Planning a themed birthday party

Every parent wants to make their child’s birthday party an amazing, unforgettable event. What better way to celebrate than having a themed birthday party? Planning a themed party does not need to be stressful. In fact, it can be a fun experience that you will enjoy looking back on.

Step 1 – choose a theme. If your child is into a media character then you can go with that, but you should also challenge yourself and consider your child’s own interests, hobbies, talents, etc. What really represents your little one? If your child is older, he or she will have a lot more input. However, if your child is on the younger side, you will need to guide the theme process more directly.

This year, our son, Landon, turned two. My husband and I wanted to celebrate his birthday with a unique theme that would represent Landon’s personality, and be fun for him, our guests, and us. Landon loves running around the house in his cowboy hat and boots, and pretending to ride his “horse”, so we knew that a cowboy theme would be just right. Once we chose our theme, everything else fell into place. Themed parties actually make the planning process easier, since they give you a great starting point to work from.

Step 2 – invitations. Shutterfly makes finding your perfect birthday invitations simple and fun. We were able to search through dozens of different theme options, until we found the Cowboy invitation that was perfect for us. On your invitation, be sure to include the date, time, and location of the party. If it’s your child’s first birthday you may want to include an end time, for instance, “2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.” This way, your little one will not get too tuckered-out. Also, be sure to include a date and contact phone number and/or email address for RSVPs. Aim for all RSVPs to be in about one to two weeks before your party. Shutterfly makes it easy by having plenty of text fields for you to include all of your party details.

Remember, this is a themed birthday party, and the invitation is your guests’ first taste of what the party will be like. So try to be fun and clever when writing your Shutterfly invitations. Use phrasing that incorporates your theme, for instance, I wrote Landon’s invitations in a “western” tone and incorporated lots of cute “cowboy” phrases and sayings.

Step 3 – plan the activities. This was our favorite part of the process. The cowboy theme inspired all of the party activities, and helped us focus and get creative.

Pony Rides at the park across the street from our house

Petting Zoo on our front lawn

Cowboy Birthday Cake

Step 4 – decorating. This was another highlight for us, and will be for you when you start with a theme. Choose decorations that are fun, easy, and affordable. Here are tips for decorating success:

1. Do as much decorating as possible the day before your party. This will free up your time on party day for you to do important last-minute jobs

2. Display your favorite framed prints and Shutterfly photo books for  guests to peruse. They look beautiful and give guests an opportunity to see some of your favorite memories

3. Keep it simple! Don’t spend a fortune on decorations. A couple balloon bouquets, dangly ceiling decorations, cute centerpieces, and a “Happy Birthday” banner are plenty.You can get all of these at your local party store. Get thrifty and creative. We got a bale of hay (for free), tied a few balloons to it, and placed it in our entry-way. It was the perfect place for guests to place their gifts, and made for some adorable Shutterfly photo moments.

4. Have your child help you choose favors that go with the theme. Landon loved helping me put the favors into the cute little buckets that I bought. We chose simple affordable goodies like small horse figurines, sheriff star, shirt clips, bubbles, etc.

More tips on party-planning perfection

1. Enlist help. You want to enjoy your child’s special day, not play hostess/host the whole time. Make arrangements for a family member or close friend to help out during the party with duties like picking up your cake and pre-ordered balloons, taking photos and video, serving cake, brewing coffee/tea

2. Serve food that’s easy to prepare and can be left out for a few hours. You don’t want to be in the kitchen cooking during the party. If you don’t want to serve a full meal, schedule the party between meals, serve snacks, and spend more on a quality cake

Party-Planning Checklist

1. Choose theme
2. Make Shutterfly invitations
3. Send out invitations
4. Order cake and balloons
5. Organize your menu
6. Purchase decorations and paper goods
7. Goody-Bags/Party favors for child guests
8. Order Shutterfly Thank You cards

Remember, planning a themed birthday party is simple and fun. It helps you get creative, and involving your child in the process makes it even more memorable. We were so pleased with how Landon’s Cowboy party turned out. For weeks, we heard back from guests telling us how much fun they had and that they couldn’t wait to see what we come up with for birthday number three. I hope our story inspires you to create a party that will leave you and your child with memories to last a lifetime.


  1. says

    Our family is big on the themed birthday parties and the idea always revolves around the type of birthday cake Dad will make. I love how you broke down the steps of pulling of such an event. Those tips are the same check list I have down in my head…plus making sure my camera battery is charged for the photos of the prep time of the cake and the event itself all to make a fantastic Shutterfly book. Here are a few links to some of our parties for my kids over the years….

  2. BarbaraJ says

    Birthdays are so much fun and in the years past I have planned many themed parties and also taught Sunday School and had parties for the kids and did the same. What a cute them for boys or girls.

  3. Joey says

    Oh my gosh, how ADORABLE are these photos of your son’s cowboy themed party. I love everything from the invitations, decorations, the photos, the great ideas. LOVE this. Shutterfly has the best selections for invites and thank you’s! Great article.

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