Planning a Dol aka Korean 1st Birthday Party

Dol BackdropI am no expert in party planning nor am I incredibly skilled in arts and crafts. But, after a lot of researching on Pinterest, Instagram, Etsy, and YouTube, I planned & created a successful party without having to hire an event planner and spending a ridiculous amount of money.  And with a little research, creativity, patience, and papercuts, so can you!
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Tyler’s first birthday party was what I consider a labor of love.  I spent as much time planning and preparing his party as I did being pregnant with him. No joke! It got pretty close to feeling like I was planning a wedding, which is a process I’m sure no one would like to relive. But, it was worth all the blood, sweat and tears for our beautiful baby boy who survived his first year of life and brought so much joy and happiness to our lives. So why the big deal for a first birthday party you ask?
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Well, in Korean culture, the first birthday is called a “Dol” or “Doljanchi”, and is an especially important milestone that calls for a big celebration.  Key traditions that occur during the party include: preparing a special “Dol” display table with various stacked foods such as rice cakes and fruits to symbolize prosperity.  The infant typically wears a traditional Korean outfit called a “hanbok” and participates in a ritual called the “doljabi” that occurs during the celebration; where the baby is presented with various objects that symbolize a different path in life and the baby is urged to choose one to predict their future.
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So for those parents that are getting ready to plan your baby’s first birthday party or Dol, here are some tips and ideas.
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Venue: Since I started the birthday planning so early, we had no issues booking a Saturday lunch party at a banquet room at Grillhouse by David Burke, a popular steakhouse not far from us. We picked the restaurant because the banquet room had a lot of windows making it look very bright & airy and we had eaten here before and enjoyed the entrees & desserts which gave us peace of mind about the quality of the food.
 

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inviteTheme: Next up was picking a theme for the party.  I wanted more of a modern theme but still wanted to respect and keep the core traditional elements of the Dol in place. I decided on a theme of blue ombre with gold accents after seeing a beautiful blue ombre birthday cake on Instagram, which I wanted to be the focal point of the display table.  After deciding on the theme, my mind was bombarded by blue ombre as I scoured social media for inspiration.  Eventually, I found MemelePaperie on Etsy that created invitations, party favor tags, posters, and other paper goods such as raffle tickets at a reasonable price. She was able to beautifully capture my vision and bring it to life.
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DisplayTable
 Cake & Display Table: For the main display table, I ordered a custom cake from Deerfields Bakery (an Illinois chain) who accepts photos to help them match the look you are going for.  The ombre look came out great and I added a cake topper that I bought from KWUDLV on Etsy as a finishing touch.  We ordered the Korean rice cakes from a local Korean bakery.  Unfortunately, they turned out more green than a light blue, oh well. They still tasted good and ended up being more of a party favor vs. a display.  I also created two mini-towers, one with Tyler written on it and the other with Korean writing saying “Happy Dol”.  I made these by using two empty oatmeal canisters, and gluing great northern beans and black beans to them with a glue gun to create the designs.
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Backdrop: Behind the main display table, I wanted a semi-sheer white backdrop so that the sunlight from the windows could shine through (which makes photos difficult to take by the way, just FYI.  But, for the photos that came out well, it was exactly what I was hoping for).  I found an affordable, foldable & adjustable backdrop stand from Amazon and found the curtains from IKEA. I ordered a wooden cut out of the name Tyler (from Handcraftedbrunette on Etsy), which we hung with fishing line, which was a little tricky.
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To complete the backdrop, I watched several tutorials online and ending up making hand made paper flowers which I glued onto a circular base.  The base consisted of two & a half swimming pool noodles that I connected together with duck tape and wrapped with gold wrapping paper.  I hung the ring of flowers up with fishing line, putting Tyler’s name in the center of the circle .  Trying to fit in the time to cut and craft these flowers between feedings, diaper changes, playing with Tyler, and household chores was a challenge.  But, I am so happy how the backdrop turned out.  I’m considering posting a tutorial & tips on how I crafted the flower ring in the near future due to all the questions & compliments I got about it.
 

