My Little Lion's Baptism & First Birthday

My Little Lion's Baptism & First Birthday

A few weeks ago, I shared a few snaps on Instagram of my little Leo for his first birthday. With his birthday coinciding with his baptism, we decided to throw a big party for our big boy to celebrate all the things.


Mama's journal leading up to a first birthday

I'm so happy and wish my boy the happiest of birthdays, but I can't help but feel some sadness and incredible guilt too. I just don't feel like I've gotten to have the quality time with Leo that I had with my first baby, Ryan, and I wonder if other second- or third- or fourth- time mamas feel this way, too.

We moved into our new home just after Leo was born, and there is still so much left to be done with the house... I swear I had a contractor here daily for several months... and in that new mama, postpartum phase, the memories feel like an out-of-body experience at this point. I was so deep into what was happening with the house (and managing toddler Ryan among the workers) that I couldn't really savor and enjoy my newborn.

Sometimes I felt like I was just trying to get through nursing sessions... racing to naptime so I could get things done around the house. My main goal was to bring peace to our home and get the workers out as quickly as possible, and I worry that my relationship with Leo in those early days suffered. I just couldn't juggle it all.

As we got closer and closer to Leo's first birthday, this outpouring of emotions hit me like a brick. He grew up way too fast for mama! It truly felt faster than with Ryan, and I feel guilty that he never got to enjoy ALL of me like Ryan did. Sometimes I wish I could turn back time... which is why it's important, especially as mamas, to savor every single moment.

I try to keep the perspective that Leo's world is expanded in different ways than Ryan's, as he got to experience having a big brother where Ryan did not.. but it's hard to keep the mama guilt from creeping in. How do you deal with the "not enough" guilt? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.


Planning the baptism and first birthday party

When we first decided to have an official party for baby Leo, I looked into hiring an event planner. I quickly decided it wasn't for me, knowing that it would take more time and require more work with the back and forth needed to plan an intimate family event.

And, an old friend and event planner extraordinaire, Christine Zohrabians of Fancy That Events, convinced me that I could handle it myself with some awesome tips and advice from her along the way! (Thank you, Christine!)

I'm so glad I decided to take on the planning and get involved every step of the way for Leo's first big celebration! Not only did it make it so worth it when I saw it all come together on the big day, but it was also a way for me to connect to my little lion—our nickname for Leo, which, of course, had to be the theme for the party!


The invitation

Like any big event, it starts with the perfect invitation. We turned to the wonderful creative, Design on Paper, who designed Ryan's first birthday invitation, and she nailed it one more time! This sweet and soft watercolored lion on warm cream paper set the tone for what was to come.


The baptism ceremony

We had a lot to celebrate, so we braced ourselves for an action-packed day! There was Leo's Christening, his first birthday party, his teething celebration (I mentioned in my teething article that it's a big milestone in the Armenian culture)... and of course we had to see little lion smash and have his first bite of a birthday cake!

We started the day's events at 12pm with Leo's christening ceremony at St. Mary's Church in Glendale. This location is special to us as we were married there, Ryan was baptized there, and now little Leo would be baptized there too. All of these special moments in our family were overseen by the same priest, Ter Vazgen, who has become a dear friend of our family. We chose my brother and sister as Leo's Godparents to love and guide him in life alongside us.

We were surrounded by our family and closest friends and experienced Leo being baptized into our Christian faith. He let out a few of his lion roars (as we call them), but he didn't cry once during the hour long ceremony, not even when he was unclothed and dipped into holy water by the priest. My brave boy!


Side note: Can I just say how obsessed I am with the scent of the anoint oils rubbed on Leo's hands, feet, hair and forehead? Tradition says not not bathe the baby until the third day after baptism, and I didn't mind at all because I wanted to smell him that way forever! 

Family members lit candles and prayed together to honor little Leo and then Godfather presented Leo with the most beautiful, blessed gold cross to match the cross his big brother was presented with at his baptism.

After the ceremony, we took photos with family and headed home to celebrate in our backyard with everyone!


The perfect outfits

Before we dive into the fun party details, let's get into the fashion styling! Knowing this was a big day celebrating milestones and we'd have talented photographer and friend, Guy Galstyan, on board, I had to have the perfect outfits for my sweet boy and the family.

I stopped at a local boutique called Choupette where I found the most beautiful christening gown and towel for Leo. I was also on the hunt for a linen suit for my little guy which I found at Choupette as well—beautiful sand colored suit and bow tie with a white button down. He wore it with the perfect pair of leather baby boots by Freshly Picked.


We also needed something special for Leo to smash his cake in, so I ordered the cutest crochet lion bloomers and headband... the bloomers had a tail, y'all! I could have died!

Of course, big brother had to look just as handsome! We found his navy suit and pants, white button down, and a pair of suede navy sliders that are to die for at Crewcuts, the adorable J. Crew kids' clothing store. He would match his daddy, who wore a navy suit and white button down by Hugo Boss. 

(P.S. This Hugo Boss suit is one to have in the closet for your hubs, mamas... it's the perfect, classic suit for any daytime formal occasion!)

