Planning Jaren’s Korean 1st Birthday (Dol)

A Doljanchi is a traditional Korean 1st birthday celebration that is a big deal in Korean culture.  What are the origins of the Doljanchi?  Historically, it was common in Korea for infants to die before their first year, so Korean’s wanted to celebrate babies who were able to make it to the one year mark.

Since my kids are both half korean, I wanted to make sure we honored this milestone birthday and celebrate their Korean cultural roots.  Doljanchi’s are usually way more elaborate than typical first birthdays.  Many of them are as elaborate as mini-weddings with fancy backdrops, professional balloon arches, centerpieces, favors, photographers, videographers, and the whole nine yards!  I didn’t want to go overboard with the planning, but I still wanted to maintain some of the traditional elements.  These are some of the things I thought about while planning his first birthday…

T H I N G S   T O   C O N S I D E R

Location: With Noelle’s Dol, I kept it at home because it was more convenient and we didn’t need much in the form of entertainment because there were only 2 other babies invited.  This time around, I had to consider making sure Noelle and her toddler friends could be preoccupied as well.  I also wanted a place that didn’t require much in terms of decor (both for my sanity and for cost savings).  I knew I did not want it indoors because then I’d have to consider tables, tablecloths, centerpieces, etc. Thus, we decided to have Jaren’s dol at a local park that has picnic tables and shade, but also has slides, swings, and a sandbox close by for the kids to play.  I will doctor up the area with lots of balloons and streamers.  Simple enough.

Time: I wanted the kids to be well rested, so I considered two different times.  It either had to be the hours between Jaren’s 1st and 2nd nap of the day, or after 4 pm.  At first I wanted it at 4 pm because I know *most* of my friends kids don’t nap after that, but my husband pointed out that in February, it gets dark a lot sooner and by 5 pm all daylight would be gone… so we decided to host the party from 12-2 pm.

Theme: I originally planned to do a “lil man mustache theme”, but the thought of tying every single element together with mustaches and other details could get expensive.  I really wanted to use what I had on hand to bring a party together, so I stuck with just a color theme – blue, light blue, and orange.  As long as these colors were present in the party, it should look nice and cohesive without stressing over an actual theme.

Food: This was easy – Korean food, and lots of it!  We are catering it from a local Korean supermarket just like we did for Noelle’s Dol.

DIY vs Buy

This was the BIG one for me.  I probably grew some white hairs before I even lifted a single finger just by analyzing whether it was worth the time to DIY or to just buy.

My practical side thought that DIY wasn’t necessarily going to be cheaper considering I’d have to buy the materials used to make stuff (since I’m not a regular crafter).  Then I thought about the extra supplies I’d end up with, likely never to be used again, taking extra space in my house.  All this was a pretty strong deterrent from me wanting to DIY.  One of my new year’s resolutions was to adopt a minimalist lifestyle (I was inspired by Kristin’s posts!), and this wasn’t quite in line with my vision for our life this year.

However, my other side wanted to put a personal touch to some of the party elements.  DIY IS cheaper sometimes, and in all honesty, a part of me wanted to be supermom.  In the end, I decided that I am NOT supermom, crafting is NOT my strong point, and I’m ok with that.  One of the first things I did was to avoid Pinterest at all costs… I didn’t even google for inspiration ideas because those picture perfect parties can be so overwhelming and cause unnecessary pressure.

In the end, I decided I had to give and take, and created a grid listing things I’d DIY, BUY, or NONE (things I could do without).

Dol Go-Im Towers: NONE.  These are a very popular element at Dohl’s, and the towers usually have the child’s Korean name on it, and/or their Chinese zodiac animal sign.  I considered making it, but buying bags and bags of beans and hot gluing them to a tower one by one didn’t appeal to me at all.  They sell these on Etsy too, but at ~$75 per tower plus shipping… I said no thanks.

Dol PosterBoard: NONE.  At Dol’s, it is tradition to play a game where the child chooses one of several items, each symbolizing something different.  To go along with this game, many people have a big poster board created with their child’s face and name, along with the 5-8 selections on the bottom… then the guests will place their vote for which element they think the child will choose.  I did one for Noelle, but hers has been sitting in the closet catching dust ever since the party, so with Jaren’s dol I plan to just frame a blown-up picture of him instead.

Cake: OUTSOURCE.  I did consider making a multi-tier cake by myself, but just the thought stressed me out so I decided against it.  I don’t even own cake pans.  My friend does beautiful, elaborate, professional cakes so she is making the cake for us.  The cake is going to be the centerpiece of the head table so I wanted to make sure it stood out.

Photography: OUTSOURCE.  I know I’m going to have my hands full with both kids, so there was no way I’d be able to take quality pictures.  I have several professional photographer friends, so I hired one of them to take pictures for us.

Desserts: DIY.  To supplement the cake, I’m going to make cake pops, rice crispy pops, and brownies.

Birthday Banner: DIY.  I have some leftover scrapbooking paper from my pre-kid days that I used, and some leftover twine from a baby shower I hosted.  No extra supplies needed so I was willing to take this one!

Paper Mache Name: DIY.  This is my one “labor of love” element that is taking me some time to do.  I bought paper mache letters and yarn from Joann’s and am making a yarn-wrapped letters of his name to display at the head table.  I plan on hanging his name in his nursery once this is all over and done with.

Chalkboard Stats: DIY.  This is pretty popular nowadays and I really wanted to make my own to give it a personal touch.  It’s not finished, so depending on how it turns out I may end up outsourcing it!  I already sprayed my canvas with chalkboard spray and am excited to get my craft on with this.  This is also another “keeper project” – I plan to hang this up in his nursery once all is said and done.

The few things that I did choose to DIY all lend itself to being used again and again, so I didn’t mind taking those projects on.  It kills thinking about the time spent creating something that will only be used once, so I nixed those things.  Now you probably know more than you ever cared to know about the inner workings of my mind!  I didn’t want to burn myself out planning the party, but I also want it to be fun for those who attend.  Fun to me = good food, good friends, and good entertainment.  Everything else is just the icing on the cake.

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