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Doljabi Items & Raffle: For the Doljabi items, you could use toys & items from around the household, borrow them, buy them, or get super creative and craft them yourself for a custom look. Luckily, Andrew’s nieces’ had their Dol parties not too long ago and we were able to borrow their yarn crafted items.  These included a basketball = athlete, rice sack = chef, bible = pastor, money = businessman, stethoscope = physician, keyboard = musician/arts.
 
DoljabiTable
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To spice up the Doljabi, like many other families, we turned this into a game for all those who attended.  We decided to give out 3 gift cards to those who correctly guessed what Tyler would pick.  I printed up a poster explaining the tradition which we framed.  We placed this behind six mason jars that I had painted in various hues of blue with chalk paint and had guests place their raffle tickets into the jar that corresponded with each item.
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doljabiHanbok: For his traditional Korean outfit, the hanbok, we lucked out that Andrew’s grandmother was visiting Korea in the months prior to the party and she was able to purchase a very dapper hanbok for him.  (Isn’t he adorable?)   There are many options for hanboks from borrowing one (because how often will you use this?), renting them, or purchasing them.
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Centerpieces: For table centerpieces, I got stand up frames from IKEA to display pics of Tyler and spray painted mason jars from Michaels a gold color and filled them with white hydrangeas and roses which I bulk ordered from Sam’s Club.  They came out very lovely!
Centerpieces
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Dessert Table & Party Favors: For our dessert table, I found several clear glass vases and candy jars that we filled with candies that matched the blue ombre theme of the party for display & snacking purposes.  We also purchased take home boxes from Hobby Lobby so that people could take home rice cakes and the candy as party favors.
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Milestone Poster: We always wanted to get professional photos of Tyler, but had never gotten around to it.  So as we were planning on making his milestone board for the party, we decided to kill two birds with one stone.  We found a local photographer who does great work at reasonable prices, and booked a mini-session, Jessica Weinstock Photography.  We picked one of our favorite pics and used that to create a milestone board (designed by Digital Decor & More on Etsy) which we framed for the party.
 Milestone Board
 
Slideshow: The hubby created a slide show of our favorite family pictures & video clips of Tyler and the banquet room was equipped with two drop down screens from the ceilings, so we didn’t need to bring any audiovisual equipment besides our laptop.  The hubby created the slideshow using TrakaxPC.
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On the day of the party, the setup was a bit hectic, but I was blessed to have friends and family that helped with preparation.  And after all that planning, the whirlwind of a day went by so fast!  But, everyone had fun, there were plenty of laughs, happy stomachs, and plenty of ogling over Tyler and how cute he looked in his hanbok.
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In retrospect, I may have went a tad overboard, but you know what, it’s our first son’s first birthday.  It only happens once.  And it was beautiful day full of happy memories.
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And for the results of the doljabi… it looks like we have a successful businessman in the making! (Hurry up Tyler… strike it rich and help us retire young).
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Feel free to shoot over any questions here about our planning, vendors we used, etc, here or on our Facebook page @thediaperdaily, or on instagram @thediaperdaily, and I’ll be glad to answer what I can!
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~Helen K.
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Summary of Vendors & Items Purchased
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Venue: Grillhouse by David Burke in Schaumburg, IL
Cake: From Deerfields Bakery (Buffalo Grove, IL location)
Backdrop Stand: (affiliate link for the backdrop stand that help us earn us a commission if you click on the link and purchase, thank you for the support!)

Backdrop Curtains & Centerpiece Frames: from IKEA
Flower Ring: swimming pool noodles from Target and handmade flowers
Cake Topper:KWUDLV on Etsy
Wooden Name Sign: Handcraftedbrunette from Etsy
Invitations, Welcome & Doljabi Poster, Raffle Tickets, Party Favor Tags: MemelePaperie on Etsy
Photo Session: Jessica Weinstock Photography in Long Grove, IL
Milestone Poster Design: Digital Decor & More on Etsy
Gold Poster Frames & Mason Jars: from Michael’s
Flowers: from Sam’s Club
Party Favor Boxes: from Hobby Lobby
Cake stands, candy jars: HomeGoods

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