Alina & Corey's First Birthday
photographer: Eroula Dimitriou Photography | event planner: Angi & Co | venue: Waterside Events
The Best of | New York | Birthdays

A Popular First Birthday Party Venue Answers Your 7 Biggest Planning Questions

Alina & Corey's First Birthday

When it comes to over-the-top, gorgeous first birthday parties, there’s no first birthday party venue in the New York area that’s as busy as Waterside Events. Boasting absolutely stunning views of the NYC skyline from towering windows at the water’s edge, the space plays host to beautiful, elegant celebrations.  

Waterside Events sits directly across the river from New York’s iconic skyline, yet is easily accessible for suburb-dwellers in its North Bergen, New Jersey locale. From the views to the fare, the space is the perfect first birthday party venue (and it also happens to be a great spot for wedding showers, communion celebrations, brunch, and gorgeous evening weddings against a sparkling city backdrop).

In fact, we saw so many creative and unique first birthday parties on Waterside’s PartySlate profile — including a few amazing Korean Dols or Doljanchis, a Korean first birthday tradition to bless the child — that we reached out to ask for advice for anyone planning a child’s milestone celebration.

We spoke with Lesley Lovett, banquet manager and seasoned event planner at Waterside Events. She gave us the lowdown on everything from how far out you should book a first birthday party venue to menu items that both kids and adults love.

Create a “First Birthday Party Idea Slate” to share your theme ideas with your event planner and chosen venue so they can work together to produce the perfect celebration for your child’s milestone first birthday.

Read on to discover how many guests you should plan to have as well as the most creative first birthday party themes this experienced team has seen.

IMAGE CREDITS | photographer: Eroula Dimitriou Photography | event planner: Angi & Co | venue: Waterside Events

1. How early should parents book a first birthday party venue?

I would say around 6 months out or so. We book up daytimes quickly, so afternoons can get taken quickly.

2. What menu items are a hit with kids and adults at first birthday parties?

Kids and younger children love clean pasta (plain with red sauce or butter), chicken fingers, grilled cheese, sliders, fries, mini-pretzels — kid stuff. For adults, hosts often choose a prix-fixe menu, like a brunch buffet, lunch buffet or sit-down lunch. For adults, prix fixe sitdown lunch is often four-courses offer the choice between three entrees with orders taken at the table. 

Of course, we also offer vegetarian options and can accommodate any kind of allergy or food preference. With every event, we ask about severe allergies. In fact, We don’t cook with anything that includes peanuts or other typical allergens just to be on the safe side. Our menus also handily note GF and other specialty items to guide guests.

IMAGE CREDITS | photographer: Eroula Dimitriou Photography | event planner: Angi & Co | venue: Waterside Events

3. What other event professionals do you suggest working with for hosting a unique, themed birthday party?

Once you’ve chosen a first birthday party venue, whether or not to use a planner depends on your budget and type of celebration. I notice that if the parents do hire a planner for a beautiful theme and décor, they often hire a photographer to capture the day. Parents often hire a planner/designer hybrid.

We do have a limited number of planners that we can recommend who know our location very well. It’s definitely an advantage to hire a planner who knows the dimensions of the space and load-in details. We build relationships with planners and having worked as a team before helps events become seamless and come together beautifully. For larger gatherings we have seen hosts bring in live kid-friendly entertainment, like clowns, magicians, balloons, face painters, etc.

IMAGE CREDITS | photographer: Eroula Dimitriou Photography | event planner: Angi & Co | venue: Waterside Events

4. What size guest list do you recommend for first birthday parties?

I find that when you decide to have a first birthday party at a catering venue, it’s often more of an adult party than a kids party. Your house would be less formal, but a party at a beautiful venue tends to be more for the adults. For some parties we will have 10 kids coming and others will have 40, it really just depends on the family and friends and what they choose. However, when there are more kids, it’s a good idea to provide some kind of entertainment.

IMAGE CREDITS | photographer: Eroula Dimitriou Photography | event planner: Angi & Co | venue: Waterside Events

5. What activities have you seen work well at first birthday party celebrations?

In addition to the entertainment options I’ve mentioned, if younger guests are between 3 and 6 years old, a little craft table or coloring area keeps them engaged — but definitely steer clear of glitter!

There’s also a meaningful activity for Korean first birthday parties (Korean Dols) that has the birthday child choose items that will predict his or her future.

PartySlate note: The idea behind the Doljabi custom that Lesley mentions above is to predict possible future careers and activities for the one-year-old being celebrated. Specifically, 5-8 items are placed in front of the child that represent different professions — like a computer mouse to indicate technology, a gavel for a judge, a stethoscope for a doctor, and so on.

Whichever item the child gravitates to and picks up first indicates their interest. Learn more about Korean first birthday parties and Doljabi customs at Wikipedia, Kid World Citizen or The Soul of Seoul

IMAGE CREDITS | photographer: Eroula Dimitriou Photography | event planner: Angi & Co | venue: Waterside Events

6. What is unique about your venue that has attracted so many beautiful birthday celebrations?

First, of course, the view alone is our biggest selling point. The atmosphere is really bright and open — it’s definitely not like an enclosed banquet room. And our location offers a real wow-factor for out-of-towners. We’re right on the Hudson River, which also makes us a great midway point for families from NY and NJ to meet to celebrate. 

Our food is also incredible.Our head chef (who is also one of the owners) is CIA-trained [referring to the highly-revered Culinary Institute of America]. I’m really proud of our food and service. We are a Greek-owned space, and the family has been in the restaurant catering business for many years. We have really flexible chefs who can customize menus based on preferences or nationality and are very open to special requests. Your grandmother wants to bring cookies in? That’s okay, we allow something special like a dessert. We really want to incorporate your customs into the party.

IMAGE CREDITS | photo courtesy of & floral & event design: Ruth Ridgeway Designs | event planner: AMG Events and Visuals | venue: Waterside Events

7. What are the most creative first birthday themes you’ve seen?

Oh wow, there are so many! We’ve seen a beautiful mermaid-themed party, an under-the-sea one, a very cool carnival theme, a lush forest theme, Alice in Wonderland, a party centered around sweets, and of course various princess themes.

But wait, there’s more…

See additional kids birthday party themes including music-themed celebrations, sports-themed parties, animal-themed gatherings, and many more birthday ideas. 

When you find vendors, venues, and ideas you love on PartySlate, click the “heart” icon to save them to your favorites. Create a “First Birthday Party Idea Slate” to share your theme ideas with your event planner and chosen venue so they can work together to produce the perfect celebration for your child’s milestone first birthday.