Inspiring Celebrations Since 2006

REAL PARTIES: Modern Circus Soirée

Quick Jump To » Comments

circus first birthday party

Fun, festive, modern, playful, cute… this colorful Circus Soirée that Michelle Thornton created for her son’s first birthday celebration has it all! Better yet, Michelle was able to find that perfect balance between a whimsical, kid-friendly party that’s occasion-appropriate, and a stylish atmosphere that adults will find appealing as well…

circus first birthday party

Read on for LOTS of photos and all the details, as told by Michelle…

For Darrian’s first birthday, I wanted to throw a fun party that featured bright primary colors and an animal/carnival theme. I also knew I wanted in a park, which would be a fun space for all the kids to run around and play.

circus first birthday party

Since the party was in a park, I thought fabric would be one of the best ways to add color to the area. I headed to the local fabric store and bought solid fabric in different primary colors for each table, plus an animal-print fabric to use as the common “runner” for all of the tables, to help tie everything together.

One of the main sources of inspiration for the rest of the party decor was a bunch of cartoon-like animal illustrations that I purchased from These cute animal characters were used on the invites, birthday hats, personalized stickers, party favors, and vases!

I worked with Donna from SwishDesigns to create the invitations (pictured above, 2nd image) and loved how they turned out – especially the the primary polka dots and the cartoon lion – both of which would also be used for the cake!

circus first birthday party

Darrian also had a small “smash cake” that had the same polka dots…

circus first birthday party

The centerpieces were created with square vases and balloons. Each balloon bunch featured primary colored balloons and one animal balloon, which varied from table to table. The vases were adorned with animal stickers and filled with candy to help keep the balloon bunches secure.

circus first birthday party

To add a personal touch to the tables, I also printed out a favorite picture for each month in Darrian’s first year, then put the photos in primary-colored frames from IKEA and displayed them near each of the centerpieces.

circus first birthday party

To keep things simple, I did a “happy meal” type lunch for the kids, which could be made ahead of time and would be ready for whenever the kids were hungry. Inside each brown bag was a animal-cut-out turkey sandwich, sliced apples, and a small plush animal I got at Ikea. The bags were sealed with the stickers that featured the carton animals.

circus first birthday party

For the adults we had hot dogs (turkey and beef), chips, and a variety of salads (potato, macaroni, Chinese). We also set out popcorn tubs with individual bags for easy snacking, which was a big hit!

The party favors were cute & easy: we gave away individual boxes of animal crackers embellished with the personalized stickers:

circus first birthday party

I ordered fun party hats and a crown for the birthday boy that featured the cartoon animals and matched the cool custom birthday banner:

circus first birthday party

I had blankets available for families who wanted to sit on the grass and have lunch, as well as balls and games for anyone to use – which were placed in baskets that matched the party’s color scheme.  I also hired a face painter/balloon artist to entertain the kids…and some adults!

circus first birthday party

I had a lot of fun planning this, and LOVED how everything came together. I used Esty for most of my purchases since I love that personalized, homemade look and supporting small companies.

Here is a list of my vendors & resources:

• The hats and banner were made by Polkadotsandpirates on Esty
• The invites were made by Swishdesigns
• Custom Stickers for favors, lunch bags, and vases – Lillybeandesigns
• Cakes were from Le Gateau Elegant
• Frames & plush animals – Ikea

{Photos via my blog own posts: Darrian’s First Birthday Part l and Part ll and Part lll}


Thanks so much to Michelle for the fabulous birthday inspiration! This is definitely a party theme that would work for a variety of ages from 1 and beyond… balloon animals, bright colors, candy-filled vases, ultra-cool birthday banner, lunch with a toy inside… it even sounds good to me! ;)

Alternative Text
POSTED BY:jenn s.JENNIFER SBRANTI is the Founder and Creative Director of Hostess with the Mostess®, a hip and modern party planning resource.

37 responses to “REAL PARTIES: Modern Circus Soirée”

  1. Jennelle says:

    This gives a new meaning to the term “animal print!” Adorable!

  2. What a great party. I love that you got most of your stuff at Etsy. Thanks for sharing all your fun ideas.

  3. Nancy says:


  4. Rachel says:

    I have also used Polkadots and Pirates for my son’s birthday party – and Jess is so fabulous! Gorgeous party theme – it looked like a great time!

  5. wow – I am impressed, both with the theme and your obvious talent at pulling everything together. It looked great!

  6. WHAT A FUN PARTY. i love the color scheme. we did an animal theme party too but in pastels… the vibrant colors in yours makes it soo modern.

  7. What a fun and colorful party. As extremely cute as it would be pretty hard to be cuter than Darrian though. Come on! What a doll. Gimme.

  8. Uh, yes, so I typed that way too fast above. “As extremely cute as it is, it would be….”

    I feel better now. Thanks for obliging my quirks.

  9. Amber Coldwell says:

    What a great idea! Everything was well thought out and adorable! All of the children are so cute, but that little girl is stunning!

  10. susan keller says:

    Speaking of personalization, I ran across a site that I thought you all might be interested in. They can personal great favors, gifts and invitations for any event! Kinda Cool!

    check them out

  11. Michelle T. says:

    Thanks Ladies!! It was so much fun to plan, and I loved how it all came together. It is nice to hear others responses :)

  12. Kelly Marie says:

    My family attended this party and had such a great time. Michelle did a wonderful job on all the details. My son loved the balloon artist. :)

  13. says:

    Love it! Gets me thinking about the daughter’s 3rd birthday party…next year!

  14. Rachel says:

    SO cute!! The photos are gorgeous, not to mention the birthday cutie! I had to chime in as well about Polka Dots and Pirates, I had a banner custom made for my daughter’s second birthday and it was BEYOND adorable! It even brought tears to my eyes! I HIGHLY recommend Jess at Polka Dots and Pirates!

  15. Heather G. says:

    My daughter and I were at this party, and as great as the pictures are, it was even cuter in person! Michelle did a GREAT job!!

  16. This party is absolutely adorable. It has inspired me to re-work our very own Monkey See Party.

  17. Renee says:

    I love this idea, especially the idea that parents can have fun with all the decorations and that it creates natural activity in the same place for them to be involved in which is just as much fun as going to the circus. Great idea for older children too!

  18. BERNICE says:


  19. sue says:

    Love your party decorations. I am putting together a large fundraiser with an international theme. We have great homemade passports being made but are struggling with what to call the actual event. Any ideas would be very helpful. The main room will be done in silk from India, the menu is french, spanish, italian and perhaps Japanese. We thought of just saying “Escape with us” on the passport to keep it simple. Help!