Posts in the ‘Spotlight On Catch My Party’ Category

SPOTLIGHT: A Vintage Circus Birthday Party

As soon as I saw the photos from Laura B's Vintage Circus Birthday Party, I needed to know more, in fact I needed to know everything!

I contacted Laura, asked her some questions about her party, and here's what she said in all the gory details...

Who was the party for and how did you come up with your theme?

The party was to celebrate my three daughters' birthdays. Preslee and Mason who turned four, and Finley who turned two. Last year we did two separate parties two weekends apart and it was a lot. My twins love anything having to do with the circus and once we started talking about it, I knew that this would be the perfect theme. My girls are "girly girls" so we had to have that feminine spin on things. A circus with a girly twist = LOTS of frills, ruffles, pink and glitter!

How long did it take to plan?

The idea came to me about a year ago, right after their last parties, but I didn’t actually start putting things together until about 6 months ago. Don’t laugh, it’s my Type A personality!

How many guests did you have?

We had 33 kids and 55 adults!  It was crazy fun!

What was your overall budget?

I hope my hubby isn’t reading this  HAHA…The biggest expense was the rental of the venue. The party was held at Confetti's Event Center.  They are a party rental place but have a room that you can rent out for parties.   It's local here in Baltimore.  I did the paper goods (signs, favor tags, party circles) myself and there were so many DIY aspects to this party. Spent a lot of time at Home Goods, The Dollar Tree and the clearance aisles at Michaels. You also have to remember that this party was for three children and doing it for just one would be much less expensive.

Did anyone help you put it together?

I had lots of help, ideas and inspiration from some amazingly talented ladies. Jess from Party Box Design designed my invite and offered some cute party ideas, Ally from Allyson Jane did the gorgeous cookies, and Kim from Sweeties by Kim created the yummy Oreo pops and chocolate covered Oreos. The Super Chick herself made the ruffle on the wall behind the dessert table and I ordered some tasty taffy from Kate Landers Events. This was the first party that I designed and did the paper goods for since opening my shop, Cupcakes and Lemonade. It was so fun and special to do that for my daughters and see it used in a “real” party. Also, my babysitter and a few of her college friends worked all the booths.  I ordered them "carnie hats" and aprons from Oriental Trading Company to wear for the party.

What was the most fun part of planning it?

As the months passed, my dining room table began to pile up with all the things I was buying to use for the party. It was so awesome the night that I set up a “mock” dessert table and I could for the first time really see how it was all going to come together. My husband was asleep and I ran in, woke him up and dragged him in just to see. It all looked so pretty!

What was the most difficult part of planning it?

I think forcing myself to stop looking in magazines and on the Internet. The more you look, the more awesome ideas you see, and at some point you just have to step back, stop and say this is enough for this party. I had to remind myself that I didn’t need to use every single one of my ideas on just this party.

What DIY elements did you do?

I did not want to be THAT parent who sent each child home with a live goldfish so I made goldfish soaps for each child to take home as prizes when they played the ping-pong toss. They were so easy and such a cute and unexpected idea for that game. I also made the popcorn cupcakes and the candy apples, which were a HUGE hit with the kids and all the parents.

What was your favorite DIY element?

I think it has to be the goldfish soaps. They really were so easy. I am going to have to do a tutorial on my blog.

What food and beverages did you serve?

We had a dessert table with every kind of sweet you could imagine. Cookies, candy, cupcakes, candy apples, cotton candy, and popcorn. We also served hot dogs, chips and pizza. Just good ole’ circus food. It was so easy and the kids loved being able to just grab a quick bite and run right back to playing all the games. For drinks, I had juice boxes for the kids and bottled water with cute matching labels from The Paper Cupcake. I also found at a garage sale an old Coke crate. My local grocery store carries the old Cokes in bottles. I stuck one of those in each slot with a fun striped paper straw.

What, if any, activities did you have?

