Summer ey. BBQ’s, lots of ice cream.. oh and my birthday. If you follow me on twitter you will know that it was my birthday recently (well, 2 weeks ago), and I actually planned a pretty special party for it. I’ve never had a massive birthday, and I think it’s only right to have at least one extravagant birthday party in your life right? Anyway – the party itself was a massive success, everyone had a fab time and I enjoyed planning it so much !
So of course – planning parties and all that jazz is FUN for some people (ahem – moi), and maybe not so fun for others – I definitely picked up a few hints & tips whilst planning the party. I knew from the second I decided to have a party that I would write a blog post all about the planning – and to be honest this could be applied to any sort of get together, so I hope it can help some of ya. Also – throwing this party meant that I could tick something off my summer bucket list .. yaaaas!
Pick a theme
This was the first thing that I did and I honestly had quite a few ideas in mind! Things like Pinterest will become your best friend – not just for inspiration for themes but also snacks/drinks/decor etc. Of course with my birthday falling in July, I wanted a beach/tropical theme – think lots of bright colours, pineapples, flamingos & Hawaiian flowers. Once you have a theme, you can start to focus on location, decor, food & activities.
Pick your location
Of course – living in the UK, you can never rely on the weather – more likely than not it WILL let you down. Best thing you can do is prepare for it. As I was set on having my party outside, we invested in a gazebo for the garden, but also ensured we had enough space inside just in case we had to make a last minute change and were cursed with awful weather. Of course – in any case, location depends on quite a few things: how many people you’re inviting, what type of party you’re having, budget restrictions etc. It’s always a good idea to ring around community centres & restaurants – you could even ask family members/friends if you can use their garden – always a good idea if they have more space than you! For me – we had around 35 people so the garden was the perfect size & the gazebo kept us sheltered from any drizzle we had on the day!
Get your numbers
This is so important so you can plan food, activities, seating etc. So … obviously modern tech means we can just invite people via text/email – but I wanted to add a little bit more of a personal touch – so I handwrote some invitations and delivered them myself! It also means you can get an indication of how many people there are to come! I also left my number at the bottom of the invites so people could officially RSVP me. Knowing your numbers is so important as you can avoid overspending on food/drinks/general bits & bobs.
Wowing your guests
Of course, when you are planning a party for either a birthday/anniversary/house warming – it’s always nice to have something that will impress your guests. This will not only leave them with a wonderful memory of your party, but also ensure they are kept occupied! This all depends again on your theme & budget – we had quite a few things going on: a candy floss machine, chocolate fountain, slush machine & popcorn!). That may seem like quite a lot for a small *ish* party – but it meant there was a massive variety for guests and it definitely kept the kids entertained! We booked all of it via a company called Sweet Candy Dreams – who were absolutely FANTASTIC. Everything was so easy to arrange with them, and they stayed during the party to ensure everything ran smoothly.
You can get as creative as you want – and it can include things like setting up a den/tent for your guests to wind down in, getting creative with your decor, or wowing them with your food choices. This is your chance to use your imagination guys – or just Pinterest, I’m not judging.
Food food food!
Now – obviously food is SO important, and it’s a pretty big topic too so I thought it would be best to split it into a few sections!
Before the party
- Ensure you get any dietary requirements sorted. This is so important because there is nothing worse than not being able to cater for guests with different requirements. Put a note on your invites for anyone to let you know so you can make arrangements
- Decide if you want just snacks or proper food. I think this obviously depends on how many people you have & how long your party is lasting.
- Plan you snacks and/or main food. I used Pinterest & YouTube to decide what food we were going to be having.
Setting up & during the party
It’s best to have the snacks dotted around your party instead of just in one place – so guests aren’t all crowded around one area, and they can also snack wherever they are. A few ‘can’t go wrong’ snacks are:
- Crisps & dips
- Mini pizzas
- Mozzarella sticks
- Carrot batons & hummus (or other dips of choice)
- Mini sandwiches
It’s always best to keep an eye on the snacks too and have some extras ready just in case you run out!
For drinks – plastic cups are your best friend! As I had a summer theme, plastic Margarita glasses were essential! I picked these up from a poundshop, but they are everywhere at the moment! Also – it’s always fun to have a designated drinks table where people can help themselves. I added lots of funky straws, umbrellas and stirrers for a nice summer touch – and they worked a treat!
