First-year birthday parties are usually kept intimate and to close family members only. After all, as most parents say, the baby won’t even remember the party.
But a new breed of Singaporean parents is emerging – and spending – on whimsical, lavish first birthday parties which they say celebrate their own parenthood as much as their child’s first birthday.
“For me, its very meaningful to celebrate the first year of being a mother to my child as well as their first birthday, so its kind of my party as much as hers,” said banking executive Flora Chew, 32, who spent $7,000 on a unicorn-themed first birthday party at a play gym for her daughter, Ellie.
“After all, her 21st birthday party will be of her own choosing. I won’t have a say!”
Kid’s party planners are noticing a spike in such high-end first birthday celebrations, especially in the past year.
“I would say there is a generation of Singaporeans with a lot of spending power who are becoming parents,” said children’s luxury party planner Low Hui Min, 35.
“They want the works – bouncy castles, very intricate decorations, great food, entertainment for both adults and kids.”
Low estimates she has organized at least three parties costing $4,000 or more every month for the past year.
“Some people will say they are being extravagant, but its up to them how they want to celebrate or spend their money. Most of the parents I’ve worked with are humble and down-to-earth; they’ll spend the money on their child but not on themselves.”
Why, and how, are these extravaganzas organised?
The huge “God’s Creation: Sky, Land and Sea” party business development executive Priscilla Loke threw for her son Caleb’s first birthday was her way of sharing her faith with family and friends.
“We decided to have a party for two reasons – to celebrate the fact that our son was wonderfully and fearfully made, as mentioned in the Bible, and to thank God, who we see as the creator of all things.”
With this in mind, the mother-of-two started planning for the party almost three months in advance, handling almost every aspect herself. The final event? A two-ballroom buffet-style party held at Resorts World Sentosa, decorated with life-sized balloon sculptures featuring rainbows, clouds, butterflies, animals on land and animals on sea.
Children at the party got to choose from eight different helium balloon animal walker ‘pets’ and let it rip at a huge Animal Kingdom Bouncy Castle with 1,000 balls. There was also a magic show, face painting and balloon sculpturing booths, as well as motorized animal rides and car rides they could zoom around the ballrooms in. The 200 guests also enjoyed ice cream from an old-school ice cream cart, and stood to win lucky draw prizes including tickets to the SEA Aquarium and Universal Studios Singapore.
The birthday cake? A 3-tiered fondant cake in line with the Creation theme, with seashells, starfish, elephants and rainbows.
“Throwing a big party was not the main objective,” said Loke, who spent a ‘five-figure sum’ on Caleb’s party. “Throwing a fun, meaningful and memorable party was.”
She says that by handling every aspect of the event herself, she managed to get the best value for her money by sourcing reasonably priced vendors via word of mouth.
“The first birthday always has a big significance, it’s a milestone, so we decided to make the party more elaborate. For future birthday celebrations, we will probably hold it in a more cosy and casual way.”
Loke is sure her son enjoyed himself thoroughly, despite detractors who say he may not have even known what was going on.
“He would definitely have felt the happy emotions from his parents, laughter from happy conversations, the smiles and more. We’ve captured the memories and moments in photos and videos so he can relive it again and we can tell him the story behind his first birthday party.”
Blogger and mum May Liang went all out for her daughter Faye’s first birthday party to mark a year after a difficult and emotional pregnancy and to thank family and friends for their support.
“This was a milestone I never wanted to forget. It was a tough pregnancy with risk of pre-term delivery and I was on total bed rest for a full month. Without the support from our family and friends, it would have been a lot harder to overcome,” said Liang. “This party was held not only to celebrate Faye’s first year of life but also my fulfilling my role as a mother to her, plumping up a 2 kilogram NICU baby to a thriving toddler.”
Faye’s “Woodland Animals” themed party was held at Alkaff Mansion, and included a hand-made cardboard forest complete with campfires, handcrafted animal masks and a 30-minute magic show. Liang, who spent $7,000 on the party, said her 80 guests definitely enjoyed themselves.
“The children were in seventh heaven, laughed until their bellies ached and ate to their heart’s content. Some parents had to pry them away from the play area when it was time to go home,” she said.
Liang, like Loke, said subsequent parties would be kept low-key.
“My husband says there will only be two big parties – the first and the twenty first. All other birthdays will be kept intimate.”
What do other parents think about these parties?
Most of the parents Yahoo Singapore spoke to felt that while they may not throw such parties, they would not criticize them either.
“Honestly, every parent’s journey is different, so who are we to judge how much they want to spend on their children, as long as its their own money,” said teacher Darryl Tan, 32, who has a 10 month old son. “We’re keeping it simple because money is tight, but if I had the budget, I would hold something big and special. After all, it’s a great way to get family and friends together to celebrate.
“It’s easy to attack these parents and put them down for being spendthrift, but I think they put in a lot of effort, thought and love into their actions,” said housewife Siti Farhana, 27, who recently attended a lavish birthday party at Shangri-La’s Tower Ballroom.
However marketing executive Melody Lim, 34, disapproves of such parties and will not hold them for her two children, aged 2 and 6.
“This kind of party puts peer pressure on other parents to hold similar parties, but who might not have the financial capability to do so,” said Lim.
“Kids start to expect an amazing party like this all the time. I think it promotes the wrong values.”