Dad’s 60th Birthday Party: The Details

NEVER AGAIN. Throwing a party, that is. Except for the twin’s first birthday party coming up. And my cousin’s baby shower this summer. But seriously, that’s it!
I was pretty behind on blogging last week because I was insanely busy putting the finishing touches on my dad’s surprise 60th birthday party, which was Saturday. The party was actually months in planning, but towards the end, I had more than a few all-nighters finishing everything up! 
I sent the save the dates out months ago so that there were no excuses to not attend!
My dad’s actual birthday was back in January, but he had a work convention here in Long Beach this past weekend, so we decided to use his conference as the excuse to get him here from Utah and have the party a few weeks late.  It totally paid off because he was completely surprised, even though all of us were absolutely sure he was going to figure it out. We had to come up with excuses left and right as to why my mom, sister, and brother were also coming out from Utah, as well as why my sister, Sarah, and I were gone Friday afternoon and Saturday morning while we were setting up the party. With all the stories I had concocted, I was so afraid SOMEONE was going to mess up and spill the beans!
                                           The invite (minus personal details, obviously).
Friday afternoon, my dad and the rest of the family arrived from Utah and Sarah and I left shortly thereafter after making up an elaborate story about how my friend had hired Sarah to take pictures of her daughter’s first birthday party and thus would not be able to hang out with the family that afternoon. My cousin, Allison and her husband, Zack, graciously offered to let us have the party at their house, which has the perfect layout for a party. I had the car pre-packed to the brim with all the party gear and my sister and I miraculously snuck the two-tier birthday cake into the car without my dad seeing. Poor Sarah—she had to hold on to the cake for dear life the entire way up to Allison’s, all the while enduring me obsessively checking the fondant to make sure it wasn’t bubbling! Normally, the trip would only take an hour and a half, but with Valentine’s Day, President’s Day weekend and normal rush-hour traffic, it took a soul-crushing three hours of sitting on the freeway to finally make it up to the party location. Blech. 
Once there, we were already exhausted, but Sarah and I still had to buy all the food we hadn’t brought up with us, so we were out for hours running errands. Shopping at eight o’clock at night on Valentine’s was hilarious as there were so many flustered-looking guys buying last-minute flowers and chocolates for their significant others, who were, no doubt, pretty upset that they hadn’t yet received anything. So at least shopping was semi-entertaining. 
Once back at Allison’s, we got to work setting up the decor. Zack was named the pom pom king as he fluffed and tied string to all the pom poms for me while Allison, Sarah and I hung up banners, set up photo frames, dipped strawberries in chocolate and staged the tables. Poor Allison is pregnant and was extra exhausted with all the set-up, so I sent all of them to bed around ten and stayed up until midnight getting a few more things ready. 
This was my very first night ever away from Samantha and Amelia, who were staying at home with Jake and my mom. Even though we were able to FaceTime, it was difficult being away from them, even for a few hours! Nevertheless, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a good night’s sleep! 
The next morning at 5 a.m., I got up to prepare a few appetizers and run a few more errands while the rest of the gang helped with everything imaginable, from picking up 26 balloons (no idea how Zack was able to fit those in my car and drive home safely!), to securing a last-minute dessert table when we realized the one we already had was too long for the spot in which we needed it. Time seemed to fly by and with every passing minute, the pressure to have everything finished before the guests arrived was intense! Jake and the twins, my mom, my cousin, Ben, and family friend, Barb, showed up a little before the party to help with errands and set-up, which was a lifesaver. 
The last hour before the party was a frenzy of tying balloons randomly around the house, throwing unused decorations in the garage so they’d be out of sight and frantically trying to fit all the food on the buffet table. I was so grateful to have Allison and Barb’s help setting out all the food, as well as Sarah and everyone else who helped get everything together. 
More on the actual surprise in another blog post, but first, I wanted to post the details of the party as I loved how everything turned out! A big thanks to Sarah for photographing everything…she made it all look a lot nicer than it actually was!
The theme was “Aged to Perfection” and the party had a kind of vintage/rustic vibe going on. Think lots of burlap, chalkboard lettering and wine-inspired decor. Not bad for someone who doesn’t drink!  Not much was very original as most of it I found on Pinterest, but it was still fun to throw together.  
The front entrance featured a blown-up picture of Dad, as well as a Shutterfly book Sarah made of old photos that party guests could sign like a guest book. 

