Party planning: then and now

 

I’ve taken joy in planning parties since I was young. Whether I go the extra mile staying up ’til 2am the night previous building an obstacle course in the back yard to just thinking up a clever event title for Facebook, my prep efforts are always rewarded. Nowadays I plot everything on our fav’ social sharing site, but I used to write list after list in my diary.

Themes

Then:Party-planning-theme-big-kids-18th

 

Theme planning took up at least one whole page in my journal, if not several. Ideal themes lent themselves to a slew of activities, decoration ideas, and costume suggestions, though I frequently chose them by my own whimsy. Did I want my mother to make the carousel cake I saw in American Girl magazine, with animal crackers frosting-glued to straws and a big paper canopy? Time for a circus theme party. Did I want an excuse to build a giant furniture fort in the living room? I’ll make it look like a ship and have a pirate party.

Candyland was the obvious choice for my “Sweet Sixteen” but I have to admit I was most excited about making giant lollipops out of balloons and cellophane.

I read a lot more craft books when I was a kid.

Now:

This part of party planning hasn’t changed much for me. Unless the party is last minute, I put a lot of effort into the theme, as evidenced by the theme notes below. I planned to make buttons that said “I went pinky up for Sami’s 21st.” (Yeah, that didn’t happen. I wasn’t really prepared for how booze can interfere with one’s ability to execute a party. And yes I didn’t really start drinking ’till I was 21.)

Party-planning-theme-British-21stWhat has changed is that I’m less interested in forcing my guests to comply with my bizarre fantasy worlds (though a murder mystery party where I gave guests 7 pages of pre-party prep notes turned out fun) than finding a theme that’s exciting enough for people to actually show up. That’s a lot harder now. Back then I’d invite 15 of my closest friends and all but one of them would make it.

Which brings us to…

Inviting Guests

All guests received a theme-appropriate physical invitation. Jungle Party invites were written with green marker on a cut-out leaf, folded in half with the stem pushed through a slit to close. Casino Royale invites included fake money and confetti. Big Kid Party: Crayon.

Furthermore, guest selection meant creating highly sophisticated and intently coded lists for the most balanced party. Spaces were scarce – my mom had a rule I could only invite as many friends as my age number (though she allowed a couple extras as I got older). I analyzed the potential for groups to form, making sure that no guest would stand alone. I drew lines between guests to represent relationships & friendships. I drew unhappy faces for guests with ongoing fights. See that question mark, John Q? You almost weren’t invited.

Party-planning-guest-list

 

Now:

Click all the faces! But not him because he can’t hold his liquor. And not her because she probably would think it’s weird if I invited her because we’re not really friends in real life although we are facebook friends fuckit she’s cool and attractive I’ll invite her. Ah shoot I better go back around through the faces and make sure I didn’t miss anyone or else I have to awkwardly invite them late to the party. Do you think they’ll notice 20 people are already attending and it’s obvious I forgot them in the first round? Because now almost a week’s gone by and that definitely happened.

Great. I’ve invited 80 people. At least 30 are bound to show, right?

Budget

Then:

Party-planning-inventoryMy mom has a couple hundred bucks to spend! I’m going to get table cloths, crepe streamers, cups, matching napkins, food for everyone, soda, prizes, games, decorations….

Now:

I have a couple hundred bucks to spend! I’m going to get Jameson, Kahlua, vodka, ancient age, Pacifico, wine….

Party Activities

Then:

Party-planning-activities

I scoured the internet / books for inventive party games and adapted them to the party’s theme. For my sweet 16 I wrote strictly types of candy for a game of “heads up charades” (though we didn’t call it that, we called it that one game where you write things on name tags and put it on your forehead/back and try to guess what it is) and enjoyed my friends saying things to each other like, “Am I sticky?” “Do I taste good with chocolate?” Apparently 15-or-16-year-olds will play this game for like 3 hours.

Now:

Drinking!

 

 

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Guys don’t totally suck (I learned on my birthday)

(Hey guys, I got Prismacolors for my birthday! Enjoy the new doodles.)

