How to Plan a Garden Party

Hi guys!  How was your Monday?  I was a mess, totally exhausted from our girls’ trip that had me dancing and eating Taco Bueno until the wee hours of the morning.  Those kinds of weekends are few and far between so you gotta live it up when the opportunity strikes.  Then come home and die of exhaustion! Like when you need a vacation from your vacation.  #firstworldproblemsIknowI’m better today, and super excited to share all the details from Jordan’s first birthday party. Ever since the party, I’ve been wanting to share with you how I planned our garden soiree and how it all came together.  Hosting a party at home is a lot of work with all the little details to think about, the shopping, the preparation and getting the house ready for guests.  But it’s also so much fun and a wonderful way to get together with your friends and family to celebrate a special occasion.  This post is lengthy because I wanted to give you lots of detailed info, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment- I personally read and respond!

For Jordan’s party, we settled on a Garden Party theme after falling in love with these Paper Flowers, and took it from there.  When planning a party, there are a few key components to consider:
GUEST LIST & INVITATIONS
MENU & GROCERY LIST
TABLESCAPE
DECOR
PARTY FAVORS
OUTFITS 
HOUSE PREPARATION
 
I will go into detail on what I did for each of those categories, and specifically for our First Birthday Garden Party, but first I’ll share with you how I kept everything organized. At the end of the post is a Party Timeline so you know how far out to do everything so you’re not stressing at the last minute.
This year, I started using Evernote as a way to keep myself organized and, once you get the hang of it, it’s really useful!  Evernote is an online system of Notes and within those Notes, Notebooks.  I have a PARTY Note, and within that Note, 3 Notebooks for parties we had this year: Jordan’s, James, and a Superbowl party that didn’t end up happening because we were sick.
But, you can see in Jordan’s Birthday Party Notebook, I have 20 additional Notes.  Evernote has a web clipping tool, so if I found a recipe or decor idea, I could clip the photo and add it to my note to keep in one place.  It’s similar to Pinterest in that regard, but instead of having to go to Pinterest AND another place for your party notes, they are all in one place.
I made one big NOTE with all the To Do’s, separated into categories.  I liked using the boxes because you can checkmark what you’ve accomplished and that makes you feel like you’re getting somewhere!
We wanted to keep the party small, which is hard to do when you have friends and couples and siblings, so we invited family only, and ended up with 10 adults and 7 kids. The pretty pastel floral invitations set the tone for the party and I found these gorgeous invites on Etsy, a great resource for all things party-related.  Because our party was so small, I sent a quick save the date via text first, followed with formal invitations a few weeks before the party.
Definitely keep in mind the timing of the party and if it happens to be a toddler’s birthday, work around her nap schedule!

To feed our guests something more substantial than finger foods, we had mini sub sandwiches along with jalepeno poppers, veggie cups, caprese bows, fruit cups, cucumber herbed flower bites, and hummus and pita chips.  I chose easy food I could assemble and ordered the sandwiches to make it easier on myself.  For  dessert, we had cookies, cupcakes and a mini smash cake for Jordan.  If you have the time and inclination, you can make all of that yourself, but our local grocery store bakery does a great job with that, so we ordered the cake and cupcakes there.  Sally’s Sweets Cookies made the beautiful cookies.To serve the same thing at your party, you’ll need:

Sandwiches– we over-ordered with a 24 pack of mini sandwiches, but we ate them for leftovers
Jalapeno Poppers – 10 jalapenos, 8 oz cream cheese, 1 package bacon, toothpick (optional)
Veggie Cups – 1 bunch carrots, 1 bunch celery and ranch dressing
Caprese Bowls – 1 pint grape tomatoes, 1 pint mozzarella balls, fresh basil
Fruit Cups – 1 lb strawberries, 1 pint blueberries, 1 bag of grapes
Cucumber herbed flower bites – 1 lemon, 2 tsp chopped pecans, 2 tbsp mint & chives, 4 oz cream cheese, salt, 1 cucumber, 3-4 radishes
Chips & Hummus – we like Stacy’s pita chips and Sabra pine nut hummus but people swear by Grandma’s hummus
Cookies – 24 custom cookies from Sally’s Sweets Cookies (we had leftovers and sent some home as favors)
Cupcakes – 18 cupcakes in 3 different flavors from the grocery store bakery
Small Smash Cake – from grocery store bakery
As for drinks, we served:
Bottled Juice – 6 pack of 2 different flavors (only a few were drank so we could’ve done without) and we also had water
Beer – 12 pack bottles
Mimosa – 4 bottles champagne, 1 jug orange juice

I tried making floral ice cubes but they didn’t turn out very well.  I think my ice cube trays were too small and shallow, so when I took the cubes out of the tray, they melted quickly.