We had a stilt walker, a photo booth with lots of fun props; spin art, a bounce house, ring toss, beanbag toss, ping-pong toss, a ballpit for the little ones and a kiddie stryker. We had a face painter as well who was amazing! When the guests arrived at the party, they each received a gable box full of circus treats as well as tickets to play each game. When they “won” the games, they were given a gold coin, which they could turn in, at the end of the party for prizes.

What was your favorite moment during the party?

Almost ever child that walked in the door had this look of amazement on their faces. Literally their mouths were hanging open and they just squealed. That made my whole day! So many of them have since told me that it was the best party that they have ever been too. Makes all the hard work totally worthwhile.

Any lessons learned from planning the party (things you might do the same or differently next time)?

I feel so lucky, for me, this party went exactly the way I envisioned it. One thing I did that I have never done before was having a photographer. It was something that I budgeted and planned to spend the money on. It was so nice to be able to enjoy the party and not worry about running around trying to take pictures of everything and everybody. I know this is an extra expense, but even if you don’t do a professional photographer, get someone to be responsible for taking those special pictures for you.

Any final thoughts about the party?

This was a party that anyone can do. My daughters all have birthdays in January so that makes it hard to do anything outside. This would be a FAB party in your backyard. You could have so many fun outdoor games, petting zoo, etc. There are so many DIY aspects as far as the food and decorating, etc. I think all kids love the circus/carnival and it was just so neat to stand back, actually enjoy the party myself and let them run wild. It doesn’t have to be totally organized and that was one of the best parts!

Thank you, Laura, for sharing how you put this unbelievable party together! It looks so magical and fun.

To learn more about Laura and find great party tips and ideas, visit her blog, Cupcakes and Lemonade. Also visit her Etsy shop for cute printables, cards, and invitations.

SPOTLIGHT: An Under the Sea Birthday Bash

When I first saw Kate A's Under the Sea Birthday Bash, I was blown away by all the amazing details.

I see a party like this and I want to know the story behind it. So I approached Kate and asked if I could do a spotlight feature on her party. I sent her a list of questions, and here's her story...

Who was the party for and how did you come up with your theme?

The party was to celebrate my son’s 3rd birthday. He has been an avid fan of sea life all year, so it was a natural choice for him.

How long did it take to plan?

I choose the theme and starting gathering ideas and products 6 months out. I know! That’s a long time. But since it was always a constant thought in the back of my mind, I knew to grab things when I saw them. For instance, I bought the favor buckets from the dollar section at Target in April. And they set the tone for the party colors and paper products.

What was your overall budget?

Well, that depends on who you ask. ; ) The truth is, party expenses can escalate quickly. I like to think that I limit the expense to the best of my ability without sacraficing the end result. The "Fish Kabobs" for instance were a find at my local grocery store for $1. I cut off the cheesey looking tag and tied them up with ribbon instead.

Did anyone help you put it together?

My husband was my saving grace for this party. He did the waves on the ceiling, the sea life decals on the walls, carved the watermelon shark, etc. Remind me to kiss him on his face again for all of that!

What was the most fun part of planning it?

The details! I love taking a party one step further. As I drive along or have quiet time to myself (HA!), I focus on different aspects. For instance, with the “Octopops” I thought, “how could I incorporate something with an octopus?” Or I’d think, “what looks like a sea urchin?”

What was the most difficult part of planning it?

Time management. Isn’t it always? You have to know what you are capable of, and when you’re asking too much of yourself. Jackson is 3 and I also have an eighteen month old. Each time they napped together, I swear the clouds parted, the sun started to shine, and I knew the Party Gods were looking down on me. (hehehe)

What DIY elements did you do?

Everything was homemade with the exception of the cookies, cake, and wall decals. But if you really look at the details and break them down, you’ll notice it’s all easily done. The jellyfish paper lanterns simply required me to tape ribbons to the inside of the lantern. I actually lack any artistic ability. So if you see something at a party of mine, just know you could totally do it yourself too!

What was your favorite DIY element?

