My sophomore year of college, Bonnie Cathryn and I decided that for our dear friend Mary Helen’s 20th birthday party, we were going to go all out. This one birthday party has seemingly turned into over 30 parties that we have thrown at our house affectionately known as the “Reese House” or the house with the pink front door. Our pink front door has opened up into 21st birthdays, engagement parties and just about any excuse one can summon to bring everyone together. The porches’ twinkly lights have seen many a champagne bottle pop, tears shed and playlists blasted.
I have learned over the years though, that there are six things to always do, if you without fail want to create a celebration:
Hang quality twinkly lights.
When we moved into our little house on Reese in the sticky August heat, my sweet Aunt distracted herself from the stresses of my cousin Emily going through recruitment and helped us for hours hand twisty tie twinkle lights on every inch of our porch. Our porch’s foundation is tilted, the paint is peeling and it has concrete floors. But the lights make all of the wear and tear disappear, creating a glow that invites everyone outside even in the muggiest of evenings.
Tip: Use twisty ties to ensure that they do not fall down. Ours have withstood hurricanes, snow storms and the constant shifting of our house’s foundation.
Have a stash of cheap wine from Trader Joes
Did you know that Auburn, Alabama is technically considered a food desert? It is not because there is no Trader Joes, Whole Foods or Fresh Market- although I tell people that is the reason. Whenever my friends and I are going to the “big city” to Atlanta or Birmingham, we swoop through Trader Joes and buy some of their wine. The pretty packaging and prices are unbeatable, and it makes a party instantly easy when you can simply pull out of the cabinets a few bottles from your stockpile.
Curate a playlist that you don’t have to mess with
I have a playlist called Under The Lights on Spotify and whenever our house starts to fill with people and laughter, I turn on our trusty speaker and let the voices of Tim Mcgraw, Ben Rector and Maggie Rogers take over. Only you know what songs make your friends and you pull out the imaginary air microphone and belt out lines like “living on dreams and spaghettios”. So make a playlist that has ya’lls tried and trues that invoke all things nostalgia and fun.
Flowers can hide all flaws
A fun arrangement is a quick and simple way to take your space from looking as it always does to appearing special. I may be biased because my father has kept rose bushes in our yard my whole life and still to this day whenever I come home there is a bud vase with beautiful roses by my sink in my bathroom and on my bedside table at home. Flowers are my favorite.
tips to save money with flowers:
- Make it Tiny: Instead of doing one full arrangement in a large vase, spread them out all around your house or table! Bud vases or small jars are worth investing in and you will reuse them again and again. All you need it one tiny bud, some greenery and pop of color and you have a mini arrangement at your fingertips.
- Steal from mother nature: There is an arboretum down the street from our house and I would be lying if I said that my roommates and I have not gone on covert missions with our kitchen scissors to snag some pretty dogwood blooms. Ask your neighbors if you can snag a few of their blooming camellias or even just snip some greenery from the weeds in your backyard. No one will tell a difference.
Create a photogenic spot
Let’s be honest, as much as we would like to think that we tuck our phones away the minute we enter a social situation. The fact of the matter is we love to record, snap pics and capture sweet moments so we can remember them (and post them to our stories..). A simple way to please your people is to write on butcher paper a witty phrase, funny hashtag or even the reason for the celebration.
- Over the top: Mary Charles is the most artistic and creative friend I know. She, Bonnie Cathryn and I love to dream up banners on a canvas, for us to take pictures in front of for socials and events. If you have the time and artistic ability this is a crowd pleaser.
- Simple but cute: Keep a roll of butcher paper on hand and white paint, and just write “Happy 21st Betsy!” or whatever occasion you are celebrating. It is quick and easy and can be taped up anywhere!
- Easy but instagrammable: If you have a letterboard or bulletin board, write a witty phrase to make people smirk as they walk by! It can be as simple as writing “Taco bout a party!” when you are serving Mexican food.
Be present and don’t do it all
Something that I do to remind myself to not be trying to do all the things while a party is going on, is I wear my slippers! This sounds silly, but they remind me to be willing to snuggle up on the couch and hear about someone’s week and just as willing to toss the slippers off and do the “Thank You, Next” dance with friends. Slippers remind me to keep things real, casual and flexible. Find your thing to remind you that hosting isn’t about you!