DIY 1st Birthday Cake Smash

For months I planned and prepared for this 1st Birthday and Cake Smash photoshoot.  Kari-Anna was our guest of honor, our little rainbow baby!  I, of course, made sure to have as many handmade touches as possible…

I designed & sewed the dress, made the flower crown, baked and decorated the birthday cake, made the cake-topper… and envisioned a scene perfect for the littlest princess in our family.  She is, after all, our true-life dream come true, but that’s a story is for another day.

1st birthday cake smash

piped roses on cake with DIY cake topper

DIY pink flower crown with gold bow

I’ve done a few cake smashes in the past, but none compared to this one!  This was my 1st cake smash as a mom since I never had one for my 2 older kids… and I planned on photographing it.  The whole process wasn’t easy, and I knew it wasn’t going to be, but I think that’s what made it all the more pleasurable when everything started coming together.

I stayed up most of the night before the actual cake smash putting the finishing touches on baby girl’s dress, baking the cake, and making the frosting. I was exhausted, but I still hadn’t made her birthday crown  yet so I kept on working!  I was definitely prepared to miss sleep that night.  There was just so much involved in terms of to-do’s for the day of the cake smash so sacrificing a little sleep was expected… and I accommodated for it because I work best under pressure. I did manage to sneak in a few hours of shut eye unexpecteldy after laying in bed to nurse Kari back to sleep, so when morning came, I had to finish decorating the cake, make the birthday crown, and style Kari’s complete outfit. I also had to prepare all the decor and teepee and carts and things for transporting to the park along with the necessary photography gear.  If all that wasn’t enough, I had to wake up and get our 3 kids ready for the day since they had a birthday party to attend as well. Talk about  action-packed!!!  No biggie though – as you can see, we survived… and can live to tell about it.

If you are interested in how you can pull this off as well, keep reading. I made a bulleted lists of important key elements to consider when planning a DIY 1st Birthday & Cake Smash Photoshoot.

  • Make a Timeline:
    Build a timeline of events for the actual day. Don’t miss any details. Plan to shower. Plan to brush your teeth. It gets so hectic that you might consider skipping it so plan for it and make time to care for yourself in the midst of all there is to do. If you have children, plan to care for them as well. Don’t neglect the most important responsibilities to pull off something like this.  You will be much happier looking back on it when the most important elements of your daily life are factored in and wasn’t sacrificed for pictures.  In the end, those pictures will remind you of a story much deeper than you can ever display so make it a good one.  Some simple planning will help with this. I am happy that when I think back on this day, I feel proud of a successful execution. The only thing I sacrificed was a few hours of sleep… and that was it! My kids were taken care of and I showered and cared for myself as well. I think that’s a win!
  • Secure volunteers:
    I knew I would need many assistants for the photoshoot so I made sure to secure them.  My mom, dad, and sister willingly volunteered to be there to help if we needed it… and boy did we!   If you ever plan on doing something like this yourself – good luck!!! And if I can offer any advice, it’s simply to have as many hands on deck. You can’t possibly predict all that could happen and the more help, the better.
  • Envision the scene:
    What items or decor do you want to showcase? What will baby wear? Do you know the direction of the sunset? Where will you set up? How long will you need to set up everything so it looks perfect? Think about all of this. Will you order the cake, or make the cake? If so, pick a cake suitable to your taste & your decor. Make sure it represents your baby and his or her personality.
  • Photography gear:
    I shot this with a 5D Mark III camera and 24-70mm 2.8 lens.  Even if you
    don’t own professional camera equipment, you can still do this! However, I won’t recommend using a camera phone. Babies move around lot & they are swift little things… and if you don’t have a camera with adjustable shutter speed, many of your images can end up blurry.  No one wants that – especially for all the effort and planning this whole thing entails. Consider renting a camera and lens if you can’t currently afford one to purchase, but you should know the basics of photography before doing so.
  • Setting up:
    We hauled all of our equipment from the car to our spot in the park with our jogging stroller. We tried to pick a place that wasn’t too far from the car since we were carrying a cake, a teepee, and all of the decorations. I also made sure to set up the teepee so the sunset was BEHIND it. If you are blessed to have a backyard, consider doing it there… cake smashes can get messy if your kid likes cake – mine wasn’t too fond of it so we lucked out.
  • Photo editing:
    I edited these images with Lightroom and Photoshop. They looked beautiful with just Lightroom edits, but I do feel as though Photoshop offers a nicer final touch to each image so I ran them through both.  If you don’t have Lightroom or Photoshop, there are sites like PicMonkey that can make photo editing simple and fun.

The evening in June when I took these pictures was unexpectedly cold and windy and we had no idea that the temperature would quickly drop to the lower 60’s and the windspeed would be reach over 25mph! That isn’t too bad on a regular summer day, but for this day, it caused the teepee and flowers that styled our scene to fall over more times than we could count!

My plan was to complete this photoshoot in as little time as possible as we were using the sunset as our natural light and because it was getting too chilly to have baby girl in a sleeveless dress. Knowing that we were racing against the sun, literally, and now, the wind, we had to pour our energy into it quickly to get some decent shots.  All of my “assistants” were amazing and they deserve all the praises in the world for helping me pull this off . They positioned Kari for me. They picked up the teepee when it fell over. They even fixed the flowers and restyled the scene more than we ever anticipated doing.

My mom was behind me singing songs and trying her best to get Kari’s attention because Kari kept cry-crawling to me… makes sense as she’s my little hip monkey.

Ash kept re-assembling the tee-pee & picking it off the floor since the wind kept blowing it down. And when he wasnt busy doing that every 3 minutes, he was shouting and dancing and acting like a monkey behind me, along with my mom, to get Kari to laugh…

My dad was behind us flying kites with Addi and Zali (great kite-flying weather by the way…) to keep them distracted and occupied while Ash & I focused on baby girl. If it wasn’t for my dad’s entertainment, it would be “mom…” this and “mom…” that.

And my sister, may God bless her greatly, was there helping me with any quick requests I had.. like, “Can you get the cake and put it right there again?” “Ray, can you fix the flowers?” or “uhhh, can you pick up those flowers again, pleeeeease?”

I seriously couldn’t do this  without them! So thankful they were all there to help me capture these images of Kari-Anna. It truly takes a village to raise a child and I’m extremely grateful for all the people that make up my little village. I am so grateful to my husband and parents for always being there to lend a helping hand and putting up with all my shenanigans. You guys rock, big time!

Now, a short letter to the star of the day…

Kari-Anna, my sweet baby girl… your life has changed mine in so many beautiful ways. I am more of who I want to be, need to be, and hoped to be because of you… and it is a privilege to be your mom. I love you. And I pray that the Lord continues to bless you every single day of your life.  I pray that you realize soon just how important a relationship with Him is and come to the realization that 0ut of any thing you can attain in life, knowing that there is a God who loves you, cares for you, and wants the best for you, is all the knowledge you will ever need. Depend on him & Trust in him.

I love you, baby! Happy 1st Birthday!



  1. Ilka Elise | 18th Mar 17

    She is the cutest thing ever…. and has so much hair. OMG 🙂
    Love the little tipi idea <3 These are beautiful images xxx

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