Party Planning: The Golden Years

March 2018

by rebecca stewart

When we enter the land of parenthood our party planning skills center, almost solely, on those of our growing littles. As time marches on, though, our party planning expertise is called to emerge from the depths of Dora, Mickey, and Minecraft (oh my!) and move forth into the land of major milestones. Not those of our children, we’re talking about the later in life landmark moments – the golden years celebrations. We’re talking retirement parties, anniversary celebrations, the BIG birthdays! Whether you’re planning your spouse’s 40th or your parents’ 50th anniversary, there are celebrations to be had, so let’s get planning!

And so it begins

Group Activity Celebrations:

(think, something they don’t do often)

  • Escape Room
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Spa Day/Weekend
  • Dude Ranch adventure (imagining City Slickers)

Whether you’re planning a birthday or anniversary party…

  • Choose the date (and time) – Keeping in mind that if you’re hoping to have guests from out of town, the sooner they have the date, the better. The time of your shindig is equally important, as it will help set the tone for the rest of your planning. It’s safe to say that an afternoon party will have a different vibe than an evening soiree.
  • Set your budget, which will feed into the rest of your party planning…
  • Select a venue. The first question you might ask yourself is, “How formal of an event are we going for?” Are you keeping things in the family and hosting the party at a home or backyard (will you need a tent/awning)? A restaurant? Church hall? Reserved park shelter? Banquet room? VFW hall? Country Club?
  • Choose a theme – Award-winning event planner, Matt James, strongly encourages party planners to “Celebrate the person, not their age.” Dig deeper into your imagination to create a theme that spotlights the individual/couple you’re celebrating. He notes that “there are plenty of clever ways to incorporate the into the party theming and decorations, without it dominating.”
  • Plan food & drinks – So many of the other planning pieces come into play when planning the food and drinks. Will you go according to a theme? Make your own or have it catered? Appetizers and sweets/cake or a full meal? Buffet or sit down? (Time of day is a major factor here). James notes that when throwing a party at home, it can be more challenging to make this celebration feel like a special occasion and not just another house party or get together. He recommends adding a personalized touch to the most common of party elements. For example, "Have personalized beer, wine, or spirits labels made. There are lots of different designs available, many of which allow you to upload a photo, and some are available as printable files so you can run off as many as you like at home.” I think we can all agree, most importantly, don’t forget the cake!
  • Invitations – This is a glorious time in which we’re living, never has it been so easy to create personalized invitations for any and all celebrations. If you’re not feeling especially creative, there are an impressive variety of websites to fit whatever idea you imagine – from funny and heartwarming to sophisticated and specifically themed.
  • Shutterfly advises sending out invites 6-8 weeks in advance of the party, especially if the party is formal.
  • Decorations – I love James’ suggestion to “concentrate the majority of your party decorations around a dessert/buffet table/food station; creating a focal point in the room.” He adds that decorations often have to compete with existing room decor so they can get a bit lost if spread too thinly. Complete the look with a few general decorations around the room to tie everything together (photos, centerpieces, balloons, floral arrangements…)
  • Entertainment – Now, especially if this is an anniversary party, shouldn't there be dancing? If you think yes, then you've got a decision to make – hire a band or a DJ. Whichever way you go, be sure to book them early. (Of course, you'll want to make sure they keep favorite songs in rotation – including “their” song if it’s an anniversary party). Toasts might also be an integral part of your celebration’s entertainment.

Extra Special Touches:

As you’re setting the date and preparing to send out the invitations, enlist the help of friends and family to really make this a meaningful celebration. Start early! (These ideas are a great way to include those out of town friends and family members that can’t make it to the party):

  • 40 Messages From 40 Friends (or how many ever years you’re celebrating) –Send out blank, pre-addressed, pre-stamped postcards (you can get them pre-made and customized), ask them to write a favorite memory, sweet note, or personalized birthday/anniversary wish, and mail it the week leading up to the birthday/anniversary. –Matt James
  • Dig deeper into memory lane with 60 Years of Memories (again, or whatever year you’re celebrating) – Similar to the postcard messages, this idea from Holly at Nothing but Bonfires, has friends and family writing a one page letter to the birthday person / couple that recalls a special memory – the more nostalgic the better.
  • A life in pictures –Reach out to friends and family for photos they have of the birthday person/anniversary couple. Have them send you a photo (preferably via email!) from their collection along with a snippet about the photo. Take all of those photos, and those from your own (and their – you might have to get sneaky when obtaining these) collection and upload them to create a photo book, using an online photo album maker.

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s March 2018 issue.

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