Anniversary Party Photos!

July 20th, 2015

I do a lot of weddings, but every so often I’m lucky enough to help a family with something like an anniversary party.  I really enjoy this sort of job!  A couple of weeks ago, I helped a family plan a 40th anniversary party in their backyard.  This was one classy affair.  They put up a tent in the yard; Art of Imagination decorated it; FIG Catering provided a terrific dinner; and the band Get Back played 70s covers until late in the night.

Here are a few photos I took of the fun.

Guests gathered on the patio for cocktails.

Guests gathered on the patio for cocktails.

 

When they sat down to dinner, it looked like this.

When they sat down to dinner, it looked like this.

The theme for the evening was psychedelic 70s.

The theme for the evening was psychedelic 70s.

Art of Imagination hung disco balls over the dance floor.

Art of Imagination hung disco balls over the dance floor.

Even the highboys were a little psychedelic.

Even the highboys were a little psychedelic.

A nice touch was the chalkboard welcoming guests to the party.

A nice touch was the chalkboard welcoming guests to the party.

A quiet corner of the yard was transformed into a secret garden.

A quiet corner of the yard was transformed into a secret garden.

70s cover band Get Back kept the guests on the dance floor.

70s cover band Get Back kept the guests on the dance floor.

Stress Buster: Cake Wrecks!

October 20th, 2014
Photo by Carasco Photography.

Photo by Carasco Photography.

This is a photo of a beautiful, well-made wedding cake.  Most wedding cakes are gorgeous and give due credit to the arts of the baker and the decorator.  Some, however….

If you’ve never visited Cake Wrecks, save it for a day when you need a laugh.  There are a lot of cakes that are not wedding cakes, but I think the wedding cakes are my favorites.

Event Planning on a Budget–Part Two: Location, Location, Location

February 3rd, 2014

This is second in a series on budget event planning.  Today, let’s talk about the location for your event.

At the front door of The Grove in Glenview.  Photo by MWD Photography.

At the front door of The Grove in Glenview. Photo by MWD Photography.

When you are planning an event, one of your largest expenses will be the location. But there are lots of ways to have a beautiful event without spending half your budget on the venue. There are plenty of high-profile, downtown locations where you could drop five to ten thousand dollars just to walk in the door. You can take a look at those to get ideas, but then keep looking.

My favorite place to start looking for inexpensive party locations is the local park district. And I don’t mean you should be stuck at the field house in the local park. Park districts often take over historical houses or other structures and rent them out to make a little extra money. The Chicago Park District has the Berger Park Mansion or Promontory Point. Glenview has The Grove. In Wilmette, there is a very cute party room at Gillson Park. Sometimes you can get an even better deal if you live in the town where the park is located, or if you know someone who lives there who would be willing to co-sign the contract to get the in-town rate.

In the suburbs of Chicago, there are also women’s clubs and community houses, especially in the older suburbs. Some of these are not cheap, but sometimes you can get a good deal. The women’s clubs often provide tables, chairs, white linens, china and silver. The style of the china might not be what you would choose, but having those items included in the rental saves you a bundle on renting them.

Another option is to go outside the city. If you are willing to move your event from Chicago to southern Wisconsin, there are halls available at a reasonable rate. There are also some venues in the distant suburbs that offer good deals.

If you want to stay in the city but have limited funds, try restaurants with party rooms. These rooms are often available at no charge. The restaurants make their money on the food and drink. Some restaurants can handle decorations, audio/visual equipment, and other special requests. Not all restaurants are suitable for a large wedding, but there are some that can even handle a complex event such as that.

Also, smaller museums, art galleries, and other arts organizations sometimes rent their spaces at reasonable rates. They do not always advertise widely, so you will have to do some research to find them–or ask a professional for advice.

And don’t overlook institutions you have a relationship with. Your church or synagogue, a cultural institution where you have a membership, or the arts organization you support may be able to offer you space at a reasonable price.  Also, to save money, consider planning your event for an off day.  Sundays are often less expensive than Saturdays, and if you can have your party on a weekday, you can often get a real bargain.

