Cruise-themed Anniversary Party Part 4: The Invite

Creating an invite is usually one of the first things I do once I decide to host a party. In fact, outside of my initial brainstorming, it’s the first thing I did for this event, even though I’ve posted about a few other activities before it. For me, it sets the tone for the event, both in how I start to think about and plan for it, but also in the minds of my guests. It provides valuable clues for what they can expect at the gathering. And the invite for this party is no exception, but more on that below.

The whole concept of “priming” your guests for an event, of which the invite is an important part, is something I read about in the book The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker. I highly recommend it if you enjoy hosting gatherings, personally or professionally, which I assume you do if you’re reading this. The basic idea of priming for a party is no different than in any other context the word may be used – you prime something to prepare it. You prime a wall before you paint it, you prime a lawn mower before you start it, therefore why wouldn’t you prime your guests for your event before they arrive?

So, how can you start this business of priming with your invite? Well, there’s a few things to plan for in what you create (or have created… or buy…):

  • Include the basics:
    • Who – the host / the invitee / the guest(s) of honor
    • What – the type of event
    • When – date & time + when RSVPs are due, if you’re requesting them
    • Where – the address and if the event is indoor or outdoor
    • Why – the reason for the gathering
  • Highlight your theme – unless you’ve already sent a Save the Date or shared details of the event with all of your guests some other way, this is your first chance to give your invitees a taste of what to expect at the party. A child’s birthday invite might be colorful and fun and contain their favorite characters who will decorate the party. A backyard BBQ invite might be simple and homey. A Mother’s Day tea invite might be fancy and whimsical. Let your invite introduce not only the important facts of the invite, but the mood as well.
  • Remember you’re in charge – now, this might seem high-handed, but it’s your event. You get to set the rules. And the rules are there to ensure all your guests (especially the guest(s) of honor) have the best experience possible. If you have specific ground rules, state them up front so that anyone who does not wish to comply can opt out of attending.
    • Ex. Stating that a murder mystery dinner requires all participants show up on time, in costume and actively role play.
    • Ex. Asking guests to bring a book in lieu of a card to a baby shower.

Here’s the invite I’ve created for my upcoming party. It’s nothing more than a highly customized table created in PowerPoint. You’ll see that I’ve conveyed all the important facts (who, what, when, where, why) in some way, shape, or form. And, I’ve used the structure of the invite, mocked after a Royal Caribbean Set Sail Pass, to start to set the stage for the cruise-themed event. I’ve also set some expectations for attendees: they must wear formal attire for dinner, they need their reading glasses and masks for the event, and they must come ready to party. 🙂

Using a non-traditional invite format is probably one of my favorite ways to prime guests for an event, convey important information and personalize it. Check out my Globe Trotter Bridal Shower post for one of my favorite invites of all time.

In addition to all of the above that I’m conveying with this invite, I also threw in a few other details to make it truly special for the recipients:

  1. The cabin number – their anniversary date is April 6, so I used this in numeric format as their assigned “cabin number” on our “ship”.
  2. The King Kruises name / logo – originally I built the invite using a Royal Caribbean logo, but we decided that personalizing even further was worth it. I used a free logo creator website and whipped it up in 10 minutes or less.
  3. The “prepaid excursion” – I referenced this last week in my post about the location. This is the activity we’re sending them out to do so we can set their house for the party. More on this in a future post!

You’ll note that the date on the invite doesn’t match previous posts. Due to some scheduling conflicts (aka work), we had to bump it back a week, which means 1 more week of posts and anticipation before the big day.

If you want specific advice on your invite or help designing one for your next event, leave a comment below and I’ll be in touch.

Next week is all about the best part of any event – the food and drink. We’ll walk through how to plan what and how much and I’ll run you through how we’re tackling a multi-option 3-course menu for our event. Stay tuned!

New Mini Series: Cruise-themed Anniversary Party Part 1

I’m trying something new and I hope you like it. It’s been over a year since my last post and what a year it has been.

So, to kick off 2021 (a month-ish late), I’ve decided to try a new approach to releasing content – a mini series. Rather than one long post that gives an overview of what I did and how I did it, I’m going to take you on the journey, real-time, as I put together an event. Each week, I’ll post about what I’ve done to prepare for the event and give you my best tips and tricks for any of your own events. And, of course, since we’re still in the midst of a health crisis, I’ll share the practices I’m putting into place to ensure the safety of my family and guests. So, let’s get started.

