Happy New Year! 2017 was a great year for me, because it was a whole year spent with my baby Wolf! We celebrated his first birthday party last December 26. The feeling of satisfaction after the party outclassed what I felt after our wedding, surprisingly. I think it’s because this time around, I was much more confident about taking the reins in planning the event. I conceptualized and coordinated all the details. We did away with hiring a stylist, a coordinator, and even a host. I did a lot of DIY elements, and several family members also contributed DIY stuff, resulting in a heartfelt event with lots of personal touches. Our theme was Cookie Monster, because early on, Wolf would giggle whenever we would make Cookie Monster sounds. My cousin and godfather to Wolf, Kitt, made a cute digital invitation. I made table centerpieces featuring cutouts of Cookie Monster, cookies, and milk. I cut out monster eyes for the loot bags. I also made cookie bean bags while my sister and one of Wolf’s godmothers, Jica, made a monster box for a Cookie Toss game. My cousin (also Wolf’s godmother), Mei-mei, made scrumptious cookie inception giveaways and bought game prizes. She also did my makeup for the party. Another cousin, Li-an, made Wolf’s Cookie Monster cake that impressed many guests. My MIL, Julie, and my sister, Melay, both baked lots of yummy cookies to add to our dessert table. All these personal elements made our party so much sweeter!
The event wasn’t 100% DIY, though. That would have been way too ambitious for me, not to mention stressful, given the season. We outsourced our venue, catering, ceiling decor, dessert table, photo booth, photographer, and mascot. I am quite satisfied with the suppliers we hired. They all met or even exceeded expectations.
Venue: Kidzooona, Century City Mall
I originally thought of holding Wolf’s party at Gymboree. Luckily, I stumbled upon Kidzooona in Edsa Shangri-la, because I was looking for Gymboree there and found out that the former had replaced the latter. When I saw what Kidzooona had to offer, I realized that it was a much better party venue than Gymboree, because it catered to both young and old kids, whereas Gymboree was limited to toddlers.
Kidzooona is an awesome indoor playground. A Japanese brand, Kidzooona now has branches all over the Philippines. By the way, the correct spelling is Kidzooona, not Kidzoona. It’s odd to have a triple o, I know, but the Japanese are odd in many wonderful ways. Haha.
We chose to have our party at the Century City Mall branch due to its accessible location, spacious layout, and brand new facilities. The staff were also very accommodating. During the party, kids and adults alike enjoyed the venue. The only hitch we encountered was a mix-up in ingress time that resulted in our party beginning late. Although we confirmed with the manager that our party is from 10 am to 1 pm, they mistook 11 am for the start time, and so they were not able to let the other suppliers set up early enough. Since the mix-up was the fault of the venue, we were allowed to party until 2 pm.
For me, the best thing about Kidzooona is that it’s not only a venue; it’s also the main source of entertainment. I didn’t bother hiring a host or magician, because I knew that kids would already be ecstatic with the many activities in the playground. Our program was simple. We had one game for kids, a Sack Relay with Cookie Toss (kids had to shoot cookie bean bags into our Cookie Monster box). Then we had a game for adults, Cookie Face (they had to get a cookie from their foreheads into their mouths using only their facial muscles). After the games, the Kidzooona mascot, Lala Chan, came out to greet Wolf. Then we had a prayer led by our friend and godfather, Ted. We sang Happy Birthday, and Cookie Monster came out to join us. We had candle-blowing, then had lunch. After lunch, Cookie Monster had a dance number, then Wolf tasted his first ever cookie! Throughout the program, kids and adults were free to roam around and play.
Catering: The Creamery Catering
I found out about Creamery through Kidzooona, as the former is one of the venue’s accredited caterers. Our original plan was just to order KFC or Burger King for our food and then rent table cloths and chair covers for the tables and chairs in Kidzooona. Unfortunately, there were no covers available for rent on our party date. My mom then volunteered to help us pay for catering as her gift to Wolf. Who needs Santa when you have Grandma?! Haha.
Out of all the accredited caterers of Kidzooona, only Creamery had decent table set-ups for me. We were not able to schedule a food tasting session, because Creamery couldn’t accommodate any food tasting sessions for December due to the busy season. I picked our menu items based on recommendations online and suggestions from our account executive, Kath. It was very difficult to communicate with her online, as her replies were usually delayed and incomplete. I suspect the peak season was the culprit. Finalizing our menu was also cumbersome, because the dishes were not categorized according to price tier. We needed to request customized costing for each and every menu combination.
