Ever since I was in Student Council at Plant City High School (ayo!) and was a part of planning the Homecoming dance for our school, I’ve loved event planning.
I love watching all the details come together, and finding creative ways to stay in budget. And since I’m slightly OCD and hyper-organized, planning things ahead of time is sort of my jam.
Now, if you’ve been a friend of A Hint of Garlic for long, you may have seen photos on Instagram of other parties I’ve thrown. And back when I was pregnant with Leon, I wrote a whole blog post on How to Throw a Golf-Themed Gender Reveal Party (click here to check that out).
Like that party, I chose a theme for Leon’s first birthday that just felt natural. Anthony & I love the ocean, and we started calling Leon our little sharkie shortly after he got this adorable outfit.
Also like our gender reveal party, this shark-themed birthday party was low-budget. We held the party at my mother-in-law’s, which means we didn’t fork out a couple hundred dollars for a venue. That alone gave us much more wiggle room to enjoy making the party super cute!
When you pick a theme that feels natural for your family, you’re bound to have a few items laying around that fit right in. For us, that meant surf boards and sea shells. And of course, I made almost all of the remaining decor myself. It’s amazing what you can do with some craft paper and creativity! Let me tell you all about the details.
HOW TO THROW A SHARK-THEMED BIRTHDAY PARTY (ON A BUDGET!)
Every party needs a fun welcome sign to let your guests know exactly what kind of party they are in for! I picked up two of these blackboards at Hobby Lobby years ago when they were 50% off, and I’ve used them for everything. I have a pack of chalk markers from Amazon that I also use and they tend to last quite a while. The ones below are similar to mine!
This post contains affiliate links. By clicking the photo above and placing an order with Amazon, I receive a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, and it helps keep A Hint of Garlic running!
I made the little shark cutout using a thick grey foam board, acrylic paints, and construction paper! I also made a larger version using the rest of the board, which you’ll see shortly.
NEXT UP, FOOD!
If you took a look at my Golf-Themed Gender Reveal Party post, you know that I went slightly overboard with the food. To be fair, I didn’t have a toddler at the time.
This time around, we kept things pretty simple and stuck with what we knew our guests would love. I also kept in mind that this is a kids party, and kids should be able to eat! That included:
- Buffalo Chicken Dip with tortilla chips and corn chips (not kid-friendly, but its my fave!)
- Crackers & Cheese
- Fresh fruit with yogurt dip
- Fresh veggies with my Homemade Ranch
- Chicken Salad Croissants (which I think looked like little clamshells!) & plain chicken salad on the side for the gluten-free family members
- Super cool shark watermelon head that Anthony’s Meme made for us (adorned with swedish fish)
- Snacks & Sweets – including the starfish and wave cookies above that were made by Divine Cookie Designs. She is crazy talented and I highly recommend her!
I laid out a thin fishing net that I got for $1 from Dollar Tree (YES, $1!!) and placed a few shells and starfish throughout. I also made a sun from construction paper that I hung from the ceiling above the food table.
Outside, we had snacks, sweets, and drinks that everyone could munch on as the kids played in the water.
The “ocean water” was just lemonade dyed blue, and we also had water and juice boxes. Realistically, people just need to stay hydrated, and having one additional yummy option is enough for a party. You may be tempted to have 20 different options, but trust me, its not necessary!
The snack table outside was definitely my favorite area. To fit the shark theme, we had goldfish, gummy worms, those beautiful cookies by Divine Cookie Designs, and shark fin-topped cupcakes.
FUN & SIMPLE DECOR
I used a blue tablecloth (again $1!) as the base, and grabbed scrapbooking paper in ombre colors from Hobby Lobby. I got 2 sheets of each color that you see. Then, I drew out 3 sets of waves on one sheet, cut those out, and used them as a stencil to draw out waves on the rest of the paper. Then I cut them out, lined them up, and glued them together. This was definitely the most time-consuming decoration I made! But I LOVE how it turned out.
