For years I have dreamed of throwing a dinner party in a beautiful setting with delicious food. Knowing I was going to quit my job, I thought it’d be the perfect chance! I jokingly called it my retirement party (see my post about quitting my job here) and started planning. My concept was to make it as pretty as possible, invite my best friends, and have a good time. I thought I’d share what went right and what I would change.
I am a girl who has a vision for what I am creating. For me, the best part of making something is being able to see it in my head and then working hard to make it a reality. So I pulled together photos that spoke to what I wanted my party to be and this really guided my process:
tip: create a vision board to help guide your decisions (I made mine on the free site Picmonkey)
I really wanted to “brand” my event with a consistent look. Of course, that started with the invitations so that the first impression my friends had really let them know what the party would be like. I found the most talented people- The Fabled Papery– on Etsy who had an invitation I loved. They are in Australia and designed my invitation, welcome sign, and menu. They then sent me the files and I printed them locally.
I loved having a digital file so that I could text the invite to friends who I didn’t want to mail it out to #lazy. One big mistake I did with this party is I didn’t get a quote on the welcome sign and it was crazy expensive. I should have printed it smaller or mounted it on foam core myself to keep the cost down. So get a quote first so you avoid this!
tip: create the first impression for your event by having a beautiful invitation (even if it is just digital)
My husband and I scouted a bunch of locations to find the perfect spot. We wanted somewhere beautiful, and affordable. Finally, we found a park with a pavilion overlooking the city. It was a GORGEOUS setting! We paid the city $25 to reserve it for the night. For any Utah Locals, this is North Canyon Park in Bountiful, Utah
tip: public parks can be the perfect location! Check with your town hall for rules, rates, and regulations.
The flowers are from Flower Moxie and they went soooo right! I got on the phone with Amy, the owner and told her my vision, what flower arrangements I wanted to do and then emailed her my inspiration photos. The flowers were mailed to me and then Amy told me how to prep them and which flowers to put in which arrangement.
I was honestly so worried about screwing everything up! I am not a professional florist, but I faked it and am so happy and proud at how it all came together. Down the middle of the table I did 20 bud vases with flowers in them. They made such an impact and were so easy to do! The big arrangement with the hydrangea and pink tulips was my favorite and looked so pretty on the cake table! If you are a DIY bride, Flower Moxie is the perfect way to stay on budget and have pretty blooms for your wedding that you just can’t get from Costco.
tip: for easy DIY flowers for a dinner party, line up bud vases with simple flowers in them. My vases were from the thrift store and were $0.25 each
I wanted to go all out for this party and make it ridiculously pretty. And being a sweets lover, I wanted to have a cake. I found Cassidy from Flour and Flourish on Instagram and fell in love with her simple and beautiful cakes. She made me the most gorgeous watercolor pink and gold cake. And guys it was delicious! It wasn’t a fondant cake- it was buttercream frosting with a chocolate inside. If you are local to Utah, I 100% recommend her!
The funny thing about this cake is when my husband and I were setting up for the party, I set the cake down on a bench. Don came up to it and slammed his hand on top. I was mortified because his little hand print was on top! Luckily, some flowers covered it up!
tip: when choosing a cake for an event, think about what is more important to you- taste or looks. Flour and Flourish is both, but a lot of the time you will end up choosing one or the other. If taste is most important, make sure to do a taste testing
For the food, my goal was to have something delicious that my friends would love. I didn’t want to do hot food since I didn’t want to deal with the pain of keeping it warm. I selected one of my favorite restaurants, Kneaders, and they catered! It was amazing because they dropped everything off. I just put them on cute platters and it was SO easy! I loved not having to prepare food while knowing that it would be ridiculously delicious. We had sandwiches, fruit, chips, and mini pastries. Thank you Kneaders for the delicious dinner!
tip: for the simplest dinner party food, have a local company cater! That way you can focus on your guests and know that everyone will be fed delicious food without hours of prep
Since I am a decorator, you know that I am all about the decorations! I bought a few super cheap table cloths off Amazon so that the main table would have a pretty base. For the place settings, I used a combination of my personal plates and cups and ones I bought from the thrift store. I actually scored majorly at the thrift store- they had some gorgeous white dishes with gold details. After washing and sanitizing them well, they were as good as new!
