Jaren’s Dol | First Birthday

I previously blogged about my thought process behind planning Jaren’s dol. I wanted to keep things simple while still honoring some of the traditional elements of a Korean first birthday. This year we decided to host Jaren’s first birthday party at a park because we needed some form of entertainment for Noelle and her toddler friends. I couldn’t think of anything better than free reign of the great outdoors, with slides and swings to help them burn off that toddler energy.

I made sure to create a checklist, put everything in boxes, and load up the car the night before, so I wouldn’t forget anything the day of! I went to the park an hour early with a friend to setup while Sam stayed home with the kids, and got them ready to go. Since we decided to have the party from 12-2 pm, I needed to make sure that Jaren was well rested and got in his morning nap. Thankfully, his timing was impeccable that day and he napped from 10-11:30 am!

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I really wanted to make yarn letters out of his name for the head table, so I got some paper mache letters and spent an hour each night wrapping yarn around the letters while catching up on TV. The project requires a lot of hot glue! Ideally, these letters would’ve been standing, but they kept falling over because of the wind so I just laid them flat. They didn’t look too bad that way either.

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My very simple head table featured a two-tier cake, two vases filled with snacks, and tangerines, bananas, and grapes. Originally, I was going to make mini desserts like cake pops, rice krispy pops, brownie bites, and cupcakes to fill the table, but when I was shopping at Costco I saw a box of cheez-its and got this bright idea that it’d be less time consuming to just fill some vases with favorite children friendly snacks! I bought tubular vases from TJ Maxx Home Goods and filled one with cheez-its and the other with animal crackers. I didn’t see the point in putting in so much labor into desserts that people were unlikely to eat too much of, especially when there was already a huge cake. It was a good decision on my part because the kids happily gobbled up the snacks, and I still had a ton of cake left over!

I created the banner out of scrapbook paper I had leftover from my old scrapbooking days (you know, those days pre-kids when I actually had all the time in the world to scrapbook!). I created a template by folding a piece of stock paper in half width-wise, and created a triangle… then I used that template to trace and create multiple triangles out of a variety of scrapbooking paper. For the letters, I printed the words, then created a circle template using the top of a paper cup and cut out the letters into rounds and pasted it onto the triangles. I strung them with the remaining blue yarn I had left from my paper mache letters.

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We created an instagram banner by using twine, then clipping the pictures with mini clothespins. I wanted a lot more balloons than what we ended up with, but we ran out of helium… and I envisioned streamers going across the ceiling, but it was too high and we didn’t bring a ladder so we ended up not doing that. You know what they say about the best laid plans… Nonetheless, we still had fun and the guests couldn’t have cared less!

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 I created a photo book, and used it as a guestbook. Behind it are little jars so that guests could vote for the doljabi game. We actually had two separate voting games. One was for the traditional item – we chose to go with stethoscope (doctor), rice (abundant life), pencil (scholar), money (wealth), and ball (athlete). The other game is a family inside joke type thing. We have a fun competition around here regarding basketball. I’m a Lakers fan, and as you all know, Sam is a Laker Hater, but a huge Spurs fan… SO he insisted on creating a game out of it, making our kids choose between the Lakers, Spurs, and Clippers (our neutral team). Let’s just say he was not happy at all with the team our son chose!

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My talented friend made the cake, and we had another cake made completely out of rice cakes that we bought from the Korean supermarket.


For favors, I just put two mini play-dohs in each of the baggies, hole punched the bags, and tied them up with blue twine. I also had to have a chalkboard sign, which is now hanging up in his nursery. I spray-painted a white canvas board with chalkboard paint, then free handed the writing with chalkboard pens (I did create a rough draft on paper first to figure out how I wanted the layout to look and what I wanted it to say).

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Our dohl was from 12-2 pm, so we served the guests lunch. We catered Korean food for about 35 guests. On the menu were bulgogi (Korean marinated meat), chapchae (vermicelli noodles), kimbap (korean sushi rolls), kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), some egg battered beef and fish, other side dishes, and purple rice. For drinks, we just immersed canned soda, bottled water, and milk boxes (for the kids) in a cooler filled with ice.

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Now it’s time to play the doljabi game, and for the birthday boy to decide which item to choose! He is seriously considering his options. Look at him, with his hand on his knee and everything! Hmmmm… decisions decisions. I know, life’s tough kid.


He went for the rice – he’ll have an abundant life!


Then he got overwhelmed by all the fanfare, and burst into tears!


After a hug or two, all is well again… now time for the next round…


Come on buddy, are you going for the Lakers, Spurs, or Clippers? (He ended up choosing the Lakers, at Sam’s dismay… but it was HUGE WIN for me! *Happy Dance*)!

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We had a great time celebrating our little boy’s first birthday with our loving friends and family! We are so thankful for our village.

Photography: Jerome Park Photo
Cake: Nancy Lim

6 thoughts on “Jaren’s Dol | First Birthday

  1. What a lovely party — I honestly never thought a dol at a public park could be so nice! Great job, and I’m sure Jaren will appreciate it when he gets older and can look back on these beautiful photos.

  2. Wow! The party turned out WONDERFULLY!!! You really lucked out with the weather! And that’s so funny Jerome did your pictures! He did my sister’s wedding too! The photos of Jaren crying are priceless! I wish I had put some more energy into doing a choosing/doljabi game!

  3. Let me just say those photos are beautiful! J is one lucky 1yo! I love that you went with simple because in the end simple turned out to be perfect :). Oh, and the catered Korean food- I’m seriously salivating!

    I couldn’t help but see Viv’s comment above- it’s crazy how small the world is ;). I’ll be visiting the OC again (2x this month in fact) and I’ll be seeing Viv. We should all get together for a playdate! Have you met her yet?

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