your strenghts) and I'm so glad I did. It seriously relieved a lot of pressure for me and the food was AMAZING. We served brats from a local restaurant here in Minneapolis, Butcher and the Boar and it was a huge hit. We served bratwurst, cheddarwursts and hot links (a spicy brat) along with housemade buns from their baker and housemade pickles. Butcher and the Boar is known around the Twin Cities for their meat - and they definitely delivered. I'm still getting compliments on how good the brats were! If you live up here or are ever visiting the Twin Cities, Butcher and the Boar definitely needs to make the list for places to eat.  

For sides, we picked up a couple salads from Byerly's, a grocery store here in the cities. I also nabbed some kettle chips from Costco. Our cupcakes were also from Bylery's - since there were lots of toddlers there, which is synonymous with "picky eaters," we just went with the basics: vanilla, chocolate and marble. 

We also had a homemade photobooth (aka a camera on a tripod with a remote), which I didn't get a shot of either. Honestly, for a first birthday party with tons of itty bitty kids, I wouldn't necessarily recommend one. Most parents are pretty busy keeping their children from dying to take time out to take a photo. Unless you have someone there to lure people into taking a pic, it just doesn't happen. I did make some of those mustaches on a stick for the photobooth and they just became swords for children to stab each other in the eyeball. 

We really didn't have much of a program for the party. It was pretty "open house" style, with people coming and going as they pleased. Most people stayed the whole time though, which was nice. We mentioned "no gifts" on the invitation and while some people were super generous to still bring them, we didn't do any formal gift opening. We took about 10 minutes to gather everyone together after most people were finished eating and Mike said a few nice words about Eli, me and thanking everyone for coming to the party. It was very sweet of him. 

(We stripped Eli down just before the "speech" so he could go straight to his smash cake. He didn't hang out naked at his party the entire time, promise. Also, in case you missed it, his adorable crown was from Little Love Lane.)

Afterwards, it was smash cake time! My lovely friend Madison from Espresso and Cream made Eli's smash cake and it was both healthy and beautiful - the best of both worlds. She'll be sharing the recipe on her blog on Wednesday, so be sure to visit it if you're in the market for an awesome cake recipe for your little one. I'll be linking to it here as well as sharing how I made the bunting on Wednesday, so all your smash cake needs will be met in just one day. Awesome, right?

It was pretty fun watching him dig into his cake.  

All in all, it was an awesome party and worth every ounce of work. It was a huge bummer that I was sick during the party, but I still managed to have a ton of fun and it was wonderful to see so many people come together to love on Eli (and Mike and I!) and celebrate his life. I feel so blessed!


  1. Hi Laura, your cards are very special. I like it. Thanks for sharing them with us. Best regards from Lisa