Lauren & Mitch’s Backyard Engagement Party

When Mark and I got engaged my best friend Lauren threw us a surprise engagement party. Naturally, when she got engaged I had to return the favor. To keep things simple, we decided to nix the surprise aspect for the most part.

I say most part because I wouldn’t let her see the backyard until party time. Lauren and Mitch are super laid-back, so for their party, we went low-key with just a few special touches. This engagement party shows you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a party feel special. We were able to use a lot of furniture/items we already had and put almost all the money toward food and alcohol (arguably the most important parts of a party.)

Before I start any party, I like to sketch out what I want the space to look like. I pin ideas that I like and then translate that into my vision. Then I see how I can utilize stuff I already have and make a game plan from there. Here’s an example of what I had for Lauren and Mitch’s party:

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This is an overhead sketch of the backyard. I wanted to use as much of the space as possible, so we decided to stage the food off the deck so that most of the deck could be devoted to seating. In the bottom left-hand corner of the backyard is a fire pit. Since it was the middle of summer, instead of a fire, I placed a pallet over the pit to create an outdoor coffee table (as you can see below.)

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We already had the pillows on hand from the front porch, I just moved them to the backyard. TIP: Don’t be afraid to repurpose items from other parts of your home — stage the space people will be using the most and no one will notice it missing elsewhere!

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For food, I let Trader Joe’s do most of the work. They’re assorted macarons in the frozen section are an AWESOME fancy fuss-free dessert, and I’m a sucker for all their various dips and tapenades. Just pick up a baguette, toast and slice it, and serve it with a few dips and you’re good to go.

Between Lauren and I we already owned all the serve ware–but if you’re in the market for some definitely hit up local thrift stores and HomeGoods. You can find some great deals that won’t break the bank. TIP: I like to buy white and/or clear glass serve ware only. This way I can mix and match as I need without it looking clunky. Oh and that stand the macarons are on? It’s a bowl turned upside down with a plate on top!

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For drinks, we made a yummy punch recipe that I’ll follow up with in another post. We also filled our yard wheelbarrow with ice for anyone who BYOB’d. The bags on the left side of the table are simple brown lunch bags with the tops cut off. I picked up a few different kinds of flavored popcorn from TJ’s and distributed them through the bags for a fun “pick-your-own” flavor set up.

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Up on the deck, we moved our indoor bar cart outside and used it to display maps of the where the couple met, got engaged, and live, PLUS plates and napkins. To party things to invest in for the long run: a plain white table cloth (on the food table) and cloth napkins/towels. I purchased two dozen off of Amazon and have used them for so many parties–and it’s better for the environment!

Parties don’t have to be over-the-top affairs. With a few smart choices and letting Trader Joe’s handle the rest, I was able to host a pretty engagement party for my best friend. What do you think? I’d love to hear other ways people get creative with their parties! Let me know 🙂

LMDIFY: Hand Lettered Wedding Invites

WAHOO! This is the first post in a new series I’d like to call, “Let Me Do It For You” or LMDIFY for short. As some of you know, Party Time Yeah! is part blog, part creative service. I love, love, love sharing the ideas I have for all things PARTY but sometimes, people want a little help with their party–and I can do that too!

Whether it’s coordinating, planning, or even brainstorming, I’m so down to help make whatever party you’re planning the bomb dot com. One thing I am oh-so-ready to help out with is lettering and sign-making. Full disclosure, I’m not a calligrapher, but I do have some pretty neat handwriting (both cursive & print.)

I’ve always enjoyed making signs but I really stepped things up when I decided to I hand-address the invites for my own wedding. This. Was. An. Undertaking. I started FOUR WEEKS before I wanted to send mine out and I was lettering at least a handful each night. I enjoyed it, it was relaxing and because I gave myself ample time, it wasn’t stressful. The ONE PIECE of advice I’d give to anyone:

If you’re going to DIY something for your wedding or party, make sure you enjoy the process. Otherwise it will become a chore–and parties should not be chores.

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I buy pens in bulk. I do a lot of doodling and note-taking at work, so about a year ago I started buying my favorite pen in bulk on Amazon (and refills.) This pen is the retractable Pilot Precise V5 RT. It’s fine point and flows super smooth with little smearing.  I LOVE IT.

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I aimed to do about five envelopes a night after work. Whenever I did this I would bring a big sketchpad with me and practice the invitee’s name a few times with different variations until I was happy.

I also experimented with the phrasing depending on the guest. If it was one person, I wrote their whole name. If it was a couple with two different last names, I simply wrote their firsts. If it was a family, I wrote”The *Blank* Family.” There were a few exceptions which was fine! I was the only one who was going to know how the others were addressed. (Well, until now.)

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When I printed my invites, I ordered extra envelopes knowing that I would probably mess up one or two AND I had a few invites returned, so I had to re-address them. I was still left with a few unused, but they’re pretty standard envelopes and I’m sure they won’t go to waste.

If you’re interested in doing your own invites, I say go for it! Just make sure you ENJOY doing it and give yourself enough time to do them. If you’re like, “that’s pretty, but I have chicken scratch handwriting” then HIT ME UP!

Liz and John’s Wisconsin Camp Wedding

As I was planning my own wedding I fell in love with the process. So when my coworker Liz mentioned needing a day of coordinator for hers I jumped at the chance. Liz and John are one of the most laid-back, fun couples I’ve ever met and this wedding perfectly matched their personalities. Hosted at Kamp Kenwood just outside Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, the setting could not have been more idyllic with the perfect hint of old school summer camp.

No one could’ve predicted that temps would reach into the high 80’s in late September. This led to a few mid-event changes that *thankfully* went off without a hitch and ultimately ended up making the night way more fun. Below are some highlights from the day, major thank you to John and Liz for being the raddest couple ever and letting me join the party!

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photo cred: Christine Taffe

The reception was hosted in the camp’s “mess” hall but the end result looked anything but. We couldn’t go wrong with the market lights and the warm glow of candles, plus with the harvest table setup, it made the 200+ person event feel wonderfully intimate.

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The groom’s mom made all of the floral arrangements in vintage thermoses–they were absolutely stunning and because we left them out overnight, were in full bloom for the reception. I have no idea how long it took to find all of them or put them together but they were easily one of the highlights of the whole reception.

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photo cred: Christine Taffe

We displayed the cake as guests entered from the deck facing the lake. Liz provided the adorable canoe cake topper and I used extra greenery and roses to add more rustic notes to the display. The crocheted table covering belonged to one of the great-grandmother’s which added a nice sentimental touch, too.

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photo cred: Christine Taffe

At the front of the reception hall we staged a cute scene around a bench that greeted guests as they entered camp. A friend and fellow coworker helped stage the area the day before–which was HUGE. This allowed Liz to give it full approval and all I needed to do was take pictures and replicate it on Saturday. I hand-lettered the “John & Liz” sign the week leading up to the wedding and we were able to use it at the church and here at the reception.

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The bridal party arrived via pontoon (if you can arrive on a boat, always arrive on a boat) with the camp bell announcing their arrival. We hosted the bar and appetizers outside complete with a very location appropriate beer-filled canoe. John and Liz rented a beer truck (Wisconsin knows how to party) and provided a s’mores bar, too. Basically, if you wanted the adult summer camp experience, you got it all and then some.

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photo cred: Christine Taffe

The night ended in the best way possible–with a sparkler send-off–and while the bride and groom went off to bed, a few guests stuck around to dance a little more, enjoy the bonfire, and squeeze in a late night swim. All in all, the weekend was freaking awesome and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it.

10/10 would do it again.