07 Oct

REAL PARTIES: Modern Circus Soirée

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 istockphoto.com. 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! ;)

Leave a Comment


Emily SAYS:

I absolutely love your party! I came across looking for ideas for my son’s 1st Birthday. Great inspiration. Can you tell me where to get the stickers you used on party favors, vases? I cant seem to find. Did someone make them for you? Thanks again :)

Reply May 19, 2009 at 7:57 am


Also on the Popcorn buckets…they have them at Dollar Tree http://www.dollartree.com

Reply August 18, 2009 at 10:52 am

Julie SAYS:

I LOVE this! We have triplets who will be celebrating their first birthday in February. We have 2 girls and a boy, so we want to make it a circus theme. I was looking for the animals that you had on everything; where and how do you find them. Also, the colored runners – were those fabric. Lastly, where did you get the birthday hats. Because we have to be inside, we are going to heat the garage and have carnival games. I hope that you have the chance to answer these questions. This is exactly what I am looking at doing!

Reply October 12, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Ana Lucia Bonelli Williams SAYS:

Hello, are the tablecloth fabric or plastic?

Reply January 21, 2014 at 4:01 am

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