Wednesday, October 19, 2011

80th Birthday Celebration

My dear Grandpa Tarbet just turned 80, and we (his wife, kids, and grandkids) decided to throw him a fantastic huge party to celebrate!  My grandma and I coordinated everything, my awesome uncle served up some excellent food, and pretty much everyone pitched in to help.  It turned out wonderfully -- family traveled from all over the country to be there, and people from every part of my grandpa's life came to honor him.  He was so happy.

And now I'm so happy to share all the fun details of the party with you!

As I started to plan the decor for this party, I knew that I wanted it to be great to look at but also truly meaningful.  My grandpa was a technical writer, and writing and words have been important to him throughout his life.  But without doubt, the very most important thing to him is his family (he has over 100 descendants so far!), and I wanted to incorporate that as well, and I thought that pictures of Grandpa and the people he loves throughout his life would be a really meaningful way to do that.  "Words+Pictures" became my theme.

I started setting the mood with this invitation, which I designed using Echo Park's "For the Record" digital kit and had printed at Costco as described here.  

The basis for the "Words" part was book paper.  I found a nice thick textbook from the 60s at DI (our local thrift store) -- it was perfect because the paper was aged nicely and it was pretty much solid text, and I also didn't feel like I was destroying a great literary work.  For the pictures, I gathered pictures from my Grandpa himself and from several family members (whoever I could beg or coerce into digging through their mounds of old pictures).  My Grandma and I spent hours scanning in all the photos my Grandpa has saved throughout the years, and we ended up with hundreds of great photos to use.  I had them printed and used them in many different ways through the party decor.  I also used that same Echo Park "For the Record" collection (this time the real paper version) to create continuity throughout.  Let me take you through the party the way we had the guests go through!

Table
I had a vision for this in my mind of how so often when you go to the home of an older person, they have a huge collections of family photos from throughout the years collected in a huge hodge-podge.  I collected frames from DI, yard sales, and my own house.  I left most of them as I found them because I wanted an eclectic, collected-over-the-years feel, but I did spray paint some black that were weird colors.  I printed everything a 4x6, so thephotos in the 5x7 frames were matted with the Echo Park paper.  (I also grabbed some accessories from my house to make it homier and also to give me more levels for the frames, as in the little suitcase on the left).

I also used the "For the Record" paper to create pages for a sign-in album.  I wanted to keep this simple, so I made all the pages the same (just varying the pp used).  I cut 2" strips of patterned paper, backed it with a strip of black scalloped paper, and then added a stamped "Birthday Wishes" sentiment in the center.  (Scallop punch and stamp -- Stampin' Up, label shape -- Cricut "Once Upon a Princess" cartridge)

Once people had signed in, they came into the living room, where my grandpa and grandma were holding court, as it were. :)  They had lots of opportunity to visit with people without having to move around too much, since my grandpa doesn't like to be on his feet too long.

From the living they went through the dining room, which we turned into a spot for a photo shoot with a backdrop we rented for $10 from a local camera store.  My brother Dan (a really awesome photographer) was stationed there, taking pictures of all the guests as they came through.  We wanted to make sure that Grandpa had pictures of all his guests and that we didn't miss anyone.  The pictures turned out awesome!
Just one of hundreds of photos showin' the love. This one is my brother and two of my cousins with my Aunt Penny.  Yes, weirdness does run in our family.  Weirdness and love. :)

Once the guests had their pictures taken they moved into the kitchen/family room area, where we were serving dinner.  

I wanted the centerpieces to be real conversation starters, so I really tried to combine the "words+pictures" theme here.  I started by mod-podging book paper onto glass jars (empty Adams peanut butter jars that I had been hoarding forever), then potting a small mum in each one.  I cut chalkboard labels (2 for each jar) and planned to write interesting facts about Grandpa's life but quickly realized that regular chalk or my chalk marker wouldn't write nearly small enough to fit more than a few words on.  But guess what!  I used my white Gelly-Roll pen and it worked like a charm -- it even erased with damp cloth, just like a chalk marker.  Cool.

For the picture part, I bought these 99 cent 2-sided frames from IKEA.  They only come in white, so I spray painted them all black.  I also added a small tag label for each picture hung on twine.  The picture and vase went onto a little tray from the dollar store along with some little candles, just to make it cosy.  

I also punched lots of additional circles from my leftover "For the Record" paper to sprinkle like big confetti on the tables.  The pictures on the tables were leftovers from our other photo projects that we still wanted to let people enjoy.

Photo wall:
This was the toughest part of the decor for me, because it didn't turn out at all like I envisioned.  I started by cutting hundreds of circles of book paper and then sewing them into long strands of garland.  Those did turn out just perfect -- the way they turned and twisted added a ton of dimension to the display.  What I didn't take into consideration was that the pictures would twist and turn the same way.  But the basic idea was this:  I sprayed little silver binder clips with Oil Rubbed Broze spray paint, which made them look all vintage-y and cool, and we clipped up the pictures in long strands.  This created the other aggravation -- those pictures would NOT stay straight clipped up that way.  I think it would have worked better if we had maybe hung wider strips of ribbon and glued the pictures to it so they wouldn't have twisted so easily.  Or maybe glued the pictures back to back so you could still see a picture either way it turned.  As it was, we didn't have time to try either solution.  I nearly threw in the towel on this display, but my aunts kept putting it all up and I'm glad they did -- it may not have matched my vision, but people still really enjoyed it and spent a lot of time looking at all the pictures.

The best part was that my Grandpa really loved all the pictures.  He spent quite a bit of time walking around all the tables and the wall, looking at everything.  He kept exclaiming "I haven't seen this picture in years!" or "I've NEVER seen this picture!"  It made my heart happy.

One last stop:
After the guests had visited and gotten their picture taken and been stuffed with delicious barbeque and delighted by the fun program we put together, we sent them on their merry way.  But not without one last treat!  My grandma had the idea to set out some of Grandpa's favorite treats as a kind of little party favor, so I set up this table where people had to pass it to go out the door.  Don't apothecary jars make everything so much prettier?  I also added some of the frames I hadn't been able to fit on the sign-in table.

Whew!  That was such a fun party.  I really love how (almost) everything turned out so beautiful, but even more than that I loved making my Grandpa feel so special.  I loved getting to work so closely with my Grandma on all the planning and execution.  I loved seeing so much of my family and getting to work together and spend time with them.  That is what makes all the hard work for an event like this worth every second!

I'm linking up to these fantastic parties!


Maggie Lamarre said...

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carrieap said...

This was absolutely fabulous Tomi! You are amazing!

Anonymous said...

This all looks amazing, well done.

Richard C. Lambert said...

It turned out wonderfully -- family traveled from all over the country to be there, and people from every part of my grandpa's life came to honor him. He was so happy.

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