I can’t say the last 7 days were uneventful — I had a birthday and 2013 became 2014 — but there isn’t a whole lot I’m willing to share on a website with my real name on it (Summary: lots of booze & bangin’). I do have a little story for you:

On my birthday, I discovered that the place I always think is Redwing but is not Redwing is also not Livewire. Nope, it’s Nunu’s.  But, you can’t blame Kateyln for taking me to the wrong, “U-shaped bar with booths,” because that, Livewire is.  Eh, it’d work. Never expecting much for my birthday, I put up check-in on facebook like my bat-signal and waited to see which friends would show.

I really mean I don’t expect much for my birthday. It’s the 27th of December, and I’ve spent most of those in a car ride to grandpa’s house in SB. My parents made the day special by letting me have the newspaper first and sometimes we’d pick up In’n’Out.  As I’ve gotten older, my birthday has become less of an addendum to Christmas in a bad way (hello child, you are getting a COMBO present and it is clothes!!), and more of an addendum to Christmas in a good way (combo present: DSLR!!!). First off, no one forgets my birthday checks. Also, I haven’t completely abandoned my childhood fantasy that all the lights and tinsel are put up just for me.

The “wrong” bar and my general lowered expectations for birthdays should have set me at unease, but maybe I just feel like I can do anything in a pair of Jeffrey Cambell’s and 1000 square inches of electric-grape leather. Maybe I could even accept free drinks from strangers.

electric-grape-leather-80s-comic-strawberry-blondeThe first person to show up was Katelyn’s bestie. She brought me a wrapped gift that was very obviously alcohol.

no-wine-gift-in-the-barYeah, no, that had to go straight to the car. The two girls left me in the bar to attend to my whiskey and a PBR tall can. I finished the former and took taxes from the latter. Just standin’ here by myself, looking gorgeous and bored. Twiddle thumbs.

Two dudes approached me and the first one said, “Hey, Sarah?” Close enough, and with my face-blind-ish-ness I assumed he knew me. We very quickly established he did not. I’m really good at talking about myself so I slipped in seamlessly that it was my birthday. (I’m lying; I announced it without context like a proud 5-year-old.)

He immediately offered a birthday shot. The way he did all the talking, I figured he was trying to wing-man for his shaggy-haired friend. I thought I knew what was going on there. Whatever, I could take his alcohol and reject his friend. Leather. 6 inch heels. It’s my birthday.

And then something kind of magical happened. The three of us took our shots of bourbon. My friend Marina arrived. He saw I wasn’t alone anymore, and told me he was glad to meet me, he’d be over by the pool table. He was glad to meet me. Past tense. As in he just bought me a shot and would be leaving me alone. I gave him a big hug I was so pleased.

I don’t want to undercut the rarity of these kinds of occurrences. I don’t want to dismiss the damage my gender faces at the hand of institutionalized sexism and asshats. I’ve certainly seen my fair share of bullshit. But something about that moment felt very….normal. Like it happens every day. Like 2014 is going to be different for me.

It’s the serenity that I felt that I treasure most. I know I’ll have to continue sharpening my skills of graceful rejection. I know someday some guy is going to put his hands on me and act like I was asking for it. But this little moment, this freely given shot, makes it worth it to keep my heart open.

Thank you, Bryan, wherever you are, for giving me something special for my birthday.

Theme party ideas for adults

Of course, the first week I miss a scheduled post, 6 people at a party make a point to tell me they enjoy my writing/blog. Did you all work together to guilt trip me? Because it worked. You crazy kids made me a little weepy, d’aww.

Also, I got a slew of nonsensical comments from the interwebs, which the WordPress spam robot completely missed. Probably skipped ’em because they aren’t linking to Christian Loubouton shoes or Gucci handbags. Instead they just link to facebook profiles of attractive people. I’m keeping some of them, because look at this one:

Your website has to be the eltcreonic Swiss army knife for this topic. (from Pocket Cheese)

I don’t know if a bunch of drunks found one of my business cards or I’m just being punished by the blog gremlins.

So, I’ll set aside the part of my Saturday generally reserved to pretending if I lie still in bed I can fall back asleep and my hangover will go away and Katelyn might wake up and I can ask her to bring me a water…and instead I’ll write a make-up post. But don’t ask me to say sorry. Yes, I prioritized getting laid over writing in my blog, and no one can make me apologize for that.

This is what I look like right now.

This is what I look like right now.

