Monday, November 2, 2009

forever on the dance floor

So for about three years now, I've been dreaming and scheming for Michelle's 30th birthday. I HATE that I don't have a lucrative paying job and had to adhere to a pesky little thing called a budget because I had a big vision, but as we all know, ambitious ideas tend to require hefty sums of money. I'm full of vision, but lacking in the monetary department. What can ya do?

(*Prepare yourself for a marathon post. This is by far the most picture heavy and lengthy post I've ever done. Apparently, in addition to the party details, I also decided to include party planning 101.)

When I asked Michelle what she wanted/envisioned for her birthday party, her reply was that she wanted her wedding all over again. Hmmm...should be easy enough, right? Glad she wasn't expecting too much. Ha! I immediately set to work brainstorming ideas, and came up with an elegant cocktail party complete with copious amounts of homemade appetizers, signature champagne cocktails and details scattered throughout to make the night extra special. Here's the copy from the invitation:

Michelle's turning 30 and we're getting set
to throw her a party she'll never forget!

She's means the world to me and to you,
so a festive affair is a definite "do."

We decided to invite all those she holds dear
to help us celebrate her 30th year!

Join us for music, drinks, fun, and food,
And a night that's sure to put you in a good mood!

You're cordially invited to her celebratory soiree.
The night promises to be classy in every way.

I was a busy little bee a good five weeks prior to the actual day planning, prepping, organizing and trying to think of every little detail I could add that would delight Michelle and fill her with glee.

Just in terms of party planning tips, I highly recommend sending your evite out about three weeks before the event and then follow up with a couple guest reminders. Pick your theme and attempt to incorporate it wherever possible. Make sure to visit Party City, Target or similar store to purchase plates, cups, utensils and a few basic decorations to reinforce your theme for the night. I did this several weeks in advance and it was nice to be able to cross something off my list early in the game. When planning your menu, keep your guest of honor in mind and try to include their favorite foods and flavor profiles. Choose a couple appetizers that can be passed and be sure to include items in your spread that require little to no prep, i.e. veggie crudites and dip, a fruit, cheese and cracker platter, etc. Don't be scared to ask for help because you'll definitely need some extra hands in the kitchen. Also, I was able to do a lot of my food prep a couple days in advance. I was able to bake off the chicken for the chicken salad, chop all my ingredients for the crab cakes, caramelize the onions for the pizza and organize the general timeline for the food prep on the day of the party.

Once the big day arrived, I would like to say I had everything under control and was as cool as a cucumber, but I'd be lying. In all actuality, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I had to ice and decorate the cake, pick up the balloons, gather together all my supplies, finish my playlist, make the crab mixture, make the chicken salad (so the flavors could marry), chop fruit for the champagne bar and soak pears in the rum mixture. This was all prior to setting up for the actual party.

When I got to the party location (Nick and Michelle's house), I had to set up the sign-in table, champagne bar, candy bar and dessert table. I also had to decorate for the party in the pink, green, silver and black theme. I used pink napkins, silver food plates, green dessert plates, pink "Michelle" confetti and I placed framed black and white pictures of the birthday girl throughout the house. I also framed three pictures of Michelle with a big mat for her guests to sign. I placed this on the front table with the candy bar.

Amidst the set-up, I had to get myself AND the birthday girl ready. It was total chaos. This set me back a good 45 minutes on my timeline, but luckily I had my parents there to step in and save me. Seeing as though I still had to assemble the chicken salad toasts, make the crab cakes, prepare the pizza and chop & bake the sweet potato fries, I needed all hands on deck. Suffice it to say, no matter how well you plan, be prepared to hit a few snags come party time.

Speaking of all that food prep, this is the menu I decided on for the big bash:
vegetable crudites with Greek yogurt dip
hot spinach and artichoke dip with pita chips, sourdough bread and tortilla chips
curried chicken salad on raisin toast
spicy sauteed cocktail shrimp
fruit and cheese platter with grapes, blackberries, figs and Havarti
panko-crusted crab cakes
pear and gorgonzola pizza with caramelized onions
baked brie with pears and apples
sweet potato fries

It should be duly noted my parents made the baked brie and the hot spinach & artichoke dip. Thank you parentals. They were divine!

Per usual, I set up the food along their awesome buffet counter. I still remember seeing their house for the first time and I was overwhelmed with excitement when I spotted the long bar. From the moment I laid eyes on it, I had visions of delectable party spreads dancing in my head.

The "champagne bar" was set up on the island and featured Michelle's Thirty, Flirty Fizz which combined rum-soaked pears and champagne. There were also fresh strawberries and peaches soaked in peach schnapps. Guests could mix 'n match to the heart's content.

When the guests began to arrive, I put the crab cakes and pizza in the oven. Once those were finished, I quickly plated them and passed them out to the lucky guests who arrived in a timely fashion. The pizza was a real crowd pleaser and was gone lickity-split.

Obviously, there was a dessert table which featured the birthday cake: a white cake with raspberry mousse filling, fresh berries and a butter cream icing. There were also devils food cake cookies, chocolate-covered strawberries (thank you Elisa!) and dark chocolate chex mix.

As mentioned previously, the party goers were encouraged to frequent the candy bar and make goody bags to take with them. The favorite was definitely the candy corn, but there were also Skittles, honey nut chex mix and M&Ms.

The guest of honor (Michelle, duh) looked ravishing in her party frock. Like a fine wine, she just gets better with age. I don't exaggerate when I say she hasn't looked so beautiful since her wedding.

There was a good turnout to celebrate 30 years in the birthday girl's life. Guests included family, a fousin, old friends (as in 20+ years) and new friends. It was so fun to have people there from all different stages in Michelle's life.

I was particularly happy my parents were able to come and hang out for a couple hours. It was truly an "abundant life" moment.

Once the party was rockin' and rollin', it was time to play the "video/slideshow" (not sure what else to call it) that Nick and I had put together (I supplied pictures and he did the technical stuff) for the party. Again, this goes back to the details I was trying to include to make it feel like a wedding.

And what would be a party without cake? Well, not one I'd like to go to - that's for sure! There might not have been 30 candles on there, but I think she'll still get her birthday wish!

As could be expected, Michelle's #1 request was for there to be dancing, and "by God, there will be dancing." I compiled a playlist in an attempt to encourage said dance party and I think I was successful. Haylee had great fun spinning around the dance floor, and the guest of honor enjoyed a spin out on the dance floor with her main squeeze.

The REAL dance party got cranked up around midnight and included Michelle, Natosha, Jess, Elisa and yours truly. Highlights include "All the Single Ladies," "Benny and the Jetts" (27 Dresses anyone?), "You Can't Escape My Love," and "Don't Stop Believing." But perhaps the MOST memorable would be our reenactment of "Forever on the Dance Floor." We channeled the YouTube video and Jim and Pam's wedding from The Office. I wish I had the video to post, but unfortunately, it's on Nick and Michelle's camera. Sad day...

The night wouldn't be complete without a mini fousin photo shoot outside, so that's exactly what we did (after the majority of the guests had bid us adieu, of course).

We also let Nick take some pics with us too...ha ha.

When it was all said and done and we were in our pajamas watching "13 Going on 30" (at approximately 4 in the AM), I felt really good about the night. The birthday girl got to dance the night away and had a blast. I say that equals a success in my book.


Anonymous said...

WOW! You sure do know how to make a girl feel SUPER LOVED & SPECIAL! I wish I could relive that night all over again! I had the time of my life! I can't thank you enough for EVERYTHING you did to make my 30th unforgettable! I love you, sissy!

Anonymous said...

I very much appreciate what you're doing here!