Crystal Lee 


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How To Choose A Theme For Your Cake Smash Portraits

Mar 15, 2021

Your baby is turning one! And what better way is there to celebrate this journey into toddlerhood than with a cake smash photo session, styled just for you. But how do you even begin to choose a theme for such a special occasion? It’s easy to fall down the Pinterest rabbit hole where suddenly inspiration turns into overwhelm.

Lucky for you, my studio specializes in creating custom cake smash sets for your baby’s first birthday portrait session! I’ve put this guide together to help you narrow your focus and choose a theme that is perfect for your sweet, unique baby.

Questions to ask yourself before choosing a theme

  • Am I going to display these images in my home? Or in the baby’s nursery? If so, what colors would compliment the decor?
  • Do I want to match my baby’s birthday party theme or should I do something different?
  • Do you already have an outfit picked out?
  • What are some recurring themes in our life that have special meaning?

There are many things to think about when choosing a cake smash theme that is unique to you. The following list will go through some ideas that will hopefully get the wheels turning. I’ve also added a great variety of images from some of my favorite cake smash themes. Remember, don’t be afraid to get creative!

Parents choice

One of the great things about choosing a first birthday theme is that you are in full control. After this point, the kids typically have a bigger role in choosing their birthday theme, so this is your time to shine! I jokingly tell my clients that the first birthday is really about you. So have fun with it!

  • Your career: chef, banker, firefighter, football player, teacher, hairstylist
  • Your favorite hobby: golf, surfing, shopping, going to the movies
  • Your favorite sport or team: football, baseball, soccer, hockey, gymnastics, martial arts
  • A favorite movie or TV show: Star Wars, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Game Of Thrones, Batman

Something special to baby

Baby’s first year really is a magical time. In just a few short months your little one will be sorting out their likes and dislikes and letting their unique personality shine through. By their first birthday, there will likely be some things that bring them excitement like a specific song or a TV show. My first daughter was all about the Hot Dog Song on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and we watched Frozen 2 religiously with my second!

So, what sparks joy for your little one?

  • A favorite song: Baby Shark, The Wheels On The Bus, The Hot Dog Song
  • A favorite TV or movie character: Moana, Mickey Mouse, Sesame Street, Monsters Inc.
  • A favorite book: Hungry Little Caterpillar, Where The Wild Things Are, Love You Forever, Dr Suess
  • A favorite food: ice cream, pasta, fruit (a lemon or avocado theme would be so fun!)
  • A favorite toy or activity: dump trucks, airplanes, coloring or painting

No theme, just a color scheme

Not every session has to be “themed,” we can go more simplistic and choose a fun color scheme. It could be colors that match baby’s nursery, colors to match your home decor or just fun colors that you love seeing together! Pink & gold is currently very trendy, as is blue & grey.

Consider choosing colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel. Blue and yellow look amazing together both in pastels and bold colors. Pink and green have a very summery feel and primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) always look fun together! You might even consider doing all of the colors… in a pastel or bright rainbow theme!

Baby girl eats a birthday cake on a rainbow themed set.

Your child’s name

Does your baby’s name have a special meaning? My youngest daughter’s middle name is Rey so naturally, we had to do a Star Wars theme for her. The other little girl you see below is named Reina, which means queen. So her set came with her very own castle and a crown!

Animal, nature and location themes

Because we live in a beach town, I get a lot of really fun ocean-themed requests! Animals like elephants and sloths have become really trendy for newborn portraits, so if this was a theme in your little ones room it would make for a really cute cake smash theme! Another really great idea could be tying in something from your hometown or even your honeymoon location.

  • Jungle themed: monkeys, sloths
  • Ocean: under the sea, mermaid, shark, nautical
  • Floral: sunflowers, roses, daisies
  • Camping or forest
  • Mountains
  • Flamingos or swans
  • Elephants
  • Insects: ladybugs, butterflies
  • Maps & travel
  • Farm animals
  • Dinosaurs
  • Dogs or cats
  • Bumblebees
  • Circus
  • City-themed: NYC, Hollywood, Paris, Venice
  • Space or stars

Seasonal themes

This one is fairly easy if baby was born around a holiday or season that you love to celebrate! Winter ONEderland and blush and gold fall themes are especially trendy. There are so many ways to personalize a holiday theme. For example, you could do a classic Christmas set with candy canes and Santa hats or you could have fun with a Buddy The Elf theme! Halloween has endless variety as well.

  • Christmas
  • Easter
  • Valentines Day
  • Cinco De Mayo
  • 4th of July
  • Winter ONEderland
  • Fall: leaves, pumpkins
  • Spring: garden, florals
  • St. Patty’s Day
  • Halloween
  • New Years

Not a cake!

Cake smashes are certainly the most popular, but there are lots of really fun ideas for a smash session without a cake as well!

  • Fruit smash: watermelon, strawberries, avocado
  • Doughnuts: “Donut grow up”
  • Spaghetti
  • Tacos
  • Pancakes
  • Cookies & milk

My personal cake smash bucket list

Need just a few more ideas? These are some cake smash themes that I would love to photograph! If any of these catch your eye and your session can be at least 6-8 weeks out please visit the contact page, and let’s start planning!!

  • Space Jam
  • Superhero or Marvel
  • The Greatest Showman
  • Tiffany’s
  • Scientist
  • Pirates
  • Friends TV show
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Beauty & The Beast
  • 90’s themed
  • Sorcerer Mickey
  • Construction
  • Circus
  • Blue’s Clues
  • Monopoly
  • Lemons or strawberries
  • Tacos!
  • Pokemon
  • Banker or Boss Baby
  • Zoo animals
  • Fireman

Planning your custom cake smash set will be so much fun!

Remember to book your cake smash session in advance. 4-8 weeks out is ideal for a custom set and the more time we have to plan, the better! Weekends fill up months in advance, but weekday availability is much more open.

I hope this guide has been helpful for you and I can’t wait to hear all about what theme you chose for your little one’s first birthday cake smash session!

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Your little one is going to grow and change so much in their first year! One day you're coming home from the hospital and the next you're looking at a walking, talking, energetic little person standing where your newborn once laid. 

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