Baby turns 1, with a bang: Parents splurge on birthday celebrations

Some parents here are willing to splurge thousands of dollars on their children's birthday celebrations

Housewife Emily Qian, 36, spent about $12,000 on her daughter's one-year-old birthday celebrations last month.

The birthday lunch for 70 guests at a five-star hotel here cost about $7,000. The customised, two-tiered birthday cake and dessert spread cost about $3,000, and decor and photography for the event another $2,000.

"I know, it's crazy right?" says Ms Qian.

"But it was important to me that things were done up tastefully. Besides, this was hassle-free. I just told the vendors what I wanted and they executed things well."

She is among parents here who are forking out thousands of dollars to celebrate their children's birthdays with a bang - not to show off, they say.

They are willing to splurge for a variety of reasons: It is a milestone birthday, a chance for the family to gather, it makes the grandparents happy and it is also convenient to take up packages offered by local businesses.

Ms Qian's daughter Faith was treated to a Red Riding Hood-themed birthday party.

There were large red balloons, a balloon arch with a woodland theme, and a dessert table decked out with confections supplied by home-grown bakery Little House of Dreams.

"My daughter doesn't remember a thing, but it's fine," says Ms Qian, who is married to bank analyst Danny Ng, 40.

"She's the only grandchild and I wanted things to be grand. I want my parents - her grandparents - to be happy with the celebration."

Financial planner Alvina Tiang, 33, and her husband Amos Lim, 36, also a financial planner, spent a lot less - about $3,000 - on their daughter Aleia's one-year-old birthday bash.

About 100 guests showed up for the Rainbow Brite-themed lunch party held at a steamboat restaurant earlier this month.

Spent $3,000: Ms Alvina Tiang and her husband Amos Lim with their daughter Aleia at her Rainbow Brite-themed party. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ALVINA TIANG

Ms Tiang's friends helped with the venue decor and she ordered the birthday cake and dessert table pastries from bakery Temptations Cakes.

She says the guests enjoyed the food and desserts and told her that they had a lot of fun.

"I have no regrets; it was money well spent," she says.

"My husband already has a theme in mind for next year's celebrations - Jurassic Park."

Cake makers here say that the trend these days for children's birthday cakes is custom-made, multi-tiered fondant ones. Themes that are popular with parents include princess, mermaid, rainbow, carousel, animals and superheroes.

For kids with allergies, some bakeries, including Temptations Cakes, provide nut-free, gluten-free and dairy-free cake options.

Parents are increasingly also requesting dessert tables - confections stylishly assembled on cake stands and trays, set against a wall banner. The cake is usually the centrepiece, accompanied by themed decorations and balloons on or around the table.

Little House of Dreams says sales of its custom-made cakes and dessert tables have increased "three to four times" in recent years.

Ms Grace Goh, 40, who joined the company as a partner in 2014, says fondant cakes and dessert tables gained popularity a few years ago in countries such as Australia and the United States.

"Through social media, parents here are exposed to such ideas and naturally want them for their own celebrations," she says.

Another trend that has caught on here for first-year birthday celebrations is cake smash photography, where little ones are snapped happily mangling their cakes.

To celebrate her twins' one-year-old birthday, Ms Yanni Lee, 36, and her husband Richard Ang, 36, a Singapore Armed Forces regular, organised a cake smash photography session. The photography session at The Studio Loft cost about $400.

Spent $400: Twins Oscar (left) and Olivia at their cake smash photography session. PHOTO: THE STUDIO LOFT

Ms Lee, an assistant administrative manager in a hospital, says she does not mind footing the bill for just a photo opportunity.

"I don't have many photos of myself when I was younger, so I really want that for my kids. I want them to look back on their photos fondly."

Next month, she will also be throwing a birthday party for her twins Oscar and Olivia. Her budget is about $3,500 for the birthday cakes and a buffet lunch for about 100 guests.

"I'm a first-time parent and I'll probably not be having any more kids, so I'm willing to splurge on them," she says, adding that their subsequent birthday celebrations will probably be kept small.

She also feels that the luncheon is a chance for her family members to get together.

"We're all so busy these days. We seldom meet. This is an opportunity for us to catch up, apart from during Chinese New Year," she says.

Other parents say they went for the works for their kids' one-year-old birthday celebrations - a birthday cake, dessert table, a meal, decor and photography - because they found vendors who could provide one-stop services.

Software company employee Tracey Foong, 36, decided to go with cake shop-cum-cafe Cake Avenue for that reason last year - the company could provide almost all that was needed for her daughter's oneyear-old birthday party. The only other thing she and her husband Henry Woo, 39, who works in logistics, had to do was look for a photographer.

"It was very convenient. I just buy the package and everything gets done," says Ms Foong, who spent about $2,500 on the entire celebration.

She was so satisfied with the experience that she intends to hold her second daughter's first-year birthday party next month at Cake Avenue again.

Cake Avenue owner Wong Chuan Sheng, 43, says the establishment began offering venue booking packages in 2015 and have had bookings almost every weekend since then.

Many other parents are happy to opt for quieter, cheaper ways of marking the occasion.

Mrs Joanne Ng, 32, says she and her husband Binghao, 32, spent less than $100 on their daughter Yuxi's first-year birthday celebrations.

The couple invited both sets of their parents to their home for tea and marked Yuxi's birthday with a chocolate cake, a bottle of champagne and some finger food from food chain Old Chang Kee.

Mrs Ng, a manager in an engineering firm, says: "At this age, she is clueless about what is happening and can't be a part of the discussions or decisions that you make about her birthday."

She and her husband, a data scientist, say they may hold a bigger celebration in future, when their daughter can be involved in the planning for her own birthday celebration.

She says: "It was an intimate affair this time, but we felt this was the most meaningful way to celebrate her first birthday - with the people closest to her."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 25, 2017, with the headline Baby turns 1, with a bang: Parents splurge on birthday celebrations. Subscribe