Wednesday, September 24, 2008

40th Birthday Party

The theme for my sister’s 40th birthday party was born out of a need for chocolate. Oh, and an extremely limited budget.


We decided on a “Dessert” party that would be complete with a coffee bar and champagne. The party was slated for 7:30 so people would have time for dinner before they came. As I said, we had an extremely limited budget, so we beg/borrowed/stole whatever we needed.

The first thing I did was to create a document with all of our (my other sister and I) ideas – from recipes to décor – to visualize what the party would look like. You will notice that there are shopping lists, to do lists, and a cute illustration of the café tables that would be used for outdoor seating.


We envisioned something that felt warm and cozy, and at the same time wanted nothing that screamed “OVER THE HILL”. I chose a stock illustration from BigStockPhoto and used it as the background on the invitation as well as inspiration for the party. Big Stock Photo has a ton of great images, at super low prices (from $1 up), but I could have just as easily used scrapbooking paper as the base of this invite. Because the guest list was a little lengthy I chose to upload my postcard invite to a website that would print, cut and mail them back to me. There are so many of these websites that do “online printing” but I have not found one that I love… so, well, I don’t have a good recommendation.

Easy option for the invite:
  1. Buy scrapbooking paper
  2. Buy envelopes
  3. Cut paper to slightly smaller than envelope
  4. Type all invite information into word or publisher or any text program
  5. Print text onto a piece of vellum paper OR a plain paper in a shade similar to color scheme on the scrapbooking paper
  6. Make sure the vellum sheet is half an inch all the way around smaller that the patterned scrapbooking paper
  7. Use a small piece of double sided tape to adhere the papers together
  8. Put in envelope
  9. Address
  10. Mail it!


Candles, candles, candles! Between my two sisters and my mom, we had a huge assortment of votives and hurricane shades. Every table got 1 large and 3 small candle holders. Each candle holder was tied with a simple bow of 2 inch wide brown tulle.

We rented 3 café size tables for guests to sit outside and used the dining room table for the food. I’ve rented these tables several times in the past, and about 4 years ago cut table cloths out of white felt (on sale!). Each time I use them, I purchase several yards of tulle in a coordinating color – in this case brown to layer on top of the white felt. The dining room table was covered with a chocolate brown tablecloth (rented) not only to match the theme color scheme but also to camouflage drippings from the chocolate fountain.

Rounding out the décor, we used white twinkle lights all over the backyard, more candles inside on shelves and the mantle, and sprinkled the leftover invitations on every horizontal surface. The paper goods were also in coordinating shades of golds and browns.

Food and Drink

Cheese Plate
Fruit Plate

Trader Joe’s Cheesecake
Chocolate Cupcakes

Coffee Bar
  • Coffee and Decaf
  • vanilla syrup
  • cream
  • Small glass containers of:
  • raw sugar
  • artificial sweetners
  • mini chocolate chips
  • white chocolate chips
  • cinnamon sticks
  • cocoa powder
  • chocolate syrup
Champagne Station
  • Vintage Champagne glasses
  • Champagne
  • Orange Juice
  • Sparkling Apple Cider
  • Sparkling water
Chocolate Fountain
perfect to serve the "dippers" in a crudité platter:
  • strawberries
  • marshmellows
  • apples
  • pretzels
  • cookies
  • bananas
  • pound cake
  • brownies
  • bamboo skewers
Strawberry Trifle
1 (5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
3 cups cold milk

1 (9 inch) angel food cake, cut in cubes

4 bananas, sliced

1 (16 ounce) package frozen strawberries, thawed

1 (12 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

Prepare pudding with milk according to package directions. In a trifle bowl or other glass serving dish, layer half the cake pieces, half the pudding, half the bananas, half the strawberries and half the whipped topping. Repeat layers. Cover and chill in refrigerator 4 hours before serving.

Marci’s Peach Cobbler
1 package yellow cake mix
1 can sliced peaches

1 stick butter
Pour can of peaches - including syrup - into ovenproof casserole dish, add box of cake mix on top making sure to cover evenly. Melt butter and drizzle over entire dish. Bake 25 minutes at 350. Serve with ice cream.

Easy option for the food:
Trader Joe’s has a multitude of frozen treats at great prices – buy an assortment and serve them on pretty platters. You can also have friends/family bring a sweet treat to share (I would generally choose to re-plate these items as they usually show up on paper or Tupperware).

They say 40 is really the new 30, and I think “they” are right. We put on an elegant and upscale party, that was FUN and fit my sister’s personality! The fact that it was inexpensive and easy was a bonus… you can do it too, just do a little planning and a little borrowing and make it look homemade (even if it isn’t).


Aimée said...

Lovely food presentation. You pulled off a great party!

Natalia said...

Great post Abigail! Dessert parties are the best.

CECIL said...

Hello! You have such a great blog! Such a great idea for 40th birthday - dessert party..mmmhh! Yum!

LRM said...

Dang, that looks great.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

What an awesome party! Your sister is so lucky to have you.