Throw a DIY Dol (Doljanchi) Birthday Party at Home

throwing a dol party in a nyc apartment

It’s been awhile since I posted something on this website. The aim of Gab and Gobble is to share dining and travel ideas with others, and with the recent outbreak of COVID-19, it’s obviously something that has to be put on hold. So I’m going to focus on things like cooking and take-out, since that is now the state of the world. This post is focused on the diy first birthday Korean dol party that I threw for my daughter in my NYC apartment. Throwing a dol party in NYC is a challenge–restaurants are expensive, and if you do it yourself, space is scarce. It’s also a challenge to find traditional vendors that source the Korean decorations and food that you need. But it is possible!

I was planning on throwing the party for my daughter in Seoul, Korea. We had been looking forward to this trip for months. In Korea, the first year birthday celebration, referred to as a “dol” in Korean, is a pretty big deal. I think it stems back to the old days, where the infant mortality rate was high, so getting to the 1st year was a huge milestone. My parents, who live in Seoul, had looked into venues for me and had bought a beautiful hanbok (the traditional Korean outfit) for the birthday girl.

the dol objects a baby chooses to determine her future–our baby “doctor” chose wisely

We were all set to go up until late Feb. And then the cases in South Korea exploded. The U.S. travel advisory levels went all the way up to Level 3. Obviously this dol party was not going to happen in Korea.

So it was time to improvise and adapt to the new circumstances. I’d have to do something local. I still wanted to do something small with immediate family members. There are places in Manhattan like Miss Korea or Bann restaurant that specialize in dol parties, but when I looked into the pricing, it was pretty expensive. It is convenient though. The Miss Korea package has all the table decorations available and the hanbok rental is included. Bann, I believe, only provides the food. You would have to find a separate dol table set yourself. For my son’s dol, which was pre-virus, I threw it at the now shuttered Martina Pizzeria restaurant and hired Table Concept to set up a dol table. They did a great job.

So I went the diy route, and it turned out okay! I looked on Etsy and found a Chicago-based company called Oh Happy Day that rented out dol table sets to customers in the U.S. It was perfect for my needs–the woman who runs the shop offers a lot of different designs and colors, and I like the fact that the table setups run from the very traditional to more modern designs. It is very diy, as I mentioned, so you just try to replicate the pictures on her website. Then you pack everything back up and send it back with a prepaid label.

And what about the food? Order ddukk from Yedang, a proper ddukk house in New York / New Jersey. You can’t have a dol party without some ddukk (Korean rice cakes), in my opinion. There isn’t a Korean rice cake vendor in Manhattan, and you don’t want to buy the random ddukk at H Mart. Yedang did an amazing job, and yes, I sucked it up and paid the delivery fee of $55. I don’t care, the rainbow moojegae ddukk in particular was delicious, and the ddukk was gorgeous. FYI, it helps to speak Korean to place the order…

My parents sourced the hanbok from Korea, so I’m not sure where you could get that in NYC. But if you type in hanbok+rentals in Google there are several vendors in Flushing, NY or Fort Lee, NJ that show up. And like I mentioned earlier, Miss Korea in Manhattan includes the hanbok rental in its package pricing. And who cares if you can’t get a hanbok? Just have the baby wear a pretty outfit for the pictures.

So those are the essentials–the table decorations (Oh Happy Day), the ddukk (Yedang), and a nice outfit (anywhere). You can’t live on ddukk alone, so my mother made some japchae and we ordered Korean fried chicken from Boka. I also ordered an American style coconut cake from Balthazar Bakery. It was a small but sweet gathering, and it was great for the pictures. Speaking of which, I used the photo start-up Snappr to book a last minute photographer to take decent photos for a reasonable price. The photos turned out looking more like great candids then professional, stylized shots, but at least it frees you up from the stress of taking pictures yourself. Try Shoott if you’re looking for something more photo shoot-looking.

2 thoughts on “Throw a DIY Dol (Doljanchi) Birthday Party at Home

  1. Hi Sherry! OMG this post is awesome! I’m a native Marylander living in Queens, NY and am not familiar with any of NY’s local Korean businesses (e.g. bakery, clothing, food, rental, etc) that will cater for dohl events. My son is turning one in November, and I think I need to make a list and start purchasing for a DIY doljanchi at home in lieu of COVID-19 quarantine.. Thanks so much for your blog. I’ll be definitely checking out your recommendations.

    1. Hi Sandy, thanks so much for checking out the post! Good luck with the dol planning during covid, it’s crazy how we’ve all had to adapt during this time. Let me know if you have any questions about the vendors I used!

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