First, some details – my mom and step-dad are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary in April. My sisters and I have decided to put together a small celebration for them. To determine the type of event, theme, plan, etc., we started with some basic facts and brainstorming by answering a couple of key questions about our event.

1. Who do you want to invite?

This is usually my favorite place to start. Knowing who, and more specifically, how many, is helpful in making subsequent decisions, like type of event, where you can have it and what kind of food to plan. Since we’re still battling COVID19, we decided to keep the event to a total of 10 guests, adults-only. This would allow us to properly social distance, especially while unmasked to eat. For events larger than 15, think carefully about any activities you plan – you’ll probably need to plan on multiple, simultaneous, “opt-in” activities versus one big activity everyone does together. And, especially right now, try to stick to outdoor events or large spaces with good ventilation.

2. When will the event take place?

Like “the who,” the when can help you make other decisions. An event in the dead of winter in Ohio is going to be an indoor event… And the same could be true of an event in Arizona in the peak of summer – A/C will be required. Also, usually this is an easy detail to get out of the way if you’re trying to celebrate a specific date and can also help determine what all you can realistically achieve for your event based on how long you have until the event. So, get this decision out of the way early and, if there’s anyone you really want to be at your event, give them a heads up to save the date. We picked April 10 – their anniversary is early April, but we wanted to avoid Easter weekend. Since we are still finalizing this plan, we texted our mom to “hold it open” with more details to come. (but let’s be serious… No one has plans these days anyway…). This gives us time to plan while also creating some anticipation for her!

3. What are some themes or activities that could work (if you want one/some)?

Depending on the type of event, you may want a theme, an activity or both. For example, a birthday party for a child probably just needs a theme (and maybe doesn’t even need that!) but a dinner with friends could be enhanced with an activity (and a theme if you’re up for it!). For this event, we did some brainstorming on both. Ultimately, we landed on the theme of “On a cruise” (since they can’t be right now with COVID) and the activity of the Love and Marriage Game Show since it’s an anniversary celebration.

  • Themes
    • “On a cruise”
    • 90s (since they were married in 96)
  • Activities
    • Murder mystery in a box
    • Escape room in a box
    • Love & Marriage Game Show
    • Hollywood Game Night
    • Family Feud

Answering those three questions are enough to get us on the same page to start further planning for the event. Now that we’ve decided on who, when and what, our next step is to build out a plan of all the activities that we need to accomplish between now and April 10. Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll dive into project planning an event (my favorite part!).

Posts will release every Monday from now through Monday, April 12. Subscribe to receive notifications or leave a comment below to let me know what you think or what questions you have!

Double Dare 2000 Party

Well, I’m finally sitting down to do this after a year of procrastination. Better late than never, I suppose.

If you’re a child of the 80s or early 90s then you’ve probably heard of Double Dare 2000. It was (and is again, since its return a few months ago) a TV show on Nickelodeon that featured quiz questions and messy challenges. YouTube it if you have no idea what I’m talking about – it’s worth a watch.

Anyway, for a very long time, I planned on having a party in the style of this show (I like parties with activities) and finally made it a reality when the hubs and I bought a house with a 2.6 acre yard. Here is how it went down:

1.Party basics: I knew my what but I needed to set a when and who, so I picked a date and made my guest list. For my invitations, I wanted to introduce the theme since it would require folks to get messy, if they chose to participate. Here’s what I landed on. This was made through a combination of images online and a little help in Photoshop. (I blurred out some personal information.)

Inked47310_LI.jpg

2. Game accessories – for this party, I knew I had to make shirts. All contestants on the show wore the signature Double Dare shirts, so I had to do it. I picked up some cheap plain colored shirts from JoAnn Fabrics for $3/piece and then got a pack of dark t-shirt transfers and got to work designing the logo. Again, with a little help from Photoshop, here’s what I ended up with:

I also decided that whichever team won the two trivia rounds and got to the final obstacle course should get prizes…just for suffering through the messiness. I made 4 gender neutral baskets and allowed each team member to pick their favorite.

