Thursday, July 26, 2012

The 50th Birthday Party (and some party planning tips)

Last week we celebrated the 50th birthday of our company president, Tod. Here are pix that captured the event.

The theme of the party was A Christmas Carol (Christmas in July). Christmas just happens to be one of Tod's favorite holidays; every December our company and spouses/guests load onto a tour bus, enjoy dinner at a super nice restaurant and then head to the Alliance to see A Christmas Carol. (Tod also feels a connection to Fezziwig — he is his management role model.) It's one of My favorite traditions here at Unboundary.

We decided on a cocktail party from 4:00-6:00. With Tod's schedule as crazy as it is (and he's not a huge fan of surprises), we gave him an invitation. It was modeled after an 1830's Thanksgiving invitation. It didn't give a clue as to the Christmas theme, just a hint to that Regency period of time. We had a custom wax stamp made to seal the invite (unfortunately the custom stamp didn't arrive in time, so we opted for a "T" stamp from our local art supply store; the custom stamp, once it arrives, will be gifted to the boss!).

Tod arrived to the party, surprised by the theme and the care we took to turn the space into a Christmas wonderland. The food spread was all served on silver trays. Garland and candles adorned every surface. Music filled the air (lovingly put together by our music aficionados here and created using favorite songs of Tod's sprinkled with Christmas classics). 

One of the best projects revealed at the party was a Regency portrait of Tod done by Laura. She took a photo of Tod and photoshopped it into a portrait, printed it out on canvas and stretched it on a wooden frame. What a great focal point (and keepsake for Tod) when popped into an ornate gold frame and hung front and center over the fake fireplace mantle. 

One of the other gifts we gave to him was a 1915 edition of A Christmas Carol. Not a first edition but the first edition with illustrations by Arthur Rackham.

We also printed out the Regency portrait of Tod and made "Tods on a stick" which we held up, bringing quite a reaction when he turned around from seeing his portrait above the fireplace. Sorta creepy, but we are a bunch of goons working here.

Also had custom rubber stamps made (presented in a vintage-like carousel holder) with many of his favorite or signature sayings on them.

What's a Christmas soiree without figgy pudding?!?! Laura made homemade figgy pudding and once lit, Tod had the perfect "birthday candle" to make a wish on and blow out!  Note the dude sitting on the chair with one of my Christmas sweaters on. I brought a stash in and people wore them without hesitation. Like I said, a bunch of fun goons.

Chuck, our resident mixologist, made Smoking Bishop punch, THE punch from the Christmas Carol book.  We took an excerpt from the book where it was mentioned and had that nearby for reference.

ALL IMAGES courtesy of Tim Redman, who so graciously donated his time to photograph the event!

And here are some of my tips for planning a party/event:

1)  Create a folder. I'd like to say that I'm one of those people who rely 100% on the Notes app on my iPhone to capture ideas, but I'm an old-fashioned paper kind of girl (and in my case, paper ranges from napkins to post-it notes to index cards). So I like having a place to corral all my notes. And I keep all my party/event files in a special bin so that I can reference them, which I always do!

2)  Create a master list. I have standard categories for all that I plan (things like food and drink, linens, decor, serving pieces and utensils, lighting, favors, etc.). It's easier, and less daunting, if I plan using these buckets.

3)  Have a brainstorm session. Even if you go into the planning process thinking you know exactly what you want to do, there's always more ideas to be hatched and ideas to be refined. These sessions can be me and one other person, or in the case of Tod's party, me leading the entire company (minus Tod). Put it this way, I have a lot goin' on in this creative noggin' of mine, but I've always made things better by bouncing ideas off of others and asking for different slants on how to approach one of my brainchilds. I use the master list as the basis for an agenda.

4)  Depending on how far out the event is, I schedule check-in meetings (weekly, monthly, whatever is needed) that include all those involved in the planning process.

5)  Create a floor plan of the event, mapping out where EVERYTHING is to go, from food to furniture.

6)  Delegate!  I can be one of those "I can do it all" type of people, but I'm fooling myself if I think I can do it all. I have learned to delegate WELL. There's a difference between delegating and delegating well. The best delegates are those who match the skill set of what you need done. I learned that the hard way when a chronically tardy person volunteered to bring ice to an event. When she showed up an hour late, long past when we needed ice, it taught me a big lesson.

7)  Collect items in one place. Whether it's an empty office at work or my garage, I like to collect party items in one place. It makes it easy for inventory and set-up.

8)  Allow time! It's never too early to plan, especially if there are craft projects to undertake.

9)  Remind! I am always sending out emails (especially after a group meeting) to remind everyone of what they are to do, to bring, etc. I usually put names in bold, just in case people skim the email. I prefer sending out a group email (vs. to individuals) for two reasons: 1) it gives everyone an idea of the big picture, and 2) if anyone gets to feeling "put upon," it's a gentle reminder that everyone is contributing.

10) As the event gets closer, usually within the week before, I create a TO DO list broken out by day. This allows me to spread out the final tasks evenly and without facing a last-minute, there's-no-way-I-can-get-all-this-done panic.

10)  On the night before, I set out all my serving pieces, floral arrangements, etc. For those perishable items, I put out labels out so I know where everything goes.

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