Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mostly Almost a Milestone

The party's over - but the occasion is still just on the horizon.

Since school starts for most this coming week, we planned my dear in-laws 50th anniversary party(s) for two weeks before the actual event, when the most family could be there. In fact, only one grandson was missing from the immediate extended family (a term I just made up meaning children and their children...) and he's nearly 18 and was permitted to decide this on his own. His story actually got a little mixed up along the way, like did he get time off work or didn't he... did his meanie boss keep him there working or was he off for the weekend to the beach with friends... hmmm... Ah to be 18 and carefree again... Anyway - the rest of us were there and we had a great two weeks together making all the plans and executing them.

Because we home-school, and the first day of the school year is at our whim, it was totally OK that for the last three weeks (since we returned from our 4 week vacation) that I neglected all of my duties that did not involve something "gold". If it didn't have gold paper, gold wax, gold foil, gold paint, gold ribbon, gold ink, gold glitter, gold confetti, gold tulle, a gold topper, or a gold wrapper I didn't have to pay any attention to it at all. Thankfully my sis-in-law was around to help keep my kids from total starvation and I've accumulated so many clothes that it was possible to keep covered and still go a week without doing laundry (unless any part of your day required you to move around in the laundry room. It's taken 3 focused days to see the laundry room floor again.)

Each time I have anything to do with event planning, I'm accused of being some kind of a "party princess" or told I should be doing this for pay. Lemme tell ya... for the time I put in - people wouldn't be willing to pay! I guess that means I'm inefficient... Anyway - I thought I'd give you a few simple tips for event planning and the process I go through.

Last Sabbath, we covertly invited the church family to join us for cake after potluck. We did a little decorating to add a bit of festiveness to the atmosphere. (Please excuse the burnt orange chairs... some things must just be ignored when you're on a tight budget...) This consisted of ivory table skirt and damask table cloth on the cake table, and 7 yards of antique gold tulle bunting accented with gold bows I made from ribbon I picked up at Costco. I LOVE the Costco ribbon - it's under $7 for 55 yards! Can't beat that... I made an 8x10 reprint from their wedding photos and put it in a gold frame with an ivory mat - I found it at Wal-mart for less than $13. There was also a candle holder with gold accents and "fifty" embossed on the side that I found a few months ago at Hallmark in the clearance section for $13. There were lots of fresh flowers from the flower market on the cake table and yellow roses on the potluck tables - plus thick paper tablecloths (also from Costco) that was a nice change from the normally naked tables.

On this small side (card) table we had a scrapbook album (picked up at Hallmark in the clearance section for 40% off – seriously… party plan ahead!) that we (my sis-in-law mostly) made some sign-in pages for so that members could leave written greetings, and a basket for cards and one for party favors (acetate boxes folded together and filled with little gold wrapped candies – pick these up in the wedding section at Wal-Mart or a craft store. They come with pre-cut ribbons, but they were silver and that just didn’t work for our purposes.

By far, the most expensive piece of our party at the church was the favors. More precisely the candies inside the little plastic boxes. We certainly could have cut costs here by using less expensive candies, but they were pretty in all their gold wrappers. To shave costs, chose just one candy and go with something simple like Hershey Hugs or Kisses.

The straight sided vases were from Wal-Mart too - just $1 each for the small ones and $2 for the one with the large arrangement on the cake table. Those water carafes are some I purchased (with church funds) long ago - but you might still be able to find them at a Dollar Store. The gold candles were an after Christmas 75% off purchase. If you know what's coming up you can really save yourself a lot of dough... These particular candles did double duty - serving as decorations at our Valentine banquet at church earlier this year. And while we're talking about these tables - consider the cost of fabric tablecloths if it's something you'll use more than a couple of times. I do have ten ivory damask tablecloths that my church purchased (at my "suggestion") for about $10 each - and I've used them countless times.