I used watercolor to hand paint the name place cards (it was so fast and turned out so cute). The menus were placed in napkins to finish off the tables. Every napkin I owned was used for the party and I loved the variation in patterns and colors! I used this tutorial that I shared on Instagram to fold the napkins. The gold forks are a steal from Target at $2 each (that’s the cheapest you can find gold flatware- guaranteed. Plus they are dishwasher friendly- which most gold flatware isn’t). I put some tea lights in glass small vases along the table. It was very nice to have as it got dark plus candles make for the best ambiance.
tip: shop at the thrift store for budget decorations and table ware. Table cloths are as cheap as $7 each on Amazon and look much prettier than the plastic $2 version.
For the cake and drink table, I brought my own furniture from home! The drink table had a water dispenser, my welcome sign, flowers, balloons from Magnolia Bloom Boutique and soda. I love using pretty food to decorate with!
The cake table had the amazing cake, flowers, candle sitcks, some brass swans to add a hint of pretty, and plates for the cakes. I make the backdrop with PVC pipe and a cute drape I had at home (gotta love that pom pom trim!). To finish off the backdrop and really make it the focal point of the party, I added a floral swag. I wish with all of my heart that I had steamed the backdrop. Sigh- if I could turn back time I would have brought my hand steamer with me so it would look more polished. P.s. this post is getting super long- if you’d like a tutorial on how to make the backdrop swag let me know and I can put up a post for that.
tip: make sure to iron your linens before your event for a beautifully finished look
I used to be a wedding planner and one thing I learned was the value of a good photographer. I specifically remember a bride who was on a tight budget, but she splurged on her photographer. She sent me the photos and I died at how pretty everything looked! I learned then and there that having someone who can take great photos makes such a difference!
Yay balloon from Magnolia Bloom Boutique. Isn’t it cute?! Plus it’s resuseable!
For my event, I worked with the super talented photographer Saudalia from The Landon Creative. She was so sweet to come early and get detail photos. She was there for the beginning of the dinner party to take a few photos of my event in action. I actually loved booking her that way because I got pretty pictures, but my friends also felt relaxed and able to have fun after she left (you know, without the pressure of having a photographer around).
I actually brought my own camera with me, but was so busy setting up and talking with my friends that I didn’t take a single photo! It was so nice to have a photographer there so that I could have fun without the worry of documenting everything!
Letterboard and letters from Amazon
tip: use the best photographer you can afford for special events. Having your memories captured well is worth it.
I’ve been to lots of events with dress codes and love them. I asked my friends to dress in white or pastel at the bottom of the invitations. This can be a controversial thing, but I really wanted a certain look- haha. I know it stressed out some of my friends, so just leave it off if you’re worried about it.
I got a new dress for the occasion from Fresh Market Threads that I loved! It was the perfect combination of comfortable and really, really pretty! Sometimes having a new dress that you feel pretty in is just what a girl needs 😉
tip: if you care about what your guests wear, let them know the dress code. For a more relaxed setting, leave it off
That was my Summer Soiree! The thing I didn’t blog about above was how fun the party was! I got to talk to all of my friends is a pretty setting and we had so much fun! I left the night feeling so loved. The thing is, it’s ok to celebrate big milestones in our lives. I made a huge transition leaving my day job and felt like I needed to commemorate that. I think we could use more celebration and quality times with our friends. You don’t have to go all out like I did with this party, but I really hope this post inspired you to spend more time with those you love.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to ask in the comment section below. Thanks for reading and supporting my blog. It honestly means the world to me.
Thank you to the follow vendors for making my Summer Soiree a success!
Fabled Papery – invitations
Flour & Flourish– cake
Flower Moxie– flowers
Fresh Market Threads– dress
Magnolia Bloom Boutique– balloons
The Landon Creative– photography
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