The way you arrange your food plays into the decor and also sets the tone for the party.  For example, we had custom food tent labels and served the food in a decorative way in platters and stands we already had.  The food tents are an instant download that you print from your computer.  I used heavyweight white paper and then a paper trimmer to get a straight cut.  You will be so surprised how often you use this genius contraption if you have one!
Varying the height at which you display and serve things creates more visual interest at the table.  We covered our wooden dining table and another plastic kids’ table with Pink Tablecloths.  The kids table had cute Faux Grass Placemats & acrylic plates with pink and gold Happy Birthday Napkins.
Sandwiches– served on a tall (2-foot), 3-tiered tray
Veggie Cups – served in clear plastic glasses with the ranch dressing on the bottom and the veggies standing up, all sitting on a square cake stand
Caprese Bowls – served in decorative paper cups and sitting on a white ceramic tray
Fruit Cups –  served in pint sized berry baskets
Cucumber Herbed Flower Bites –
Cookies – 24 custom cookies from Sally’s Sweets (we had leftovers and sent some home as favors)
Cupcakes – 18 cupcakes in 3 different flavors from the grocery store bakery with Glittered “One” Cupcake Toppers
Small Smash Cake – from grocery store bakery with #1 Candle
Bottled Juice – served in a clear beverage tub 
Beer –  served in a beverage tub

Mimosa – served in a glass pitcher with a side of strawberries and paper straws

It’s a good idea to start setting your table in advance if you can so you can see how things will fit on your table and if you are in need of any additional serving platters or servers.  I always lay everything out with post-it notes for where everything will go.
Our initial inspiration for the garden party were these large scale gorgeous paper flowers.  They were an investment so if you have the time and talent to do them on your own, that would be awesome. They definitely say “garden party” and are such a pretty decoration.

I was able to easily make a large number 1 sign with cardboard and faux flowers, which was super inexpensive.  I bought a large square pack of just stems from Michael’s and used a hot glue gun to glue them onto the cardboard that I cut in the shape of a number 1.

 

A great and inexpensive way to make your home look party ready is to use tulle liberally and lots of balloons.  Also, frame your invitation!
Don’t forget the MUSIC to set the tone for your party.  We use the music stations on our tv and let it play continuously, but you could also use a jawbone jambox or something similar that syncs to the music library on your phone.  I got my husband one of these for one of his birthdays and it was a big hit.
Other decor elements we used for the garden party were a High Chair Banner,  Happy Birthday Banner, photo collage with vintage style frame and fresh and faux flowers throughout the house.

For party favors, we gave mini potted flowers with a sweet note attached.  You can buy a pack of mini flowers at most hardware stores and the little terracotta pots on Amazon or at craft stores.

You definitely want to consider what you’re going to wear ahead of time in case you need to borrow or buy something.  Choose something that you feel great in, but that’s also comfortable so you can relax and enjoy your own party.  I was originally planning to wear a dress, but changed my mind at the last minute because, with a first birthday party, I knew I’d be on the floor with Jordan helping her open gifts and also playing with the other babies.
 
 

Of course you gotta get your house and at least one bathroom clean and tidy before your guests arrive!  I like to clean house a day before so I’m not trying to fit that in on the day of, and also so the house doesn’t have that much time to get messed up before the party.Another consideration is whether you will have your party professionally photographed.  If so, you need to book the photographer in advance and perhaps have him or her come a little early to get photos of everything while it’s still fresh and pretty.

Finally, I included a party planning timeline created by My One Sweet Life so that you have a general sense of when things should occur to keep you on track.

 

 

 

I hope this post was helpful and that it’s a good resource for your future garden or birthday party!
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14 Comments

  1. April 25, 2017 / 11:35 am

    Lovely ideas I will steal some of them:P

  2. Christie
    April 25, 2017 / 1:04 pm

    This is awesome! We don't have kids, but do have spring and summer outdoor parties and I love some of these ideas! Please keep sharing party ideas because these are so creative! (I've been reading your blog for a while but don't usually comment 🙂 Also, the Etsy invitation link doesn't seem to be working, can you tell me the name of that shop? Thanks!

  3. April 25, 2017 / 1:17 pm

    Such a precious party, Megan! I always had fun planning parties when my kids were younger. Now, they just want to take a couple of friends to an arcade and eat pizza. Not as cute, but fun for them and certainly easier for me. Happy birthday again to your sweet girl!

  4. April 25, 2017 / 1:23 pm

    What a perfect first birthday party, thank you for sharing!

  5. Stacy Logue
    April 25, 2017 / 1:51 pm

    Wow! What a beautiful party! Thank you so much for taking the time to provide all the details. I loved looking at all the pretty pictures and reading all your helpful tips.

  6. April 25, 2017 / 2:00 pm

    So pretty! I was looking to do potted plants as a favor too – did you use the ones you linked from Amazon? Trying to get a sense for just how big they are…

  7. April 25, 2017 / 3:07 pm

    What a beautiful party! Looks like fun! Thank you also for sharing how you use Evernote to plan a party. Are you going to be posting a follow-up on how you use Evernote as master to-do list, travel, household? I would be interested in hearing more about using Evernote to stay organized.

  8. April 25, 2017 / 4:27 pm

    Loved this post! Do you have any links or will you being doing a post soon about how to use Evernote? I think it will make my life easier but currently its confusing……. Thanks Cassie

  9. April 25, 2017 / 9:47 pm

    You totally NAILED IT with this party!! Her little face just melts me…and I miss you, roomie!!!

  10. May 19, 2017 / 12:48 pm

    Happy Birthday, Jordan! I love, love all of these sweet details you made for the party. The table decor is gorgeous… and would be lovely for any feminine party (shower, 30th birthday, etc). Great idea to use Evernote. party planning can be quite involved, especially when you want to include so many lovely ideas. Thanks for linking to my cucumber bites… they are a cute little appetizer, aren't they? But… I have my eyes on those beautiful custom cookies! They are almost to pretty to eat!

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