I can't believe how fast summer came and went, it's already September. I've been slacking on my blog posts (sorry), but I definitely had to share this party I threw a few weeks ago. So my birthday was mid-August and I wanted to have an intimate gathering with my close friends. After perusing Pinterest for endless hours for cute ideas I decided on planning my own Garden Party. Of course, there were a few hiccups to consider, I don't own a home with a yard or have rooftop access (just a studio apartment in Brooklyn) and most importantly I didn't have a big budget to throw such a fabulous event. But that didn't really stop me and fortunately, I was able to find a way to pull it off.
Venue. My homegirl who has a beautiful home and backyard oasis in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn was gracious enough to allow me to use her backyard for my gathering. Keeping my guest list to around 20 people, my next big feat was how I would decorate it to accommodate everyone.
My original concept was to have a seated family style dinner amongst friends. However, my friend had a huge 10 ft x 12 ft pergola that took up most of her backyard, so in order to get that seated dinner feel I had to make a temporary table that could fit all 20 of my friends on the pergola. I'm pretty handy with building things on the spot so I went to my local hardware store and purchased two 8 ft x 4 ft pieces of plywood and some cinder blocks to make a low seated T-shaped table. I cut them down a bit and then added 2x4 studs to the sides of the plywood to keep the table from warping. I then stained the table a dark walnut because I thought it would make the table settings pop more. I also purchased a few canvas drop cloths to place on the floor of the pergola and a bunch of $2 pillows and a few small rugs from IKEA for everyone to sit on. I'm telling you guys the hardware store is my best friend. The diy table, flooring, and pillows in total were just shy of a $100.
Ambiance. For the table setting, I got these really cool sturdy plastic plates that give the look of white china. I paid about $16 for a pack of 50 dinner/salad plates from Costco and purchased the plastic cutlery that looked like silverware from Target for $5. Cups and napkins were purchased from the local dollar store. You're getting the pattern here, right? There are ways to look fancy without paying a lot of money. The centerpieces where faux hydrangeas from Michael's, I put them in white painted clay pots. I didn't really come out of pocket for those because I already had them in my home. My friend Cory who also has a background in decorating and interior design brought the glass whirlies and candles to add nice accent lighting for when the sun went down, he hung them from the top of the pergola.
Now my favorite added touch was the place cards that I made and printed myself. Once everyone was seated and it was time to give the sentimental thank you for coming speech, I instead told everyone to turn over their place cards. On the back of each card was a personal hand-written note to each individual telling them what they meant to me and how much I appreciated their friendship. (WINNING).
I asked that all my guest wear white or cream light colors. My dress also white was adorned with flowers. I made it myself with 2 yards of $5 white fabric and some artificial flowers from Michael's, but I'll do a whole separate blog about that.
Menu. I didn't really feel like cooking so I had several friends who can throw down in the kitchen prepare a few things for me and honestly the amount of money I would have spent on groceries where better spent paying my friends for the ingredients needed for their delectable dishes.
The menu consisted of grilled lemon pepper chicken (with a little sunshine and magic) and the best mac & cheese I have ever had in my life. I also had turkey meatballs, salmon cakes, curried potato salad and a traditional salad. The food was so good I didn't even have a chance to photograph it before it was all gone. For dessert, my friend Nekia of Feed Me Seymore made homemade banana pudding (my favorite) and mini sweet potato cheesecake. We also had the tastiest spiked ginger lemonade cocktail, with lots and lots of vodka.
My background is in photography, production and event management so I really wanted to add those elements to the party. I had a seamless backdrop set up in the corner where I personally took portraits of all my friends. This was fun because everyone loves a photo booth. I also had a few props that I'd made from past Halloween costumes for them to add in their portraits.
As the sun went down the candles were lit, the drinks still flowing and the conversations continued. The party was a great success and one for the books to remember. Overall it was an amazing DIY garden party with family, friends and loved one.