Laura de Medici-Bentley: From Pinterest perfect to fun and simple

Laura de Medici-Bentley

When I look at the video of my first birthday, I see my parents, their close friends, a lady who cooked Dominican food (in honor of my heritage), and a homemade banner.

If you type “First birthday party ideas” into the search engine, you’ll be bombarded with images of fancy theme ideas, immaculate décor, over-the-top fondant cakes and other intricate pastries … and this is all for a 1-year-old’s party.

Pinterest describes itself as “a visual discovery tool that you can use to find ideas for all your projects and interests.” People can find ideas for anything (home décor, childrens crafts, fashion, recipes , etc).

Here’s the thing — people (myself included) tend to forget that most of these pictures are not an accurate representation of real life. The most popular images are magazine quality.

But when you see all of these “perfect” images in one place, it can be hard not to feel like “this is what everyone else must be doing.” You can end up feeling compelled to “measure up” to the images you see. You end up with “Pinterest guilt.”

I fell into that trap head first last year when it came time to plan Livia’s first birthday party.

I am ashamed to admit it now, but for the entire month before Livia’s birthday, I became someone else. I became obsessed over planning the perfect party. The obsession consumed what little free time I had.

I was still teaching full-time! On my break, I’d scour over the thousands of pictures of party décor, themes, and cakes. I originally wanted the party’s theme to be “Livia in One-derland” (inspired by Alice in Wonderland). I ordered two custom-made tutu dresses — a “Queen of Hearts” dress and an “Alice” dress. I took professional pictures for the invitations. On weekends, I started working on the whimsical homemade decorations during Livia’s naptime.

Then, I decided it was too much. I wouldn’t be able to “live up” to the theme.

So I decided to change the theme to “Livia’s first year — in pictures.” I ordered over 200 small prints of pictures I took of Livia over the course of her first year, starting from the day she was born. I would use the pictures for decorations. I sent out 45 invitations and had yet another birthday outfit made.

My parents agreed to let me host the party at their house. I know they were expecting a simple party. They didn’t know what I had planned until the beautiful large, fondant cake, 40 cake pops, and the “mandatory smash cake” arrived the morning of her party. “Are you SERIOUS?!” my mom asked. “She’s ONE, Laura, she isn’t going to remember any of this!”

I rolled my eyes — I was too busy thinking about how perfect everything looked.

Unfortunately, the party was far from perfect. Livia (who usually took regular naps and usually was in a happy mood), sensed the excitement and didn’t nap that morning. The guests started arriving, and Livia was very cranky. I had never seen her like that. Livia usually loves being around lots of people — but not that morning. She was asleep for half of her party, and she wanted nothing to do with her “smash cake.”  I felt horrible! Instead of throwing a party Livia might have enjoyed, I ended up throwing the most overwhelming party possible. Never again, I promised. If you look at the pictures of that day, everything looks perfect, but I know the reality behind them.

It is now the month before Livia’s second birthday, and a few people have asked, “What do you have planned for Livia’s birthday this year?” My answer is “Nothing. It’s going to be fun and simple.”

I’m going to have a small backyard barbecue for family and fill up Livia’s inflatable pool. My mom and I will make her cake, and I’ll get a few balloons. The pictures may not be Pinterest perfect, but I could care less. The smile on my daughter’s face is perfect enough for me.

Laura de Medici-Bentley, of Winchester Virginia, is a former early childhood educator who currently enjoys staying home with her [almost] 2-year-old daughter. She is an author of a personal blog, She can be reached at