By : Aileen Hamilton
Date: March 13, 2012
My youngest child’s first birthday was approaching,and in my family traditions we always made the first birthday celebration a huge deal. The feast was going to be plentiful, the house would be completely decorated, there would be entertainment, and the cake would tower. You would think you were invited to a wedding!
As I thought hard about what Marian loves to play with most, she brought her teapot to me. She loved her pink little teapot. Every time she tilted it, it would make pouring noises. Every time it poured, I’d add in my own exaggerated sound effects to it. “Glub! Glub! Glub! Glub! Glub!” Marian would be so tickled about that. Her laughter was so big and wonderful, and she’d repeat it all over again. I then knew that the perfect theme for her grand, extravagant celebration would be Alice in Wonderland, or in this case, Marian in Wonderland.
My husband always thought my family traditions broke the bank. He always said when we started having kids of our own, that they would have cake, ice cream, and a few neighborhood friends over. “That’s how I grew up, and I turned out just fine.” He’d say. He never understood why we had to gift our guests with “birthday gifts when it isn’t even their birthday”. (That’s what he called party favors.) After talking to my dear husband about my ideas, he gave me a (and I use to cringe every time I heard this word) “budget”. We have a budget for every expense. So, I wasn’t very thrilled about the birthday budget I had just been given.
Craig challenged me to use my creativity and promised that he would help me craft anything I could think of. Craig and I have always DIY’d everything. Even our wedding was all DIY! We had a beautiful wedding and I knew I could count on him to help me carry out this first birthday celebration beautifully. First, I had to completely let go of the way I used to throw parties and learn how to throw parties just as memorable but, easy on the pocketbook. I was willing to accept this challenge. I am on the same page with my husband when it comes to wanting to be debt-free and as Dave Ramsey puts it, “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”
I had this desire to have each of my family members dress in character. How was I going to pull this off on a budget? I looked online at all the Wonderland costumes. I searched every website that had “Toddler size Alice” results until I found one that was on clearance. After finding that the other Wonderland costumes were not on clearance, I understood that I was going to have to make most of the costumes with what we had on hand. My biggest challenge was that I didn’t have the gift of sewing. I went through the jacket closet and managed to find an old velvet-like coat that used to belong to Lily, my oldest, almost 7 years ago. I had kept it all this time because I felt I might have another need for it someday. This would be the day! I knew it would be the perfect coat for my son who would be the Mad Hatter.
I looked online for more ideas, and found a bandolier (which is kind of like a sash). Studying it, I thought, “I can totally make that!” It looked like a string of miniature thread spools-which I happened to have a collection of! I sorted through my craft supplies, pulled out all my thread spools, my ball of yarn and started working. I went to the consignment store and bought a pair of striped pants. Back in my craft room I took some fabric paint and tried to copy the spiral design on the Mad Hatter’s pants, which I found online. I went through my ribbon and pulled out bright colors and cut them to stuff in the coat pockets. My grand total for my son Shepherd’s Mad Hatter costume was…$4. My husband would be proud!
Now, Craig is a little on the Big & Tall Side. So, finding any costume in his size was always difficult. Asking for help is something I don’t enjoy doing but, when on a budget, sometimes we have to swallow our pride and just ask for help. A neighbor of mine shared that her mother, who has been blessed with such amazing sewing skills, was willing to help me make Craig’s. All I had to do was buy fabric and she would be happy to help with it. What a relief that was! He was going to be the White Knight from the Looking Glass series. I searched through my closet looking for anything pink and purple. I wanted to pull off the look of the Cheshire Cat. I found a maternity dress from when I was pregnant the year before and it was pink and purple, just as I needed. Pushing things aside in my drawers I was able to find purple leg warmers and a purple set of laced gloves. Such strange things to gather together but, I was determined to pull this off. I had enough left over in my “costume envelope” to get Lily a Red Queen costume.
I hit all the Goodwill stores and garage sales in town and started collecting tea pots, sugar and creamers of every shape, size and color. Some were slightly chipped but, at .99 cents, I wasn’t going to stress over it. I thought chips and dents only added character to the Mad Hatter’s tea party table, anyway. Also at Goodwill, I collected silk white roses (which the queen demanded red!) and other props to use as a centerpiece. At another discount store, I found a pair of white gloves and a white fan to represent the White Rabbit. My table decor amounted to just under $10.
At the party store I chose a couple of round lanterns, and decided to make the rest using cardstock I had at home. I picked up a pack of playing cards from the dollar store. I decided that I would scatter them around the serving table and tuck them into my floral arrangements. The rest of my decorating came straight out of my craft room using the supplies I already had on hand. I took some red paint and started painting my white silk roses. I pulled out my collection of cardstock and poster boards and worked away. Lily contributed her artistic skills by creating a large “Pin the Cottontail on the White Rabbit” game using a roll of paper and some crayons. It was actually quite impressive! I made a floating Cheshire cat smile out of white poster board. For finishing touches, we tucked my paintbrushes in vases with the red-painted white roses and made signs that read “Eat Me” to add to our food display. My husband and I spent hours in the craft room but, the end result was fantastic.
Without going over budget, I managed to cover everything from the decor, the feast, cake and entertainment; who happened to be the White Rabbit! We threw an incredible first birthday celebration for our little Marian that left quite a lasting impression! Since Marian’s birthday is close to Halloween, our guests were also encouraged to come in costume. After all, Wonderland was filled with the most peculiar characters!
We received many raves and many were amazed with how we managed to pull most of this off with limited funds. Marian had a very special first birthday celebration and we’ve created wonderful memories that will last a lifetime!
B.L.O.G Magazine Contributing Writer
Aileen is a stay-at-home-mom to three rambunctious children and the lucky housewife to her doting husband, Craig. She has the perspective of having lived a lot of unique lives, e.g. a military daughter in a non-Christian family, a life overseas as an American-born child in the Philippines, an unequally yoked wife and young mother, a struggling single mom working multiple jobs, and her present day life as a stay-at-home married mom and wife of a God-fearing man. She is also writing and sharing her experiences for the first time as a Contributing Writer for B.L.O.G. Magazine. You can find her on Facebook or you can email her at email@example.com.