Choosing a theme for your party

I have been throwing theme parties since I was 7. I would plan for my next birthday just as soon as the last one passed, brainstorming ideas in my journal. I found that two key ingredients made for a notable party — the type of party people talked about for days after — and that was a carefully chosen guest list and, of course, a well-executed theme.

Historical themes included (and feel free to steal them)…

Teeny Tiny Party – Miniature everything. Cupcakes turned upside down and decorated like cakes. Those toothpicks with tiny pinwheels on them. Half-sized gel pens. Mini skirts encouraged. Palm-sized pizzas. Custard cups of “spaghetti” made from angel hair pasta and the littlest hand-rolled meatballs. Even the invitations were itty bitty.

Under the Sea – If you make ocean-themed blue jello cups, don’t put gummy sharks in them. Don’t put gummy anything in them. The sugar gets all sucked out and the gummy engorges with water and you end up with floppy tasteless shark blobs. Actually, this was entertainingly gross. I also made sea-shell pasta and hot dog “octopuses” (slice the hot dog vertically just past the halfway point, and the dangly hot dog “legs” will curl when you boil them).

Image from Taste of Home, click for recipe.

Casino Royale – Invitations in black envelopes included cut-up card confetti and fake money. I made a roulette table out of a lazy Susan and card-stock. Keno board out of a white board and painters tape. Poker table. Poker chips scattered everywhere. A paper-mache golden egg, covered in a thick layer of glitter, contained prizes for the winner with the most counterfeit cash.

Sweet 16 – Candyland. I found a freaking candyland VHS tape + floor game and left it playing downstairs to add to the ambiance. Giant lollipops made out of balloons and cellophane. Smarties necklaces. Decorations and food were strictly pink, orange, and white. Those little sticky white pork buns.

Murder Mystery Dinner – I wanted to throw one regardless and was willing to write my own script, but I lucked out and found a boxed murder mystery at the thrift store. Aw yis, vintage. Each invitee received a wax-sealed manila envelope stuffed with a packet of instructions, including period costume ideas and character breakdowns so they knew in advance how to play their roles. My mom helped me put on a 5 course meal, and each ring of the dinner bell both signified when to bring out the next dish and to advance the game one round. The murderer ended up being a surprise porn star from the film, “Stiff Upper Lip.”

Image from Vintagegameworld.com

I’m a Big Kid Now – For my 18th birthday I encouraged guests to dress up as 5-year-olds. One boy came in a Spiderman costume. Everyone brought baby pictures and we had a guessing contest. Bubbles. Crayons. Finger-painting. At the end of the party, I had a bead-giving ceremony à la YMCA summer camp, where I gave out plastic beads on safety pins to each person in turn, explaining what the color of the bead signified and what each person meant to me. I cried. A lot.

And, of course, with any of those themes you need only add alcohol and they become adult parties. That’s really what I do; throw a kid-worthy party with over-the top decorations and at least one craft activity and/or game, and tack on a BYOB.

The Mashup Formula

I’ve also recently discovered a sort of formula, and that’s the mashup. Take a style (such as a genre or pop culture meme) and mash it with a type of event or holiday. And then throw it on your birthday because, yes, you can have Halloween in February (Sami says it’s OK).  I did “Ravemas,” which was actually kind of temporally relevant because my birthday is two days after Christmas.gingerbread-cookie-club-kids

  • Rave + Christmas = Ravemas:
  • Fishnets, glittery Santa Hats (Claire’s had the best ones), fuzzy leg warmers, antler ears, big black boots
  • Mistletoe & cuddle puddles
  • Egg nog and spiked hot chocolate
  • Twinkle string lights every-the-fuck-where, plus rave-y lights
  • My friend brought his DJ gear and played a house set
  • Cookie club kids decorating sesh

Using this formula, I can think up a mint of other themes for ya:

  • Tim Burton Easter
  • Death Metal Valentine’s
  • German-style Wake (for the passing of your 20s). Ziggy zaggy ziggy zaggy. Oi oi oi!
  • Walking Dead Prom
  • Office Party Halloween (put on some bunny ears and pretend you’re in the conference room trying to get a sexual harassment suit)
  • Sci-fi Speed-dating
  • Dexter Pool Party

Get creative, because no one wants to go to yet another Mad Hatter Tea Party this year.

P.S. If you’re asking why I don’t throw more parties, why don’t you offer to host a location for me?