The Octopus in a Blanket. That’s probably not the answer you were looking for, huh? At "Ariel’s Grotto" in Disneyland they serve Octopus hot dogs on top of macaroni and cheese. I loved that idea but wanted something quicker and easier for little hands, so I created Octopus in a Blanket. My older sister passed on that little nugget of Disneyland wisdom, but I think it’s incredibly smart to research something like that. If you do any kind of themed party relating in any way to Disney, investigate what they do and serve. They are the very best, after all!

What food and beverages did you serve?

All of the food was themed, which just meant I gave silly names to everything I served. Seaweed spread was artichoke dip, Pop Chips became Sand Dollars, etc. The party was at 11am on a Friday morning, so I  served bottles of water, “Freshly Bottled Ocean Water” and Izze, “Sparkling Octopus Ink” to drink.

What, if any, activities did you have?

The kids “fished” in a blown up kiddie pool and made mini oceans to take home. If you try the game, I recommend leaving the balloons out of the pool. It was hard enough for the kids to “fish” without the balloons in the way. I thought the craft project was a total success. It was quick and easy. And I think the kids really enjoyed that they were able to customize their own ocean.

What was your favorite moment during the party?

You know, having nothing to do with the theme or effort involved, watching my little guy blow out his candles gets me every time.

Any lessons learned from planning the party (things you might do the same or differently next time)?

Two things: First, I made the rookie mistake of cutting my fabric into strips before ironing it. That meant the backdrop for the dessert table had creases in it. That makes me cringe every time I see a picture. And, I think for the first time I realized what my limitations are in the baking department and hired professionals to do it. Taking that stress off of myself was worth every penny.

Any final thoughts about the party?

Coming up with really thoughtful details is easy when you’re reading books, watching shows, singing songs and talking about the “theme” with your child daily. When you pick a theme that they really love, the details come naturally to you because you become an expert on the topic too!

Thank you, Kate, for sharing with us all about your awesome party!  What a great job you did! To see more of Kate's parties, check out her gorgeous Pinkies Out! Tea Party on our site and if you want to learn more about Kate, please visit her blog, CupKate's Event Design.

SPOTLIGHT ON: Chris Nease and Operation Shower

I've been so inspired reading about Chris Nease's work with Operation Shower on her blog, that I had to call her up personally to talk to her about it. Chris is the creative mind behind Celebrations at Home, one of my must-read party and entertainment blogs.

Operation Shower is a nonprofit organization that throws baby showers for pregnant or expecting military families. Chris has helped coordinate two showers for them in the DC area along with Amy Belle Isle from Stem Parties, who is Chief Event Organizer. The latest shower was held in October at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and boy did they do a great job!

The theme was "A Star is Born," and looked just like a movie premiere with a red carpet, velvet ropes, popcorn, and movie posters.

There were about 40 expecting moms (either wives of military men or women serving in the military themselves).  With K-mart as the national sponsor, and a host of local sponsors, these women went home with loads of much needed baby gear.

I asked Chris what the most satisfying thing was about working on the shower.  She said she was blown away by how appreciative the mothers were. When the mothers walked in they were each handed a goodie bag. Many thought this was their gift, only to be shocked and overwhelmed by the cribs, car seats, high chairs and other huge items to come. I also asked Chris what the most surprising thing was about working on the showers. She said it's amazing how much fun it is to give back, especially when you're doing it in a field you love.


There's Chris second from the right

Currently Operation Shower is running it's Operation Give Thanks fundraising campaign to help Operation Shower continue their mission to throw baby showers for military families.  They are asking people across the nation to host a party, big or small, between now and the end of the year to raise money for Operation Shower.

Their long-term goal is to reach every military base in the nation. Their short-term goal is to raise $50,000 through Operation Give Thanks to enable them to shower over 200 more moms-to-be !

To learn more about how you can help, please check out the  Operation Shower website. Also check out Chris's gorgeous parties on our site.