At the end of the day though, catering is about food, and for their price point, the food did not disappoint. We had burger sliders, basil butter rice, corn and carrots, boneless chicken barbecue, pork pot roast, spaghetti, house blend iced tea, and double chocolate Oreo tarts. Guests were fans of the burger sliders, chicken barbecue, and spaghetti. I would say that Creamery is a good choice for birthday parties. It would be great though if they could organize their menu items so that menu costing would be more efficient.
Decorations: Faye’s Balloon World
Faye’s Balloon World is one of Kidzooona’s accredited balloon suppliers. I chose them because their set-ups were the nicest for me. I honestly found the other options tacky. I actually took extra care in conceptualizing the balloon decor, because decorating with balloons can end up looking cheap and unoriginal. For our ceiling decor, I emphasized that I do not want it to be cluttered, and I want a good balance of balloons, paper lanterns, pompoms, and banderitas. They did an excellent job executing my ideas. The ceiling decor was one of my favorite aspects of the party.
We also availed of a dessert table from them. I wanted our dessert table to feature more cookies, naturally. They were able to do this and more. From the customized cupcakes and cookies, to the cute backdrop, the dessert table was a hit with our guests and worth the price we paid.
Among all our suppliers, I had the easiest time coordinating with Junna of Faye’s Balloon World. Despite the busy season, she was able to respond promptly and comprehensively to my many queries, and she was very helpful in suggesting ideas based on her expertise. On the day itself, they were the first suppliers at the venue, arriving even before the catering. Junna helped set up not just their dessert table but also our table of giveaways and loot bags. She really went over and beyond what was required. Faye’s Balloon World is highly recommended!
Photo booth: Get Snappy
Get Snappy is a new business venture of Wolf’s godfather, Chino. We decided to get them because I trust the design sense of Chino and his wife, Ida (the photographer at my maternity shoot and Wolf’s shoots). The last time I hired a photo booth was for our wedding. I remembered how difficult it was for me then to get our wedding photo booth design to look sophisticated. I didn’t want to experience again the inconvenience of dealing with a graphic artist with questionable taste, which is unfortunately the case with many photo booth design staff.
As I expected, Get Snappy’s design of our photo booth layout was on point. I gave them my pegs that had a rustic crafty feel, and they delivered exactly what I envisioned. Our photo booth backdrop was cheesecloth with strips of blue and brown banderitas. One of the best aspects of our photo booth was that our props were customized in line with our theme — we had cookies, Cookie Monster headpieces, and Sesame Street signs. Our guests enjoyed posing with the different props.
It was a last-minute decision to hire a photographer, but I do not regret it one bit. At first, I thought we wouldn’t need one, as we can just ask our guests to take lots of pictures. Then I realized that this would be leaving too much to chance. There were so many elements of the party that I wanted to document, and without a dedicated photographer, many details may end up not getting preserved.
PhotoStreamer was recommended on online forums, and so I checked out their photos online and was satisfied with what I saw. We had Mike as our photographer. He arrived early and immediately began taking shots. He stayed until the event ended, and although that would’ve counted as overtime, he did not charge us extra. He was able to send the digital files the next day. The photos were crisp and captured well the details of our event. Although most of the photos were simple shots taken purely for documentation, there were a few that were shot with a high level of artistry. For their price point, we were very satisfied with Mike’s work.
Here are some of my favorite shots:
Mascot: Splurge in Memories (SIM)
I found Splurge in Memories through a Google search. They were the only ones I found that had a Cookie Monster mascot that did not look malnourished. Haha. I had a very difficult time contacting them, as their Facebook page was down, and they were not responding through Viber. I contacted the owner, Robert, through Facebook, and finally got a reply. Robert would take long to reply to my queries and requests, but because SIM Mascots had the only decent-looking Cookie Monster mascot, I persisted. In fact, I think that all their mascots are quite nice relative to those of their competitors.
Our Cookie Monster mascot was a hit during the party, with children and adults alike having their photos taken with him. However, they were unable to bring music for the dance number, and so the mascot had to take a break first while we looked for a song to play. He made a second appearance after lunch for his dance number. Robert actually told me prior to the event that I can give them my choice of song for the dance, but my choice was not relayed to his crew member. There really were many gaps in communication with SIM, but we were happy nonetheless with their service during the party. Even the staff of Kidzooona were taking videos of Cookie Monster dancing! A mascot is not really necessary, but it was a great decision to splurge a bit to get our special furry guest.
And that rounds up our suppliers for the party. All six helped make our party such fun! I knew that the party was a success when adults commented that it was well-planned and when a kid exclaimed, “Best party ever!” Haha. Even my husband, who initially was hesitant to throw a party, on the ride home was already thinking of venues for Wolf’s next party. Hahaha. Well, given the difficulty of planning amid the Christmas rush, we’re not sure when the next party will be, but we surely have no regrets celebrating Wolf’s first birthday with a monsterrific bash!