Frugal ideas to make any anniversay party extra special

40th Anniversary Party Ideas

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Beyond Punch, Cake and Streamers

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 with anniversary party ideas will be appreciated.

Make a Video of Memories

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.

Family Involvement

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.

Elegant But Simple

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.

Using Your Computer

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.

Become a Reporter

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.

A Touch of Creativity

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.

"Insider" Help

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!

Undercover Work Creates Surprise

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.

A Party Expert Speaks

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.

  1. Luau: We recently catered a luau for a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary who were going to Hawaii to celebrate after the family/friend get together. The couple renewed their vows at the church they originally wed in and then had a celebration in the basement of the church. The family all worked together to decorate it. Brown paper palm trees were made and attached to the poles/beams in the basement with small gold balloons as coconuts. Family members made leis for each guest out of tissue paper. Hawaiian music was played. A local dance teacher came and gave lessons on grass skirt dancing with a pair of grass skirts for the couple to put on over their clothes. Food was pork, chicken, rice, hot apples and a small cooked pig on display garnished with colorful flowers, tropical fruit and of course an apple in its mouth.
  2. For my grandparents' 50th, we had an open house and as a family prepared the food a few days prior. Grandma had kept her cake topper, the small Bible she carried and also had a box with all of the ribbons from her presents that she had saved. We ordered cake for the guests and a small cake for display to have the antique cake topper on it and displayed the other items as well. We also displayed pictures of them, their honeymoon, their 4 boys, all the grandkids, and other pictures from over the years. We ordered Grandma a flower the same as she had worn her wedding day. I also found a copy of old sheet music of one of the songs that was sung at their wedding. I also "interviewed" my grandparents and wrote up a sheet of "did you know?" that included neat things that they have done through their life and the places they lived before they came to live where they are now, and interesting pieces of information through the years. The following Christmas, I copied all of these items, the recipes of the food we made that day, and some of Grandma's famous recipes and Grandpa's favorite dishes and other family members specialties and made a book for each family member.
  3. 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.

  4. Traditional: Invite their friends, try to have all of their children and grandchildren there and maybe they can all sing a little song or dance or something cutesy. Play the music from their era. Decorate simply with touches of one color preferably the one that represents the year they are celebrating and fun will be had by all.

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:

  • Display the wedding photos and/or album.
  • Display pictures from over the years.
  • Be sure to take pictures of this party day too.
  • Display the wedding dress if it's still around.
  • Use as many items from the original wedding day as possible and recreate others as needed.
  • Display copies of old songs and hymns from the wedding
  • Get a nice recent picture of the couple to display as well.
  • List the activities and costs of the original wedding to show how much things have changed. Years ago, many people picked flowers from the field & garden for weddings as well as made their own dresses, food and cake. They often had smaller simpler weddings and receptions compared to today. It's worth listing and displaying for the younger generation to think about. It's also interesting to see how much prices have changed, like you might list the cost of their honeymoon hotel or something like that.
  • Make sure you have a guest book for guests to sign.
  • If your parents don't want gifts (some people do, some don't), state that no gift is necessary and/or a donation to a certain charity can be given instead or if it's near a holiday, ask for a toy for a child or something like that.
  • Simple decorations can be a little more elegant than crepe paper by using a roll of shiny ribbon or a roll of decorative cloth ribbon that can be draped across the center of a table.
  • Small pretty crystal dishes that you may have or most churches have these in their cupboards, filled with candy can really dress up a table.
  • A remnant of lace or ribbon, coupled with a swag of flowers from the dollar store can also look very nice if put together nicely.
  • A theme from a song or movie of that era or a favorite of the couple could also be incorporated into the decorating theme.
  • Of course, unless it is a surprise, you might want to ask the guests of honor if they have any specific requests, maybe they want something at this celebration that they didn't get to have at the last one?

Reviewed January 2018

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