SPOTLIGHT: A Magical Cornish Fairy Affair

Nicole W told me about her Magical Cornish Fairy Affair months ago, when she was still in the planning stage. I knew this was going to be an out-of-this-world party, so I asked her if I could write a SPOTLIGHT feature on it once she had had it.

How right I was about her party. It's incredible! Take a look at these photos, and the most amazing part is that Nicole did it all herself (including the cake)!

I asked Nicole to share how she put it all together, and here's what she said...

Who was the party for and how did you come up with your theme?

The party was for my daughter's 7th birthday.  She originally requested a fairy party, and while I was happy to oblige, I wanted to put my own spin on it.

There are a lot of gorgeous fairy parties out there.  So I brainstormed with my daughter about it, actually.  It was a collaboration.  Our family came from Cornwall (before emigrating to the UP of Michigan in the late 1800s), we'd taken a summer trip there, and my husband and daughter have been learning Cornish (an essentially dead Celtic language so that they have a "secret" language together--yes, we're geeks).

So it wasn't long before using the mythology and fairy folklore of Cornwall as a specific inspiration came around.  Stone circles.  Piskies, spriggans, and browneys.  Cornish pasties.  There was so much from which to draw!

For the color palette, I adore the green/cream/red parties out there.  I've always loved that combo.  Those little toadstools get me every time.  But I wanted something a little bit different.  The birthday is in October, so I decided to tweak the classic palette and go with greens/browns/creams (the natural colors) and pops of soft oranges.   This was largely influenced by the fact that I scored over a thousand yards of ribbon for only $4 on clearance at my local ribbon and lace store.  Eight massive spools of ribbon in a gorgeous color scheme for mere pennies?  I'll take that as a sign!

How long did it take to plan?

I spent six weeks working on the party.  I probably would have been happy to spend longer (and some of those wishful items on the to-do list would have gotten done!) but that was as quickly as I was able to nail my daughter down to one theme.  She's getting better.  For her fourth birthday, she insisted on a Madeline-Dora-the-Explorer-Pirate-Princess-Pink theme.  Now that's a hard cake to make.

What was your overall budget?

Eek.  I have no clue.  I really should have had a budget in mind from the outset, but I didn't.  I am, however, a huge do-it-yourselfer.  I made, as a conservative estimate, approximately four thousand trips to Michaels, Joann Fabrics, and Lowes for this party, and basically bought everything on sale or with a coupon.  I took advantage of clearance sections.  I improvised and recycled.  The biggest splurges were the stone circle (it cost about $90 to make, but had such a huge impact!) and having the pasties catered by our favorite local restaurant, the Cornish Pasty Co.  (http://www.cornishpastyco.com/).  Still, food for 40, half of whom were adults, for $117?  Not bad!

Did anyone help you put it together?

It was essentially all me.  Photographer = Me.  Baker = Me.  Decorator = Me.  Party Coordinator = Me.  But I certainly couldn't have done it without the help of my husband, who indulged me during my many hours of crafting, and took a day off work so he could watch the girls while I was carving Styrofoam in the garage.

My mother flew in for the birthday (not that she needs an excuse to see her granddaughters!) and was heroic the day before the party, making more Italian Meringue Buttercream and re-crumb-coating the cake after I had a fondant tearing emergency (*&^%%$# Wilton.  My homemade performed better and tasted better after all that grief.  hmph.)

And my friend Jill came over an hour before the party and helped out with all those last minute details putting everything together so I could take pictures before the guests arrived.  Even though this was pretty much a solo show, there's no way I could actually have done it all myself.

What was the most fun part of planning it?

An excuse to indulge in fairy fun!  The sheer, excessive, girliness!  A fun excuse to invent all sorts of new crafts!  And getting to pretend that this is all about my daughter, not about how much fun I'm having!  ;-)  Who are we kidding.  Sure, I'm glad she adored the event, but I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't had so much fun putting it all together.  I'm already planning her next party, and I hope she sticks with the theme, because I have such GREAT ideas already!