The coolest part is, I realized after the party that the front of the table looked exactly like the painting I created for Leon’s birth.
God is so cool like that.
Anyway! I made the big shark cutout using a grey foam board from Hobby Lobby. Then I drew out the details with pencil and completed it with paint.
If you look closely, you can also see tiny sharks swimming across the top of the table. I drew those out on grey paper, and cut out fins separately. I glued the fins on the top so that they stood up. That way, when you’re looking at the table from eye-level, you can see their little fins sticking up! I thought it was a fun touch.
STAYING LOW-BUDGET & LOW-STRESS
Another key to throwing a great party and keeping costs low is accepting help when its offered to you. My sweet sister Brooke made all the cupcakes and did the pretty blue icing for me, and my other sister Jami bought the cookies for the party. Other people pitched in with snacks or putting up decorations, so all together it took a lot of weight off my shoulders. Family and close friends really want to help you celebrate, so let them!
I went DIY with the shark-fin cupcake toppers by cutting fins out of grey paper and hot-gluing them to popsicle sticks (note – cut the sticks in half or they will be too long!). I also made the cake topper and bought the yellow “1” candle for Leon’s smash cake.
When it was time for the smash, I moved that large shark cutout from the table and put it on the back of the highchair. It kinda looks like the shark is eating Leon’s head… whoops!
I made the waves for the front of the chair the same way I made the ones for the snack table (see above). Easy, cheap, and super cute for the shark themed birthday party!
Leon’s cake was gluten-free & vegan, iced with coconut milk whipped cream, and filled with blueberries. He was not impressed.
Let’s not relive that moment.
GET YOU A HANDYMAN
On the other side of the table, I propped up my two surfboards. It was fun to use something so dear to my heart as decor. And again, when you choose a theme that your family really loves, you have free items that you can use for decorating!
My husband built the photo frame out of old baseboards and stained them a dark color for me. I realize not everyone has a handyman husband around, but you might have a dad, brother, or grandpa who loves working with their hands. If there’s something simple like this that you can ask them to build for you, do it! They’ll be honored that you asked, and you’ll have something special to use for future parties.
I stapled a couple of those $1 nets from the Dollar Tree onto the frame, and clipped the photos on the nets. The photos from Leon’s first year obviously cost a little money to have printed, but I’ll be keeping those keeping always and forever! Its important to know what expenses are worth it.
SKIP THE GOODY BAGS
You know those little sharks with the standing fins from the snack table? I cut out extras and glued those to the front of the goody bags! Inside I put chalk, bubbles, and a little shark toy.
But by the end of the party, most of them were still sitting right there on the table. It was fun and cute, but in reality, nobody ever takes them home! Even I forget to grab one when I’m a guest at a party. So I say skip the expense – nobody will notice & you won’t be left with a ton of extras.
One of my favorite little details from the party were these caution signs. I had one on the door leading to the outside patio (you can see that in the background of the photo on the right). The other was on the screen door leading outside, where the kiddy pools and sprinkler was set up. One said, “Warning: Little sharkies at play”. The other said, “Shark sighted: Enter at your own risk”.
I cut out thin strips of black paper to make the border, and glued them to yellow scrapbooking paper. I cut out the waves and shark fin from paper as well. The lettering was done using letter stamps and black ink. So simple!
More important than all the treats & cute shark things was celebrating this guy.
His Gram Gram got him this bathing suit and rash guard set for pool time. And she also got him a little sharky tank top and shorts for the cake smash. Dressing him to fit the theme was so fun! He was really overwhelmed by all the people, but it was still really sweet to celebrate a whole year of his life.
If you need a little outfit for your babe’s shark themed birthday party, click either of the photos below! They have these adorable onesies and swim trunks on Amazon, and tons of other options, too.
The bottom line is, planning your kiddo’s shark themed birthday party shouldn’t break the bank. It’s not going to be totally stress-free, but it should at least be fun! Just keep in mind that this special day is about celebrating and being together, and all the other details are just icing on the cake.
Happy birthday to your sweet little human!