Car care: car wash mitt, window wipes, interior wipes, a jug of car wash, an oil tray, an air freshener, tire foam and a microfiber towel. Most of these materials I got from the Dollar Tree.

Outdoor fun: marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate, roasting sticks, a S’mores scented candle, a long lighter, kindling wood and two homemade fire starters

Movie night: popcorn and topping, water, a movie, movie candy, and popcorn bags

Relaxation package: back scratcher, lotion, candle, face mask, chapstick, adult coloring book, and homemade hand scrub

3. Plan the games. I don’t have photos for all of these, but here’s what I did. First, I planned the trivia. That part was pretty easy – I just did a little searching for trivia and compiled a list of my favorite 20 questions. I tried to pick questions that I thought my friends may or may not know. I avoided anything super hard or too easy.

The messy games for physical challenges and the final obstacle course was part two and the fun part. I chose games with cheap, easy materials that would create mess or get people wet. Here are my physical challenges:

  • Water balloon baseball – just how it sounds – you have to hit a specific number of water balloons with a baseball bat in 30 seconds

Inked20170812_202717_LI.jpg

  • Ball dunk – this one was hilarious. Using ladies’ pantyhose and water balls (the kind that suck up water and you can wring out – you could also use sponges) from the Dollar Tree, I put the balls in the foot part of both sides of the pantyhose and had the contestants tie them around their waists with the balls hanging in between their legs. They had to run to a bucket and dunk in to absorb liquid and then run with the wet balls back to another bucket and squeeze them out. The goal was to move enough liquid from one side to the other to reach a line on the bucket. (Note, I also used a variation of this with giant sponges that two players had to toss back and forth to achieve the same objective.)

inked20170812_201424_li.jpg

  • Twister- For this, I took your standard version of Twister and did absolutely nothing to it. It was challenging as a kid and even more so as an adult! I used this game to open the first round and the team that had a player in the longest won control of the round.

Inked20170812_195817_LI.jpg

  • Spaghetti Spell – I used this game to open the second round. Each team had 30 seconds to dig through alphabet spaghetti and pick out letters to make a word of at least 4 letters.

20170812_203832.jpg

  • Splash Head Catch – for this game, I picked up a cheap version of Basket Head and used the basket head for one player to wear on his head. The other player tossed a dripping wet water ball (sponge would work too) and his team mate had to catch it in the basket.  (Note, I also created a version of this with a colander hat and eggs; do NOT use eggs with the basket head – that will hurt!)

Inked20170812_200541_LI.jpg

  • Water Balloon Catch: for this game, one contestant put on a pair of over-sized pants while his team member tossed water balloons toward him. He had to catch 3 in his pants in 30 seconds.

And now for the final obstacle course (sorry for not having pics for all of it and for the dark – the day got away from us and it was pitch black by the time we started it. Of course, the hubs provided everyone with head-mounted flashlights…)

  • Obstacle 1: The Sundae Slide- I had an old kids slide (probably from the garbage somewhere) that we put on our hill and drizzled chocolate syrup all over. The object was to slide to the bottom, find the flag in whipped cream and then pass it to the next person.

20170812_211432.jpg

  • Obstacle 2: Water Run- Person #2 had to run down the hill while the other team chased with water balloons. At the bottom, they had to grab the flag and pass it to their next team member.
  • Obstacle 3: Pop & Goo – Person #3 had to pop shaving cream filled balloons to find the flag and pass it on to the next person.

20170812_210823.jpg

  • Obstacle 4: Shower Search – Person #4 had to dig through buckets of shampoo, conditioner and body wash to find the flag and pass it on to person #1 (each person had to complete 2 obstacles).

20170812_210816

  • Obstacle 5: Dirty Dress – this obstacle required the participant to put on a shirt and pants that had been soaked in pancake batter, grab the flag and pass it on (sorry, no picture).
  • Obstacle 6: Flour Shower – team member #2 completed this challenge by standing at the bucket and getting a bag of flour dumped on him; the flag was in the bag. He had to grab the flag and pass it on.

20170812_210805.jpg

  • Obstacle 7: Egg Canal – this challenge required the participant to crawl through the tunnel, filled with raw eggs and maple syrup. To create it, I took pool noodles and fit them onto stakes in the ground. I also laid down a tarp for ease of crawling through.