You can't really see them, but my sis-in-law, Shari, is putting out pitchers of juice.They are clear pitchers (a Target Dollar Spot find a few years ago around St. Patrick's day...) We filled them 2/3 full with white grape juice and then 1/3 grocery store brand lemon lime to give it a little 'zip'. Kinda like a sparkling white grape flavor. My SIL says that ginger ale is a better flavor than the lemon lime, but we'd already purchased the lemon lime. I'll try the ginger ale next time.

The plastic plates and two cakes were from Costco - 40 some servi
ngs each for $17. THAT's a great price if you've priced sheet cakes at a bakery lately - even the grocery store bakery! We ordered one vanilla with vanilla cheesecake filling and one chocolate with chocolate mousse filling. Both had white buttercream icing in keeping with the "wedding" theme.

The flowers were my favorite part... My Perfect Friend turned me on to a wholesale flower market in the big city. I got a HUGE armload of flowers for about $60. (I spent another $30 on foam, dishes, candle holders, ribbon, and cake knife and server.) I was able to make this arrangement here, the corsage and boutonniere, the 8 tables with a yellow rose, baby's breath and fern, another full vase of alestrameria and lilies and 3 gorgeous arrangements used at our dinner party the following day (more on that later). When you consider that a corsage alone is about $20 (from the grocery store) and that the local florist wanted $69 each for simple table centerpieces, I can't complain about the price of flowers at all! In fact - we talked about having an arrangement at church for the "actual" anniversary next weekend and saw one for $99... I'm thinking I'll just go back to the wholesale market and make it myself for a fraction of that price.

This is the chocolate cake. Now, these aren't the best cakes
I've ever had... that honor still resides with Publix in Florida (where shopping is a pleasure...) but these were pretty good. Most especially since we picked them up on Thursday and served them on Saturday. We got the most compliments on the vanilla with the vanilla cheesecake filling. Though, the chocolate got its fair share of praise also. The only real drawback is the limited variety in decoration. You pretty much have to take what you can get - but if you're willing to compromise it's a great deal and big-time money saver.

Here's my top party decor tip - DON'T go all "theme-y" and "matchy-matchy" with everything. First of all - it's just too much! You don't want the plates and napkins and tablecloths and balloons and cups to have the same print. We could have easily just gone to the 50th anniversary aisle in the party store and picked up everything in the same theme, but it would have really LOOKED cheap and COST way more than what we actually spent here.

What I recommend is finding either a printed party plate or napkin that you like and pulling out no more than three of the solid colors in the pattern for the rest of your decorations. You might get a printed dessert plate and complimentary napkin in a slightly different print, say a floral for the plate and stripe for the napkin, and use plain colors for everything else. Use the same rule of thirds for the color that you would use in making a card or scrapbook page... a Gallon of the main color, a quart of your supporting color and a pint of your accent color. (In the case of this 50th anniversary, the main color is the ivory (white), the supporting color is the gold and the accent is the yellow.) This way you avoid sensory overload. Remember - less is more and it's better to go simple and elegant rather than overdone and gaudy. To dress up those plain paper tablecloths we "randomly" sprinkled them with gold "50" confetti we purchased from Hobby Lobby for $4. You can tell it's not your standard confetti - it's larger and looks more like something diecut with a Quickutz - exactly what we were looking for AND we used it again (see the next post about this anniversary...) Oh... in case you were wondering - nothing I do is "random". Just ask the sisters-in-law that I had spacing and up-righting the confetti as it fell onto the tables...

One last note: the only thing we have with a "pattern" is our napkins (that say "50 Year's Together") I don't count the damask tablecloths as pattern...

Now, this is what it's all about...

More tips and junque on the next post - the "real" party and the first time I've hired a caterer and I don't regret it! (except for one little part - but I'd still do it again...)


  1. It was a wonderful party for Mom and Dad - so much more than they were expecting, even though they had little "hints"! I had fun helping, and whenever we work on special projects like this together, I learn more about what it takes to have a successful event - who needs sleep anyway? You thought of everything to make our parents feel honored, thank you for sharing your gift.

  2. Looks always do a great job at this sorta thing!!!!
    Hugs, :) Heather S.


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