What was the most difficult part of planning it?

Simply finding the time.  I have a one year old daughter as well, and it's nearly impossible to get anything done while she's awake.  It'll get easier in years to come, but for right now, it was a real challenge to do anything with the Tiny Dictator around.

What DIY elements did you do?

  • A pomander ball pinata with over 300 tissue paper roses.
  • A standing stone circle based on the Merry Maidens circle in Cornwall, made out of Styrofoam.
  • An absolutely adorable fairy circle (circle of mushrooms where fairies are rumored to appear).  I've seen one other fairy ring in the blogosphere, but it was nothing like mine.  Theirs was made from 2D cutouts set on the ground.  My 3D version looked awesome (I'm too proud to be humble here), and since I used fabrics to match the bunting, it tied everything together so well!
  • Hundreds of yards of ribbon in my orange colors
  • A Dessert Pavilion (so much more grand than a dessert table!).  I adapted a 7x5 tent that was designed to shade grills.  Thanks, Craigslist!  More ribbons, a hand-painted tablecloth, hidden fairies, and clever no-sew bunting.
  • All of the goodies on the dessert table, of course -- decorated sugar cookies, lollipop topiaries, meringue mushrooms, browney-made-brownies, gnome-made scones and strawberry jam, the cake, edible wands, rock candy branches from the crystal forest, considerate caramels from a detail in the invitation story text, and wee trifles.  I'm particularly proud of the lollipop topiaries.  I've never seen anything like them before, and was very happy with how they came out.
  • Floral arrangements and lace-covered votives
  • Burlap and lace table runners and the hand painted tablecloths
  • Suspended centerpieces that floated above the tables under the fairy tree
  • Ooh--I did buy the fairy door on the tree on etsy here http://www.etsy.com/shop/reginagreenway?ref=seller_info .  But I made the mini bunting in front of it in fabric to match the larger bunting.
  • Twinkling lights INSIDE the punch to make it sparkle with fairy magic (see image above).  Again, this is something I invented myself, have never seen before.  It turned out magnificently!
  • Tutus for each girl
  • Wands for each girl
  • Tiaras with Swarovski crystals for each girl (it's good to have a mom who is a tiara designer if you're a girly girl!)
  • I had shields to decorate, elf ears, tunics, and boy-wands for any boys, but none of the invited boys came.  Too bad!
  • Wood-burned signs in Cornish
  • Gosh, probably a lot more than I'm forgetting.  I worked for weeks on this party, and had the entire dining room completely overwhelmed with party supplies for weeks.

What was your favorite DIY element?

It's hard to choose, but I was very proud of my idea for twinkling, glowing punch.  It worked out so well, and was so affordable and easy!

What food and beverages did you serve?

We served the above-mentioned desserts, but also had salad (with homemade dressing), apples, and a selection of Cornish pasties (PB&J, Cheese and Onion, Chicken Greek, and the traditional Oggie) from the Cornish Pasty Co.  That was a vendor I used.  It's one of our very favorite restaurants, in Mesa, AZ.   They'll even allow you to buy the par-baked pasties and bake them at home!  I might not have made the pasties, but I did build the wood-fired oven we baked the pasties in!

I made a pinkish orange punch (just threw together pink lemonade, peach-white grape juice, and sprite) that was a hit with the kids, served "morning dew" (ice water), and had three adult beverages, too (mojitos, sangria, and Penzance Punch, made from a recipe of a punch I was served by a pirate in Penzance during the Golowan cultural festival this past June!).

What, if any, activities did you have?

We had face painting, wing-decorating, the pinata, and a magnificent treasure hunt put together by my husband. (He may be a computer engineer now, but he was an English and Latin major in college, and knows his poetry!  The rest of the time was unstructured play time.  One of the main games the kids decided to play was reenacting the story I'd written for the book/invitation!  (Full text of the story here  http://tradewindtiaras.blogspot.com/p/fairy-party-invitation-story-text.html)  I decided not to structure more games because it's always hard to get the kids to stop playing long enough to get them to play an organized game.  Why fight it?  Just let them go have fun.

