Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Let's Part-a-a-y!

Aside from writing, my dream job would be party planning.  There’s nothing I like more than grabbing a new notebook (paper always features heavily in my life!) and scribbling down the jobs that need to be done for that perfect event.

I’m currently in charge of decorations for a friend’s 60th birthday and my imagination is running wild with the shocking pink and gold theme.  I can’t reveal too many of my plans here because I’d have to kill you (and aforementioned friend might be reading), but it’s going to be classy with a touch of wild!

Money is tight for most people now but I think it’s important to realise that you don’t need a lot of cash to turn on a special event.  My son was well known for his unique birthday parties (always at home) and I would spend weeks planning table designs and original activities - these included a Quiz Night Sleepover (never again with 6 over-excited seven year olds) Treasure Hunt, Dinner Party/Talent Night and a Murder Mystery.  They were heavy on time and light on money.

Similarly with our friends, I love to turn a simple dinner or birthday celebration into something a bit special.  We’re lucky to have friends as mad as us who throw themselves wholeheartedly into the proceedings and often reciprocate with an equally whacky theme.

So today I’m going to share a few photos from various occasions and offer some of my tried and tested tips.  Make this summer the time to gather a few friends, ignore the weather and have a laugh.


  1. Plan in advance.  Make sure everyone knows the date and the theme.  Decide if you’re doing a sit down dinner or a buffet.  Consider each couple bringing a course or a dish to lighten your load, work-wise and financially.
  2. Themes can be as extravagant as a Murder Mystery (cheap on eBay or in charity shops) or as simple as a Quiz Night -  the internet makes it so easy to set questions now.  Other favourites of ours are Room 101 - each guest nominates 3 things they want to get rid of.  They bring props and give their argument as to why they should be ditched.  The winner is the one who convinces most people their choices should go in Room 101.  Desert Island Discs - each guest chooses 3 songs they love and 1 they hate.  The songs are played as you dine and everyone votes on each other's choices, the winner being the one with the most points.  A Challenge Night - great for mixed ages and abilities.  Set 5 daft challenges such as ‘how many frozen peas can you transfer from one plate to another by sucking on a straw in 1 minute?’ or 'how many coins can you balance on your upturned elbow'?
  3. Consider using outside areas.  A simple cheapie gazebo can be totally transformed with a bed sheet, paper chains, fairy lights and hanging beads.
  4. Have a playlist suited to the night.  For our Royal Wedding Dinner we made sure we had suitably regal or nuptial music.  OK, The Sex Pistol’s ‘God Save The Queen’ featured but it had to really!  Our Hollywood Night had songs from musicals and stage shows and a few brave performances from guests.
  5. Never underestimate the Pound Shop.  In the past I’ve bought candles, both real and battery operated (ideal for kids' parties or windy outdoor events), champagne bubble-blowers, serviettes and Christmas wreaths that can be adapted to make a table centrepiece.
  6. Make your table stunning.  Cloths can be expensive and often boring - look at duvet covers and sheets as an option.  Old drink mats (also picked up for a song in charity shops) can be covered in funky wrapping paper and then coated in varnish or sticky-backed plastic.  Buy the gift wrap to coordinate with paper serviettes and work your colour theme around those.  For your next dinner, simply rip off the paper and re-cover.  Decorate small gift boxes for each guest and fill with chocolates. The lids can be adorned with the coordinated paper and topped off with old brooches or earrings.  Make ornate name cards to show each guest where they’re sitting.  For our Hollywood Dinner all names were on mini clapperboards that we printed on the computer.  Place a centrepiece of flowers or candles on an old mirror and it will double in size and look more effective.  Sprinkle the table with confetti, rose petals or beads.  A well laid table will make your guests feel loved.  A close friend always tells me I ‘give good table'!
  7. Kids’ party bags don’t need to be filled with expensive tat.  My son's friends once left a party delighted with artist pads and oil paints from the Pound Shop - useful, didn’t rot their teeth or end up clogging someone’s hoover!
  8. Costumes for events don’t have to be hired or cost the earth.  Most charity shops have heaps of stuff that can be adapted with a dollop of imagination.  For our 2nd World War Murder Mystery, I put together my uniform for just under £10 and adapted my husband’s shirt to ‘air force’ with ribbon epaulets and plastic medals.  My Audrey Hepburn dress for the Hollywood Dinner, came from Primark and hubbie adjusted it to become tailor made!

So here’s some photographic evidence [CLICK TO ENLARGE].  Hope you enjoy and that it inspires you to have a go.  Oh, and if anyone wants to give me a book deal on party planning, you know where to find me.  I’m no Pippa Middleton but then most people don’t have her family’s budget!

 Our 10th wedding anniversary in our back garden.

The same Argos gazebo was transformed into a
Big Top for our son's Circus Murder Mystery.

Our son chose lilac and purple as his theme
for his 8th birthday quiz and dinner.

 ... and black and white for his treasure hunt dinner.  This is
where we used a duvet cover as a cloth.  Each guest had a
menu to choose from, 'champagne' bubbles and chocolate box.

 A Christmas table or two.  Cream and gold
was the theme that year.

 Our Royal Wedding Celebration.  Pink for a Princess.

 For our Italian/French themed Murder Mystery we went
a little bold.  The plates are hand painted by ... me!

 Which meant the costumes were bold too!
Yes, I'm wearing a wig.  

 Our 2nd World War Murder Mystery table.

 And the costumes that went with it!

  We made a gramophone from a cardboard box
and put a tape recorder in it for the event!

For my Mum's 80th we made a dummy of her to greet her
on arrival.  This shows work in progress from stuffing her 'legs'
to papier-mache head and the finished product.
My mother's hair is NOT orange but it looks it in this photo!

 Son at 11 decided he wanted a Swinging Sixties
party - flowers added by me to charity shop gems.

My 'Audrey' for our Hollywood Night!

For a friend's gangster night.  I was meant to be Diana Dors!

I've even been an Asian lady (again a Murder Mystery).
Mrs Sengupta, eat your heart out! 

'On the Titanic' at a friends' house.

 A Lords and Ladies Night - boys against the girls! 

So there you go.  Have I inspired you to host an event?  Let me know and, if you've any other party tips, I'm always happy to add more. 


  1. You should definitely be a party planner if you ever get writers block!

  2. WOW you certainly know how to make an even go with a bang & I don't mean with your chest!!! Audrey Hepburn eat your heart out!
    Can I just point out your hair DOES NOT look orange at all, but you certainly suit a variety of colours.
    I can't wait to see pics of the latest party venture & deffo think you've got a natural flair for it. Well done you xx

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.