Mama was on the hunt for a linen piece too to match her little lion, and I found the perfect white textured cotton (felt like linen) jumper by Alexis on Amazing material, sweetheart bodice, and flared legs... yes please! (I paid full price, but it's on sale right now!) I felt so comfortable yet dressed up—the best combination when hosting a party where you still need to look your best. I love that it's a piece that I can wear again and again... and you already know I love a closet staple!

Another closet staple, my nude Stuart Weitzman heels, were my choice shoe for the baptism, and then you know I changed into my lower heels by Steve Madden for the backyard celebration at home. And, I completed the look with my fave Lovers and Friends pink coat whenever it got chilly.


The backyard celebration

When we returned from the church, I was in such a happy space having spent the last hour with my family during this important milestone. And, to turn the corner and see everything I'd been planning—the decor and setup—come together so beautifully, my heart felt truly full. 


The cake table

The cake table was front and center to the party and one of my favorite elements! It was dressed with the main cake topped with a fondant lion to match the lion on the invite, smash cake, and yummy desserts created by Nina K. Design. (How cute were the 1 cookies with lion paws?!) Nina also created the fun cake banner that everyone commented on, "Happy Birthday Leo the Lion". Everything was custom made to fit with the lion theme, I even found the perfect hand painted lion cake topper for the smash cake at one of my favorite children's boutiques, Hankie Babies.

Giant letter balloons from Belle Âme Balloons that spelled ROAR created the perfect backdrop for the cake table, and jumbo orange and yellow balloons with tassles on each side of the table completed the look. Although the strong winds that day weren't on our side—so not cool, wind Gods!

Other Cake Table Accessories:

Lion Art by Sharon Montrose

Lion Stuffed Animal by Jellycat


the guest tables

I rented tables and chairs from MTB Event Rentals, another one of my go-to party vendors as they always deliver high quality, clean furniture pieces, they're timely, and very professional. I chose their white-washed farm tables and X back chairs for a rustic chic vibe.

Each table had a table runner in a soft orange and yellow, while the cake and kids' tables were dressed in a more fun and vibrant pattern linen. Linens were provided by LA Tavola Fine Linen who I've used in the past and will again and again for their unique selection and excellent service. Their drop off and pick up service alone will have me return every time! 

Beautiful banana leaf jungle-esque centerpieces for each table top and mini accent flower arrangements for the kids table were designed by my forever florist, Designs by Christine. She always delivers and uses the freshest flowers! Christine also provided the gorgeous florals on the cake table, a 1 arrangement filled with yellow, peach and green flowers, and a lovely wreath to dress the bottom tier of the main cake. 


The food & drink

Based on a rave recommendation from a friend, I decided to use Billotti's Catering to feed our guests, who arrived to find the most beautiful charcuterie board filled with gourmet cheeses and meats to enjoy with wine and mingling before lunch was served.

For lunch, they served an assortment of sliders with sides of their famous mac & cheese, antipasto salad, and grilled vegetables. This comfort food was perfect for a rustic chic celebration in our backyard with our closest friends and family.


The kids got to enjoy all the comfort, but we also decided to have classic cheese and pepperoni pizzas delivered to be on the safe side with any picky eaters!

I brought on Drink and Be Married as the bartending company to complete the exact food and beverage vibe I was going for. Kristin and Sam are the husband and wife duo who own the company, and they were such a pleasure to work with... coming up with the most fun and delicious themed drinks like "Old King of the Jungle" and "Frida Pride". All of the partygoers raved about the drinks which were served in glass mason jars—on point!


The teething celebration

For the teething celebration I mentioned earlier, I ordered custom profession cards by the talented They were simple and classic, just what I wanted! It was also super cute that Leo picked the same profession his big brother did, doctor! We might have not one but two doctors in the family, ha!


The Entertainment

For entertainment, hubby took the reigns and hired Kids' Reptile Parties and they came over with exotic animals and stole the show with their show! When we decided to book them for the big day, we thought they would entertain the kiddos while the parents enjoyed lunch but the parents were just as, if not more, into it as the kids! There was a snake, lizard, frog, turtle, and more that the kids got to pet and say hello to, and little Leo and Ryan were made a part of the routine for fun!


thank you gifts

I decided against the typical goodie bag and, instead, hired Cliff Bayuga to draw portraits of each of the families to thank our guests for joining our family to celebrate Leo's special day! Cliff added the sweetest touch to each portrait with a lovely, lion themed thank you note. We love our portrait and plan to frame it as a memory of this day!


Smash the cake 

Leo didn't get into it, by it I mean his cake, as much as big brother Ryan did at his first birthday celebration... but once he got a taste of the good stuff, he went back for seconds and thirds and...

Remember the thing about no baths until the third day after being baptized? You could imagine getting him cleaned up with just baby wipes wasn't easy! So now my baby smelled of anoint oils plus sweet, sweet birthday cake! 


I had so much fun planning Leo's big party and celebrating with friends and family, but I'll admit I'm partied out, mamas! 

So much so that I've asked hubby to book a birthday vacation instead for Ryan's third birthday coming up in May!

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