Since I was a child, my mom told me over and over how important her 50th birthday party would be. She would say, "Billie, I fully expect you to throw me a 50th birthday party -- and it better be good." Lucky for me, by the time my mom turned 50, I had saved up money for two years to throw her the best party ever, and it was one of the most special events I have ever been a part of.
One of the most important pieces was to make sure the guest list was utterly perfect. With family scattered around the United States, and my mother's stepmom in Mexico, I knew I had my work cut out. After making sure the key players were in place, I went ahead and set the date. And then it was time to find the place.
My roommate at the time was a chef at a cafe, and they opened for breakfast and lunch, so with his help, we approached the owner and asked if we could rent it out for the evening. She said yes, and I was able to rent the cafe for a minimal fee. This is a great way to avoid paying full price. So, I had my venue, and a chef who made up a fabulous "around the world" menu inspired by my mom's travels.
I went to my local print shop and ordered professional invitations for a steal -- look for discontinued styles, as these will be less expensive. I invited everyone -- old friends, new friends, family. But I still felt as though something was missing.
That something was music. I wanted a live band to round out the evening, and given that my mom has a master's degree in dance movement therapy, I knew that the band better be rocking. I asked around town, and found a band that was soulful and classic. The trick to finding an affordable band is to ask around; if you go with a band that is relatively unknown, you will score big. For $400, I was able to get the band to play for 3 hours, which is unheard of.
For the cake, I went to my local grocer and found that buying five small cakes that would each feed 10 people each was cheaper and more palate pleasing than one large cake. Each cake represented a decade of her life, and was decorated with sayings that reflected all the things my mom is, like "soul sister" and "loving mother."
For the finishing touches, a friend of mine donated his homegrown dahlias as centerpieces, which added such a pop of color to the tables. The party favors were polka dotted Chinese take out boxes filled with retro-candy from when my mom was a child. All in all, the party cost me about $3000 for 50 people, but the money was truly nothing in comparison to the joy my mom felt when she walked into the room, and we all yelled "Surprise!" It was a triumphant moment for me, and an incredibly special night for my mom.
Billie Nichols contributes to Holidash through Seed.com. Learn more about how you can contribute here.