If you have no budget for a venue, you can try asking friends or family with a nice home to help you by letting you have your party at their home. This option depends entirely on your connections. But even if you don’t have friends with huge houses, you can still have a party or wedding for a reasonable price if you look a little beyond the easy choices. There are very nice locations within your reach.

Eco-Friendly Party Decor

December 16th, 2013

Since everyone is thinking about holidays and parties just about now, I am revisiting some thoughts on how to decorate for a party and still be green.  You can adapt many of these ideas to any party, not just Christmas or “holiday,” as they call it. But since a lot of people have Christmas on the brain at this season, I’ll start with that holiday.

Live plants are good centerpieces at any season.   Photo courtesy of christytylerphotography.com.

Live plants are good centerpieces at any season. Photo courtesy of christytylerphotography.com.

For decor that is environmentally friendly, I suggest using live plants. There are several traditional holiday plants (for example, miniature live pine trees, ivy, poinsettias, Christmas cactus) that could be part of holiday decor. Try juxtaposing a miniature red rose bush with English ivy for a festive centerpiece. For extra credit on the environmental side, look for live plants that have been grown locally and organically. Local greenhouses are a great place to find them.  If you don’t want the plants at home after your party, be sure to send them home with guests who want them.

If you have plants in your yard that would work for holiday decorating, cut a few branches of fir or holly for a mantlepiece decoration. And then compost or chip them after the party and use the result on your garden next year.

Locally grown, organic flowers are always a sustainable choice. In the winter, that means greenhouse flowers, too.  There are florists who specialize in local, organic flower arrangements.

You’ll probably be looking for some candles for your festive table.  In Chicago, there are several organizations that keep bees and sell their products, including beeswax candles. For starters, try the Chicago Honey Co-op. Beeswax is less polluting than petroleum-based wax candles, and coming from a local source makes it doubly eco-friendly. It also smells nice!

If you are celebrating Chanuka, beeswax Chanuka candles are available in specialty shops and online, although I have yet to find any made locally. (If you know of a local source, please let me know.)

In the last few years, LED holiday lights have really taken off.  In my opinion, most of the white lights look too bluish to be very attractive, but the red, green, and blue ones I have seen are quite nice, and the pale yellow ones are a fine substitute for white. LEDs use a tiny fraction of the energy of traditional incandescent lights, and they ought to last a very long time. Both those qualities make them environmentally friendly.

A simple fruit basket can be a suitable centerpiece.

A simple fruit basket can be a suitable centerpiece.

For any kind of party, any time of year, you can make your food part of your decorations. Edible centerpieces look nice and taste great. You can buy “flower” arrangements made of fruit, or create something yourself. Even something as simple as a basket of unshelled nuts or fresh fruit with a colorful napkin can provide both snacks and visual interest. If you’re playing dreidel, the unshelled nuts of your centerpiece can also be the “chips” in the game.

A completely different approach to decorating is the second-hand idea. It is often possible to find very nice decor items in second-hand shops, especially in expensive neighborhoods or towns. Of course, if this requires many long car trips, that would offset the benefits of not buying new, so plan your shopping trips carefully. If you are lucky or live near a lot of resale or vintage shops, though, you might find vases, last year’s novelty items, theme knick-knacks, and other useful decorating items. This approach may require advance planning and some creative thinking.

Also, for eco-friendly food service, nothing beats real china, linen, silver, and glassware. Yes, it uses a lot of water to clean up after the party, but it is still a better eco choice than disposables. It also looks very festive. Compostable disposable dishes are another option, but you will probably have to pay a composting service in order to compost them.  Most home compost piles are not hot enough to break them down.  (See my exploration of that topic recently.)

But the most environmentally conscious thing you can do when decorating is remembering that less is more. The more new stuff you acquire and the more you have to throw away, the less eco-friendly your decorations will be. Consider renting large items, instead of buying them, if you are doing elaborate decorations. But if you do find yourself with decorations you don’t plan to use again, minimize their impact by either donating them to a second-hand shop or giving them away on your local Freecycle group.

Have happy and green celebrations!