Parties Without Panic
My parent's 40th anniversary is in June and I need some suggestions for the celebration that aren't "the same old thing" such as punch, cake, and streamers. We will be holding it at their church and I live 100 miles away so take that into consideration with your suggestions. Any help will be appreciated.
One idea is to get a cake that is a replica of the original wedding cake. Of course, you would need a good picture of the cake. Most bakeries could recreate this.
Another suggestion is to make a video of the family and put it to music. We did this for my in-laws' 50th anniversary. We started with pictures of the parents as children and as they were dating, continued with their wedding pictures then followed with all the children and their wedding pictures and their families.
We asked each family member for several pictures of their families and any old pictures they might have of their parents. The best way to handle this is to get in touch with a videographer and get some ideas from him. It really was not that expensive to do. My husband's family is large with 11 children. Each one of them helped with the anniversary party and the expenses. We also played this video at the party. We had a TV & VCR set up in a corner and kept the video going for people to stop by and watch for a little while. Each child got a copy of the video and we all cherish it. It is a good way to keep the memories for a lifetime.
When my parents had their 50th anniversary a few years ago, we got the entire family involved in making some very special memories for them. We asked each child and grandchild to write a one-page memoir of their most special memories of the couple. We then compiled them into a scrapbook and displayed it on a table for all to see. My parents still look at this book four years later.
We also made poster boards of family photos... of their wedding, of Dad in his WWII uniform, various holidays and vacations taken with their children and grandchildren. We displayed them on easels all around the party area.
One last thing we did was take all of their old home movies and have them put onto cds. Once again, they enjoy being able to watch their home movies now without a hassle.
I just celebrated my parent's 25th last year with a seriously limited budget but it worked great. I rented "street lamps" from a party supply store. These were elegant and beautiful and about $15 each for 24 hours. I also used Silver/White helium balloons for centerpieces on the tables. I made the weights for the balloon centerpieces out of clear wrap and Hershey Kisses (silver). Mom and Dad each got a flower corsage and there was music playing in the background. All the tables had white tablecloths (provided by our church, as it was at our church's building) and all the tables were put in a large circle with the cake & gift table in the center. I used their original cake topper, too.
The family helped with the meal by bringing in dishes and I used sturdy, white paper plates and clear, plastic flatware. It was simple and had a very fun and friendly atmosphere.
Don't forget to the ask someone to run the video camera for you and someone else to take lots of pictures. Keep it simple, they are there to celebrate martial bliss and happiness, not to worry about what you did or didn't do to make it a "proper" celebration.
My husband's parents celebrated their 50th anniversary last year, and his sister made most of the arrangements. She did a great job! The party was held in a private room at a local historic inn. Any local historic or sentimental location would do nicely. We made invitations to the party using a card-making program. The invitations looked like buff-colored wedding invitations with a black-and-white photo of their wedding picture on the front. My sister-in-law had a photo, which she scanned into her computer so it could be included on the invitation.
She also made up a poster board with pictures of the anniversary couple throughout the years. It made a very nice display. If you're handy with a computer, I've also seen this sort of thing done by scanning the pictures into some display software like Microsoft's PowerPoint and creating a presentation with music to be displayed on the computer. A friend's young son did this for his Dad's 40th birthday party. It can display continuously during the celebration.
Since my husband's family is spread completely across the U.S. and it was the first time in a long time we were all together, we took family portraits. Pictures were made of the anniversary couple alone, with their children, with their parents since we're lucky they're still with us and each child's family. Another sister-in-law used these portraits to make a beautiful scrapbook afterward of the event.
In addition, my husband and I like to sing, so we sang a blessing duet to his parents after a toast to their marriage.
Several years ago, my mother's brothers and sisters (there were 12 children in the family) had a big birthday celebration. I had my nephew bring his video camera and tripod to the party. I got in front of the camera and gave several facts about the occasion and then recited the name of each family member and their birth date. Then I interviewed each one in turn and asked questions about their childhood and about significant events that happened when they were young. One big event was the 1927 flood of the Mississippi River and how they evacuated and what actually happened to them.
I suggest that for the anniversary celebration. Interview the children present, grandchildren, and friends and ask for a particular memory. You will be surprised about what you find out. For instance, I learned that one of my aunts was seriously injured while evacuating and spend quite a bit of time in the hospital recuperating. That was a story I had never heard before.
As for the menu, I suggest doing research to see what recipe was "in" at the time. That would be something interesting to prepare. Or ask friends if they remember the couple's favorite food when they were dating.
We had a 75th birthday party for Grandma recently and had everyone participate in decorating a quilt block for a memory quilt for the birthday girl. There probably isn't time for such a quilt project considering the anniversary celebration is in June. But the participants in the quilt block project were also invited to send along a letter relating a memorable incident or warm thought they wished to convey to Grandma. You can sew a simple signature block quilt and take a permanent fabric pen to the party. All the guests can sign a block and write a loving thought to the happy couple of 40 years.
We had a similar situation, years ago, for my husband's parents. We surprised them with a sit-down dinner at the church with a combination Prom/This is Your Life theme. It was a memorable evening and a huge success!
We used help from the church. Many people who love your parents will be glad to help out! We asked teenagers from the youth group to serve as set-up, servers, and cleaner-uppers and ladies in the church to help in the kitchen.
You can keep the menu simple and frugal, and still pull this off! I was 8 months pregnant at the time! Our menu was roast beef (cheap cuts roasted in broth, real slow), canned green beans, roasted canned potatoes with butter and paprika, applesauce, rolls and butter, pudding parfait and coffee. This menu would be suitable for the age group attending.
We used church dinnerware and white tablecloths, candles, and fresh cut garden flowers and photographs as decorations. No streamers or fancy decorations. The church may have all you need like things they use for weddings. We used a simple white lattice trellis with potted plants at the entry. This gave it the prom like feel.
My husband served as emcee. The evening was filled with testimonials of their life together by their closest friends. Pictures of them were at each table. We celebrated their life, laughter, and love in the short span of a few hours.
Coordinating this from 100 miles away is not impossible. Enlist someone close by to help with the hands-on details, you can manage through phone calls and careful planning until just before the event. I hope you have a wonderful celebration of two special people and the many years of commitment they have had together! God bless them!
I did this for my mother-in-law's birthday, but I think it would be nice for an anniversary. My sister-in-law and I spent one Saturday at her house while she was not home since we did not have many things from her past. We made a video with a "This is your life" kind of theme. We used old photos, her favorite music as background music and narrated with photos of her wedding, her kids, and other events of her life including other birthday parties.
We taped the photos by placing them on a black velvet cloth. In addition, we got with the local family members and had them each give her a birthday wish on the video, and the few far away members we called on the phone, placed a picture of them next to a speaker phone and made a video of their birthday wishes that way. When we had her party she opened the video and we all watched it together. She enjoyed the video and still watches it from time to time. That was about eight years ago and we plan to do an updated one this year with her grandkids included.
As a caterer and member of a large family, I have the opportunity to see a lot of unique ideas for parties. Here are a few anniversary parties.
It has now become something we update and add to every year or two and we have an awesome collection of memorabilia and a cookbook of tried & true recipes. The open house was throughout the afternoon and as guests came in and ate while all the grandchildren worked together and cleared tables and reset places for the next round of guests. It was truly a wonderful day.
Sometimes the simplest get-togethers are the best. Remember you won't need to plan activities for the evening because people will be enjoying catching up and reminiscing with each other.
Additional list of ideas:
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