This banner is hard to see in the photo, but it was made out of chalkboard lettering against a burlap background and read “Aged to Perfection.” The color-scheme was black, silver and green, so pom poms and balloons in those colors were scattered around.
My favorite banner! “Vintage 1954.” Jake’s contribution to the party decor were these cool wine bottles. Aunt Lynn gave us some of her empty wine bottles into which Jake drilled a hole using a special drill bit to cut through glass. He then threw some LED lights in the wine bottle (the battery pack is hidden behind the bottle) and ta da! A cool, wine-inspired decoration. Jake is my go-to guy for things I see on Pinterest, but can never figure out how to actually make. 
The table decor consisted of a white or silver tablecloth, green jute table runner, mason jars with organza ribbon/burlap flowers tied around them and carnations or daisies…I looked everywhere for white hydrangeas, but no one had them 🙁 The tables also had a dollar store vase filled with wine corks (did you know you can buy used wine corks on Amazon?!) with a chalkboard sign labeled “vintage,” “1954,” “60 years,” etc. 

There were old photos everywhere, including on this photo garland. 
The party favors were little Ghirardelli chocolates inside a burlap bag tied with a little thank you note I made. 
Another Pinterest find! I spray-painted dollar store silver trays with chalkboard paint and then wrote on them with a chalkboard marker. 
I scanned some old photos and emailed them to Sarah, who cropped them down so I could make little tags to put on the bottles of wine and champagne people brought. 

Over the past few months, I started accumulating party decor. With the exception of the food and flowers, I pretty much bought everything online since I don’t ever have time to actually go shopping. Fortunately, I found tons of wholesale craft/discount party supply stores online and ordered decor for the twin’s first birthday at the same time to save on shipping.

The buffet menu: 
Veggie platter
Fruit platter
Cheese platter with gouda, cheddar, brie, syrah toscano, pecorino, garlic and herb cheese spread and goat cheese. Thank you, Trader Joe’s. 
Various nuts, dried fruits, crackers and jams to go with the cheese platter
Antipasto kabobs
Meatball marinara bites
Caesar salad
Garlic bread
Baked Rigatoni, Fettuccine Alfredo and Ravioli al Pomodoro from Bucca di Beppo 
We ended up having WAY too much food, but it was better than running out!
The drinks station…since I’m pretty much clueless about wine, I assigned everyone to bring a bottle, while I provided the lemonade and Martinelli’s 🙂
The dessert menu: 
Two-tiered chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream and fondant
Vanilla ice cream
White chocolate raspberry cupcakes
Cheesecake brownies
Chocolate covered strawberries and grapes
Chocolate chip pastry from French’s bakery
Macaroons from Trader Joe’s
Yogurt covered pretzels and chocolate covered almonds 
Sarah did a very professional job dipping all the strawberries and grapes. They looked a ton better than the ones I did!
I had soooooo much fun with these cupcakes! I found an Etsy shop that makes edible imaging and all I had to do was send a photo to the shop owner who then sent me these round edible images in the mail. They were really hard to stick on to the cupcakes without smearing them with frosting, but they were still fun to look at. 
My absolute favorite food item was the cake! My friend, Michelle, is responsible for putting the whole thing together and she did an amazing job, especially since she’s never worked with edible imaging before. I ordered the edible images from the same place I got the cupcake toppers and she just smoothed them on to the fondant after she was done making the layers of cake. It was nerve-racking keeping the cake in the fridge for the hours I had to hide it from my dad, because the fondant started condensing a little and the images started cracking. I eventually took a spray bottle of water and misted the photos, which seemed to help a little. 
The real miracle was transporting the cake up to Allison’s (we kept the layers separate until the day of the party, at which point I transferred the top layer on top of the bottom layer, with shaking hands the entire time, of course). Against all odds, the cake survived through the party until it was time to cut it. 

One of my favorite parts of the entire party was this slideshow Sarah put together. It played in the background without sound (we had a Pandora station set to classic rock playing at the party) and at one point, everyone gathered around to watch it. Once we watched it with the sound on, there were a few teary eyes in the audience…I guess “Circle of Life” just brings out the waterworks, even if Sarah put it in to be funny! Make sure you have your sound on so you can listen to the music in order to get the full effect!


More party narrative to come!

Lots of love,


Speak Your Mind



  1. WOW!!! This is so incredible!! That cake…unbelievable!!

  2. Amazing! You did such a great job. I think you should be a party planner.