What was your favorite moment during the party?

My husband playing the part of the evil Spriggan (a very mischievous type of Cornish fairy whose job it is to protect treasure), leaping out and trying to "protect" the treasure at the end of the treasure hunt.  Such squeals of mock fear and delight I've never heard!  The girls loved fighting him off with their wands.

Any lessons learned from planning the party (things you might do the same or differently next time)?

Start setting up earlier!  I thought I'd learned this lesson with previous parties, but I guess I didn't learn it well enough!  I want time to photograph all the elements I spent so much effort creating, and I always end up rushing.

Any final thoughts about the party?

I'd do it again, a thousand times over.  I show love by putting tremendous efforts into things.  Elaborate cakes.  Insanely complicated parties.  Involved crafts.   As I was putting together the pinata one evening, my daughter said, "You must really love me!"  Yes!  Mission accomplished.  I LOVE this kid, and I want to shout it from the rooftops in my quiet, crafty way.

Nicole, thank you for sharing with us all about your beautiful party!  What a wonderful job you did!

Check out Nicole's other gorgeous parties on our site, and if you want to learn more about her fabulous desserts, please read my feature on her tea set cupcakes.  Also, to  see the beautiful wedding tiaras Nicole creates in her spare time when she's not putting together lavish parties, please check out her blog, Tradewind Tiaras.

SPOTLIGHT: Mustache Bash Birthday Party

I'm starting a new SPOTLIGHT feature, where I ask a Catch My Party member to share about a party they recently threw.

And with yesterday's post on DIY photo booth props, I had to pick Pamela S's Mustache Bash!  Plus, how could a mustache-themed party not make you smile?

So I asked Pamela to share about her Mustache Bash, and here's what she said...

Who was the party for and how did you come up with your theme?

The Mustache Bash was created for my son, who was celebrating his 11th birthday. He was actually the one who came up with the idea of having a Mustache party after we had fun one day this summer making our own props for a family photo shoot.

How long did your party take to plan?

This party didn't take too long to plan, maybe a week or so total. I contacted Jen from Blush Printables in hopes that she would create images for me to use for the cupcake picks. Once Jen sent me the super fun images the party everything just fell into place. It was so easy to design the party around her designs.

What was the most fun part of planning the party?

I think the best part of planning this party was that it was something new! It was exciting and inspiring to have to think outside of the box.

What was the most difficult part?

Boys don't need a lot of fluff, so trying not to go overboard with decorations was probably the hardest part.

What DIY elements did you do?

I created the mustaches  that were attached to bamboo skewers as photo props. I assembled the cupcake toppers and made the family's matching t-shirts (I asked permission to make the t-shirts first) using the images I purchased from Blush Printables.  I also spray painted the large red letters, baked and molded all of the treats .

What food and beverages did you serve?

I served lots of sweets as it was right after lunch. Cupcakes, chocolate lollipops, sugar cookies, licorice and other candy & vanilla ice cream cups. We served cold bottles of root beer with some fun vintage red and white paper straws.

What, if any, activities did you have?

This party was very laid back, we all sat around and chatted as it was mostly family. We used the mustaches on sticks to take photos which the kids enjoyed. My son didn't want to play party games, so really everyone just enjoyed each other's company.  Very relaxing!

What was your favorite moment during the party?

My favorite moment was probably trying to get our family together for a photo since we all had our "Mustache Bash" t-shirts on. With a family of 5 trying to get everyone to smile and look in the right direction is a challenge...this time was no exception.

What a great party, Pamela!  Thank you for sharing.

To learn more about Pamela and check out the wonderful party favors, decorations, and accessories she designs (they're gorgeous), please check out her blog, Party Starters.

(If you have an interesting story to tell about a party, one that you think our members would enjoy in a SPOTLIGHT feature, please email me at jillian@catchmyparty.com.)

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