We had plenty of sweet treats on the day, but some quick ones to prepare are:
- Chocolate covered strawberries
- Pick & mix
Probably my favourite part. For decorations, you can go as all out as you want! The best thing to do is look online – as you’ll find a bigger variety, and a lot of the stuff is so much cheaper too. I got the majority of my decorations from Party Delights, as they literally have everything – from tablecloths to Tiki Bar signs. You can also pick up a lot of decor from places like The Range, Home Bargains, B&M, poundshops & supermarkets. With it being summer, a lot of these shops are geared around planning for garden parties, so will have more or less all the essentials you need. If you are going all out (theme wise) though, online is the way. One thing that I highly recommend having which I found gave such a summer feel, is bunting. There is just something so summery about bunting, and I got all mine from a poundshop. Winning.
Activities on the Day
Of course – a lot of the party will be people socialising, but it’s always a good idea to have some activities lined up. I had planned for everyone to play charades & the ‘speak up’ game – but guests actually spent most of the time around the chocolate fountain and socialising! But activities like that are always good as they allow for a large group of people to take part and are pretty light hearted.
So – I think I have covered most of the stuff that you need for throwing your own garden party! Now – I want to run through what I did for mine – from sending invites, food, decor & things to do!
All The Info:
My theme was summer – so anything bright and with flamingos, pineapples and a beachy/Hawaiian vibes was what I was looking out for.
I picked up my invites from TKMAXX – I don’t think I actually got a photo of them (grrr!), but they had flamingos on them and came in a bright envelope, which I thought went perfectly with my theme!
Originally, I wanted to have the party out in the garden and set up blankets on the grass, with a little cosy tent set up in a corner – but I had been keeping tabs on the weather and saw RAIN FORECASTED. The joys. So I set out plan B – a gazebo. This was literally a lifesaver. Make sure you get one that fits in your garden too guys – and try to have it on grass rather your driveway. It is SO much more secure, and I think it gives it a nicer, almost cosier feel.
So – the foods I had were:
- Mini Pizzas
- Chicken Dippers
- Crisps & Dip
- Carrot Sticks & Hummus
- Pizzas (again haha)
- Chicken Wings
- Rice & Chicken (we actually got this catered)
- Chocolate Fountain
- Birthday Cake (obvs)
It took hardly any time to set up snacks on a table under the gazebo & inside on the kitchen table. I picked up some cute trays from B&M so it all matched the theme (hehe!) For the mains – we had everything ready in the kitchen (pizza’s & rice were delivered & the wings had been cooked in the morning), and once it was ready to serve, they were put on trays and put out for guests to help themselves.
Make sure to keep plenty of napkins & paper plates handy – as well as some black bags so people can throw away their rubbish (or you will just end up with piles of used paper plates – nice).
So – for decor, I did go a little bit mad – but it was honestly the best bit.
Firstly – the gazebo. I tied a CRAP load of bunting throughout the whole of the inside & outside. I also tied some in the living room and in the driveway, just for that extra touch. I picked up a little Hula Girl party sign online, and also around 40 hawaiian flower leis, and lined these up on a table, all ready for the guests on their arrival.
For the snacks, I covered a coffee table with a printed tablecloth, and put all the trays with the crisps & dips in. There were also paper plates (themed of course) and napkins too – which added to the decor too!
I found a “Tiki Bar” sign at a party shop in my local market, and tied this to the top of the gazebo. I also picked up some metallic “Happy Birthday” balloons and had these filled up with helium and tied them up on one side. I had a designated drinks table, which was literally the garden table with a tablecloth & table skirt on it. I then lined all my plastic margarita glasses up, and put a LOT of cute straws, umbrellas and drink decorations out. I then filled a drink dispenser with some homemade “punch” (recipe below), and lined up some bottled drinks, et voila! The cutest drinks table EVER.
- 2 cartons of orange & pineapple juice
- 1 carton of orange juice
- 2 oranges (sliced)
- A few chunks of fresh pineapple
- Ice cubes (as much as you want)
Mix all drinks together in a drinks dispenser and serve!
Anyway – carrying in with the decorations. I set up plenty of chairs, but covered them with some pretty, colourful pillows so they fit in with the theme. Also, in the gazebo we had the popcorn, candyfloss & slush machine, and I thought they added to the decor nicely – so that was all we had in there!
Then – in the kitchen, I covered the dining table with a cute tablecloth and lined up more snacks. I also added another table skirt & more bunting – you can never have too much, muaha. Then, in the living room, we had the chocolate fountain and a place where everyone could put any gifts they had bought. I also piled up some cushions and blankets, alongside an inflatable palm tree and some bunting, so there was a cosy place for anyone who wanted to relax!
I think that is everything covered? I feel like there is A LOT in this post – but I hope it is enough info to help anyone planning a party! I honestly had SO much fun, and it was such a success on the day! I am definitely planning my next one (although maybe not so big next time!).
Let me know if you have any plans for summer parties – and also if anything in this post helps you!