20170812_210746.jpg

  • Obstacle 8: Bucket dump – little effort was required for this challenge. The participant just had to pull the string to dump a bucket of soapy water onto himself and find the flag.

20170812_210755

And that’s it! It was a ton of planning, prep and set-up, but it was a ton of fun to do and watch. It’s probably not one I would ever throw again (once was plenty), but I’m still super glad I did it!

Thanksgiving Crafts (for Hosting)

This past year my husband and I were drafted to host Thanksgiving, which was coincidentally our first Thanksgiving in our new house. With a guest list of about 20 and having never prepared a turkey, I started to feel a little anxious. But, rather than freaking out, I decided to calm my nerves by planning some crafts for the big day to make things fun!

Invitations. Although my guest list was pre-defined by the ‘regular crew’ for Thanksgiving each year, I decided this would still be a nice way to set the mood for the day. I used 5 simple materials: plain yellow and orange printer paper, dark brown card stock, silk leaves (I bought mine at the Dollar Tree for $1), some string or ribbon, and some permanent markers. First, I cut the brown card stock in half so that each invitation would be 5.5″ x 8″. I used my paper cutter, but you can easily fold in half to cut a nice edge. Then I cut the yellow and orange sheets to be a little bit smaller than the card stock. If you don’t have a paper cutter and aren’t good at cutting straight edges, try using some wavy scissors. These are a lot more cost effective than a paper cutter and will hide the fact that you’re edges aren’t perfectly straight. Finally, I hole punched two holes at the top of each invitation. With a little glue between the card stock and paper and paper and leaves, plus the string or ribbon tied through the holes, the whole thing comes together very quickly. After mocking up what I wanted to write on a scrap piece of paper (event, date, time, address, R.S.V.P.), I proceeded to knock out all the invitations by hand. I did use a straight edge to keep my dots in a (relatively) straight line. See below for the finished product:

YellowandOrangeInvites
Place Settings. Because of my guest list, I needed to have more than one table in a not huge area. So, I decided to dress them up to add to the cozy and inviting dining area. For the ‘adults’ table (aka, our parents and grandparents), I used a white table cloth I bought on Amazon for $10. This was a great find for me because I have a 5′ square wood table that is pretty challenging to find linens for. Anyhow, I also picked up some silk fall flowers from the Dollar Tree (at the same time as the leaves above) for around $4 and made a little arrangement in a glass jar I had. (Jars also available at the Dollar Tree for…you guessed it…$1).  Sorry, this picture came out a little blurry 😦 I’ll do better next time.adultstable

To identify the seating assignments, I grabbed some twigs from my backyard (well, my husband did), cut them down and hot glued them together with some small name slips to make super cute place cards. Simple, yet charming.Place cards

For the ‘kids’ table, I was contending with a 6′ folding table, so I decided to get a little funky. I have a huge roll of brown paper that I found in the attic of my old house (it’s a long story) so decided to use that to make a brown paper table cloth like they used to (and maybe still) do at Macaroni Grill. To spice it up, I used a paper plate to trace circles in front of each chair and wrote the seat assignments in the center of each ‘plate.’ The great thing about using the brown paper as a table cloth was that it made cleanup a cinch! Finally, I finished both tables off with cutlery wrapped in fall napkins and tied with string.kidstable

Banner. Since I had all my supplies out for the invitations and place cards, I decided to also make a nice banner to hang over my fireplace. We don’t have a mantle over it (yet – hopefully I will have a post on this in the not too distant future) so I couldn’t put up candles or a swag of some kind, but I figured a banner would do quite nicely. Using the brown card stock, yellow and orange plain printer paper, and my permanent markers, I cut my paper, drew my letters, punched my holes and added some leaves. This one took a little longer because I tried pretty hard, and I think it came out just fine. Once I finished with the paper crafts, I took some 1/2″ white ribbon and strung through the holes to make a cheap, easy, and pretty banner.

banner.jpg

To learn more about the centerpiece from the photo above, read Dead Tree Centerpiece with Candles.

[Updated 11/21/18] For more Thanksgiving ideas, read Thanksgiving Crafts for All and Thanksgiving Food Fun. Or, check out how to gear up for Black Friday with my Black Friday Shopping Team Shirts post.