Mila’s Magical Circus-Themed Birthday Celebration

Colorful mis-matched glass party plates and glasses

When it comes to family celebrations, Jacqui Saldana of Baby Boy Bakery, does it right! We dare you not to smile from ear to ear while reliving the first birthday celebration of her daughter, Mila. Between the quirky ‘Selfie Booth’ and clever circus-themed details, this was definitely a party to remember. Read on for Jacqui’s party-planning tips and a few of her favorite moments from the circus soirée.

First of all, happy first birthday to your little one! Tell us how you came up with the idea for Mila’s circus-themed birthday party. What was the inspiration?

I’ve always loved birthdays. Growing up, my parents always made them special and each year we did something different. Some were big blow-out parties and others where pizza pajama parties with just a few friends. Even as a young adult, I did something special for my birthday, like fancy dessert-only get-togethers or crazy girl trips where male entertainment was the highlight. Ahhh, to be young again! It wasn’t until I became a mom that celebrating my children’s birthdays became more epic than my own. For my son Ryan’s first birthday, I threw a pirate costume party that our family still talks about. I knew for Mila’s first birthday I had to follow suit, and what is more fun than having your entire family dress up as a traveling circus?

Clown costume

Black felt letterboard

What are your go-to party-planning tips?

Always have fun, no matter what. Regardless of how much you prepare, there will always be something that doesn’t go as planned. Ten minutes before Mila’s party started, the marquee letters toppled over and landed in the cupcakes. But no one noticed, and in the end everyone enjoyed the slightly distorted cupcakes. Just endure it all and make a promise to yourself that you’ll have fun no matter what happens.

Tell us about a few of your favorite memories from your baby’s first year!

This past year with Mila has been a complete dream. My favorite moments have been those where she surpassed milestones such as rolling over, waving and starting solid foods. Seeing her grow is such a privilege and a blessing. Mila made me feel like a mother again and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

Juggler at kids' birthday party

Gold party goblet

For my son Ryan’s first birthday I threw a pirate costume party that our family still talks about. I knew for Mila’s first birthday I had to follow suit, and what is more fun than having your entire family dress up as a traveling circus?

Kids' birthday smash cake

How do you reduce stress before hosting a party?

Throwing parties is known to be stressful, but it really doesn’t have to be. I’d say, enlist help to reduce your stress level. I hired my friend Jesi Haack of Jesi Haack Design to help me with party décor and entertainment. I also had my stepdad, Seth, learn how to make balloon animals via YouTube videos so he could make the kids’ balloon monkeys and the ever-famous circus animal, a dog. More often than not, your friends and family are talented and want to help. Let them, so that everyone (including you!) can have a good time.

What are the keys to a child’s birthday celebration? What kinds of activities and decorations are best?

I think the key to a child’s birthday celebration is entertainment. The dessert is a close second. I think it is important to have games the children can play (including a tiny gift for the winners) and someone/thing to entertain the children (so the parents can enjoy themselves a bit). Have a few options so the children keep busy in between cake and gifts. For Mila’s party, I did a mix of games and themed entertainment to offer a more circus feel. I think face painting is always a hit no matter what the party theme is. Also, my family has a tradition of playing ‘Penny Races’ at birthday parties. It is when two people race while holding a penny between their knees and try to drop it into an empty wine bottle placed at the other side of the room. It is hilarious! Keep in mind children are easy to please. Keep it simple. Even creating a fun backdrop and naming it a “Selfie Booth” will get everyone excited and engaged at the party!

Party selfie booth

Balloon animals kids' birthday party

How can our readers get the look of this soirée? What products went into the set up? Did you do any DIY projects to pull the look together?

I worked with Jesi to pull together the party look. I wanted a circus theme but not with traditional circus colors. I chose deep jewel tones and strived for more of a freak show traveling circus feel. Jesi had the brilliant idea of using this beautiful maroon velvet from Signature Party Rentals to drape off sections of the room to give the feel of circus booths. We also had Blot & Dot create the calligraphy booth signs.

This party was all about Mila, but I did want to have an elegant dinner feel to it as well. Truthfully, I wanted to spoil my family with a fun night and delicious dinner to thank them for all they have done for myself, Dan and both my children. I had Archive Rentals set the most beautiful place settings I’ve ever seen. I love that they also created place settings for the little ones as well!

I’d have to say the selfie booth we created was my absolute favorite. We adhered an assortment of animal masks to a wooden white board. It seemed a bit odd, but really made the whole party. Thanks to Jesi for having a secret collection of animal masks that finally came in handy!

Kids' birthday smash cake

Colorful garden floral arrangement centerpiece

What went into planning and putting together your costume?

My friend Lily Martinez of The Beautiful Circus helped me with my makeup. I’m not sure what I was, a mixture of a clown/ring leader. I wore a tiny top hat, a tulle collar and black leotard. I think my makeup was the most fun. My favorite costume was my sister-in-law’s—she came as a popcorn seller, and made her whole costume from things she found at Goodwill. Mila wore a cape and bloomers from Lovelane.

What was on the menu at the party?

My good friends Bricia and Paulina own the most delicious Oaxacan resturant in Los Angeles called Guelaguetza. They serve traditional Southwestern Mexican food and honestly my family is still talking about how great the food was at Mila’s birthday.

Juggler at kids' birthday party

More often than not, your friends and family are talented and want to help. Let them so that everyone (including you!) can have a good time.

Party selfie booth

Favorite kid-friendly party decorations: go!

A kids table! A table with a colorable table cloth is brilliant as well as little sweets the kids can dig into prior to cake! At Mila’s party, I used white butcher paper as the tablecloth and used old-fashioned pie tins to house crayons. I also put out licorice ropes in jars for the children to nibble on while enjoying the party.

What will you always remember about this party when thinking back on the day?

I will think about the belly laughs my entire family shared together. We all showed up in hilarious homemade costumes and thoroughly enjoyed each other. We came together to celebrate Mila and the pure light she has graced us with over the past year. I’ll also look back fondly at Mila’s first experience with birthday cake. Our family has a tradition where each child receives a lamb cake on her first birthday. When we presented it to Mila, she started to pet the lamb cake before stuffing fistfulls of it into her mouth.

Grown-up clown costume


Booth draping: Signature Party Rentals // Calligraphy signs: Blot & Dot // Table settings and furniture: Archive Rentals // Live sketch artist: Fashionably Funny // Face painter: Critterosity // Party design: Jesi Haack Design // Venue: Guelaguetza // Jacqui’s makeup: Lily Martinez of The Beautiful Circus // Mila’s outfit: Lovelane

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Author: Carrie Waller

Carrie is the writer, stylist and photographer behind Dream Green DIY, and also is the features editor for Glitter Guide. Follow along on Instagram!