//, Kids Birthday, Parties for Boys/REAL PARTIES: Modern Circus Soirée

REAL PARTIES: Modern Circus Soirée

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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! ;)

By |2018-02-12T20:47:20+00:00October 7th, 2008|First Birthday, Kids Birthday, Parties for Boys|

About the Author:

Jennifer Sbranti is the founder of Hostess with the Mostess®, a creative living and party planning resource established in 2006. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Sonny, and daughters Macy (8) and Rylie (6). Sbranti’s work has been featured in media outlets such as Good Morning America, The Today Show, Real Simple, People, InStyle Weddings, and Extra! TV. She has designed creative content and unique live events for several well-respected brands, including Mattel, Coca-Cola, The Hershey Company, Toys”R”Us, Pottery Barn Kids, and Starbucks.


  1. Jennelle October 7, 2008 at 3:14 am

    This gives a new meaning to the term “animal print!” Adorable!

  2. http://littleantdesign.blogspot.com/ October 7, 2008 at 7:40 am

    What a great party. I love that you got most of your stuff at Etsy. Thanks for sharing all your fun ideas.

  3. Nancy October 7, 2008 at 7:55 am


  4. Rachel October 7, 2008 at 8:03 am

    I have also used Polkadots and Pirates for my son’s birthday party – and Jess is so fabulous! Gorgeous party theme – it looked like a great time!

  5. Tabitha (From Single to Married) October 7, 2008 at 8:12 am

    wow – I am impressed, both with the theme and your obvious talent at pulling everything together. It looked great!

  6. http://maritessb.blogspot.com/ October 7, 2008 at 10:14 am

    WHAT A FUN PARTY. i love the color scheme. we did an animal theme party too but in pastels… the vibrant colors in yours makes it soo modern.

  7. http://stemparties.blogspot.com/ October 7, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    What a fun and colorful party. As extremely cute as it would be pretty hard to be cuter than Darrian though. Come on! What a doll. Gimme.

  8. http://stemparties.blogspot.com/ October 7, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Uh, yes, so I typed that way too fast above. “As extremely cute as it is, it would be….”

    I feel better now. Thanks for obliging my quirks.

  9. Amber Coldwell October 7, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    What a great idea! Everything was well thought out and adorable! All of the children are so cute, but that little girl is stunning!

  10. http://butterflywishesllc.blogspot.com/ October 7, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Really cute!

  11. susan keller October 7, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Speaking of personalization, I ran across a site that I thought you all might be interested in. They can personal great favors, gifts and invitations for any event! Kinda Cool!

    check them out

  12. Michelle T. October 7, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks Ladies!! It was so much fun to plan, and I loved how it all came together. It is nice to hear others responses :)

  13. Kelly Marie October 7, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    My family attended this party and had such a great time. Michelle did a wonderful job on all the details. My son loved the balloon artist. :)

  14. http://cre8ivegirl.wordpress.com/ October 7, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Love it! Gets me thinking about the daughter’s 3rd birthday party…next year!

  15. Rachel October 8, 2008 at 12:48 am

    SO cute!! The photos are gorgeous, not to mention the birthday cutie! I had to chime in as well about Polka Dots and Pirates, I had a banner custom made for my daughter’s second birthday and it was BEYOND adorable! It even brought tears to my eyes! I HIGHLY recommend Jess at Polka Dots and Pirates!

  16. Heather G. October 8, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    My daughter and I were at this party, and as great as the pictures are, it was even cuter in person! Michelle did a GREAT job!!

  17. Lisa - Social Couture October 8, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    This party is absolutely adorable. It has inspired me to re-work our very own Monkey See Party.

  18. Renee October 15, 2008 at 6:36 am

    I love this idea, especially the idea that parents can have fun with all the decorations and that it creates natural activity in the same place for them to be involved in which is just as much fun as going to the circus. Great idea for older children too!

  19. BERNICE October 18, 2008 at 1:06 pm


  20. sue October 28, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    Love your party decorations. I am putting together a large fundraiser with an international theme. We have great homemade passports being made but are struggling with what to call the actual event. Any ideas would be very helpful. The main room will be done in silk from India, the menu is french, spanish, italian and perhaps Japanese. We thought of just saying “Escape with us” on the passport to keep it simple. Help!

  21. createmo November 2, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Thank you for your website :-)
    I made on photoshop backgrounds for myspace or youtube and ect..
    my backgrounds:http://tinyurl.com/6rbxmr
    take care and thank you again!

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  23. Jamie February 16, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Where did you get those great popcorn buckets on the table????? I am also doing the circus theme for my two boys birthday and I am using popcorn bucket for centerpieces with whirly pops (the 5.25in) sticking out with popcorn filling the tub! I must have those buckets!!! AMAZING PARTY!

  24. jenn s. February 16, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Hi Jamie – I’m not sure exactly where Michelle got those specific buckets, but this version from Celebrate Express looks very similar:

    And Plum Party has a few good options too:

    Good luck with the party! :)

  25. niki February 27, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Hi i was wondering where you purchased the blue circus fabric used on the tables?
    thanks niki

  26. Michelle March 4, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Sorry I got the fabric at Joann’s Fabric store.
    The popcorn buckets I got at Party America ..

    Hope that helps!

  27. Kelly March 11, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Great party…I am doing a first birthday circus/animal theme party…gives me great ideas…you are so creative! Wonderful pictures of Darian!

  28. ThatsSoYummy April 14, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    That is adorable…. love the ideas and the great designs… creativity was endless…

    Just Loved it! :-)

  29. Shannon May 6, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Wow!! Thank you so much for your post…amazing and unique ideas! Really gave me some ideas as to how to decorate a really awfully decorated firehouse, which is where my son’s first birthday party will be. If you could email me with any other ideas you might have, I would be forever greatful since I am trying to make it special for him. Thank you!!

    [email protected]

  30. chu May 17, 2009 at 6:52 am

    i love all the ideas here. i’m having a modern zoo theme for my baby’s first birthday too! I am stumped with table centerpiece ideas. I want something inexpensive yet the guest will enjoy…i its going to be an indoor party yet flying balloons are not allowed yet i want balloons in my centerpiece. does anyone have a suggestion?

  31. Emily May 19, 2009 at 7:57 am

    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 :)

  32. Michelle T. June 16, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Chu– We were going to do water balloons in a vase at first with some candy coming out of the top can do that ? like tall glass vases?

    The stickers were made for me by lillybeandesigns on etsy. The link is in the post.

    my email in case others need it is :
    [email protected]

  33. Jen August 18, 2009 at 10:52 am

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

  34. Julie October 12, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    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!

  35. Jen October 13, 2009 at 8:19 am

    I have some extra stickers (ljust like the ones used here) and some plan animal tags if you would like to purchase them! Also the stuff animals came from Ikea. If you’d like some more ideas I can send you some pictures of what I did for my little man’s party…which was Saturday!
    [email protected]

  36. The Circus Came to Town | A Sherry Home Companion November 18, 2010 at 8:27 pm

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  37. Ana Lucia Bonelli Williams January 21, 2014 at 4:01 am

    Hello, are the tablecloth fabric or plastic?

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