Friday, July 1, 2011

A Rock & Roll Party!

This post is a little past due, but I was saving it for a rainy day.

My husband's 30th birthday was just a few months after our wedding. I was still recovering from a year of wedding planning, but come on... it was his 30th! If I was ever going to throw him a big party this was the year, so I swung back into full-on party planning mode and found a few dollars hiding under the couch cushions.

Theme: Heavy Metal

I'm a little bit country and the Hubs is a little bit death metal so the theme was obvious. Don't even bother googling "heavy metal birthday party" because there is absolutely no inspiration anywhere on the interwebs. I was so bummed! I always default to the creative geniuses of Blogland to help me plan parties but for this one I was on my own. (If you are planning a rock & roll theme party for a kid, there are plenty of ideas online. Unfortunately a candy bar just wasn't "heavy metal" enough for our party.)

Invitations: Concert Ticket

This was the inspiration for the invitations:

Pumpkin Beans

All options I found online weren't in the budget and we're customizable enough for me, so I decided to design my own. It was really very easy to do in PhotoShop- just white, grey and black rectangles with text on top. Here is how they turned out (edited for privacy and appropriateness- hey, it was a heavy metal party!):

There is so much white space around the image because I uploaded the original file to Vistaprint and had them printed up as postcards. The back had basic text with venue address, times, etc. Vistaprint has the best promotional offers and I received 100 free postcards, only paid for shipping. I ordered a banner for the party too, see below, and paid $10.60 total to ship the postcards and invites. I only need around 30 invitations, but it was actually cheaper to order 100 from Vistaprint than 30 from any other online source.

(Note to self: Find a use for all those leftover invitations!)

Now, I didn't want to risk the Hubs seeing an invitation (it was a surprise party) on anyone's fridge so I also sent along a small piece of paper with this sticker attached, for our friends to indiscreetly mark their calendars:

I purchased black envelopes from Michaels (with 40% off coupons, of course) as well as a silver metallic marker pen to address the invites.

Venue: Wedding Venue
Here are a few tips for finding a venue at a good price:

Go where you know!
I know, this is going to sound strange but we had the Hubs birthday party at the same place we had our wedding ceremony & reception. There is a very good reason for this: it was cheap! They offer great package prices and were willing to give me an awesome deal on the party since we had just given them a ridiculous amount of money for the wedding and referred friend's to them for their wedding.

We had the hall all night with a bartender and waitstaff, event set up (tables, chairs, tablecloths & napkins), free parking, all non-alcoholic beverages and a full meal (including cake) for $12 per person. They basically gave me last years pricing.

Be Flexible!
I almost didn't contact our wedding venue at all because I assumed it would be too pricey. Fortunately for me they happened to have a Friday available close to my husband's birthday. They knew they didn't have anything booked for that date and were willing to give it up for a great deal.

Now, a Saturday would have been way more convenient because we had quite a few out of town guests but we made it work. I just gave everyone plenty of notice and scheduled the party a little later in the evening so most people wouldn't have to take a full day off work to drive into town.

Customize: It never hurts to ask!
Most of their general party packages were around $18-$24 per person but they had items in the deal that we didn't really need. The package closest to what I wanted was called The Teen Party package so I asked if we could have that. They said yes. The Teen Party obviously didn't come with a bartender so our guests had to serve themselves from the kegs I bought. No biggie- it was like a flash back to college days. (This did also allow the crowd to somehow manage to get my 30 year old husband to do one last keg stand. Actually, I'm afraid to say this may not be his last.)

The package included chips and pretzels. I didn't think we needed those so I asked if we could, in lieu of snacks, upgrade one of our appetizers to an hors devours we had at our wedding that everyone loved. We agreed to cross off the snacks and upgrade to Almond Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon (to die for but much more involved in terms of preparation!) in exchange for make the other two appetizer selections hot wings and mozzarella sticks- two items that are cheaper & easier for them.

The package also included cookie and brownie trays so I asked if we could have one sheet cake instead. They said yes! Whoo-hoo!

I know, the cake looks a little funky in the corners. That is because when the cake arrived at the party, it had little blue flowers around the edges. Um... this is a metal party not a baby shower! So, I took one for the team and scrapped off the icing flowers with a plastic knife and destroyed the evidence. ;)

There were quite a few choices for the dinner buffet items, one of which was a selection of mini sandwiches. They sounded great but this was going to be a party for a bunch of 30 year old men who would likely be drinking all night long. This required man sandwiches. So I asked them if we could have regular sized cheesesteaks rather than 3 different kinds of mini sandwiches. Not only did they say yes to this, but they gave us a build-your-own-cheesesteak bar with all the fixin's. Awesome!

To round it out we had a mashed potato & topping bar too, one of my husband's favorite foods. This was suppose to be served in martini glasses, which I didn't think was very rock & roll either so we had them put our bowls for us.

Entertainment: Shop Locally!

I'm not going to lie, we had a pretty major DJ fail at our wedding. There were line dances, Celion Dion, missed ques, forgotten Anniversary Dances... it was bad. Needless to say I was determined to find a better form of entertainment for the Hubs b-day bash. My tip for you: Shop locally!

My husband went to school with a guy who is in a band. A pretty good one too who have quite a popular reputation around these parts. The problem- they are a fully plugged, loud, metal band of 5 musicians. I didn't really have a line item in the budget for that. Just out of curiosity though I contacted him to see what they would charge. I won't tell you what the exact estimate was but I will say that it involved a "light and sound man." Luckily though, this guy made an alternate suggestion. As it turned out, he and one of the other band mates often play acoustically at bars around town and were way, way more affordable. So, I booked them!

Not exactly heavy metal, but there were friends of all ages at the party and I gotta tell you- I couldn't have been happier with their performance! They played the kinds of songs people stand up and sing along with. Everyone had a blast and LOVED the music. It was honestly the most fun I've had in a long time. Plus, the Hubs got to bond again with an old friend. Bonus! I still get compliments on the entertainment!

(If you live in the Central PA area and would like contact information for the band, shoot me an email!)

One of my husband's good friends brought his entire Rock Band video game set-up for us to play after the band finished. It was so much fun- I rocked the drum kit! The venue let us use their projector & screen so there was no cost for that. I did buy some props though, which were good fun. I bought a few rocker wigs online, as well as some glow sticks and studded leather custom gloves. And fake tattoos- of course! I believe it took my mom a couple days to get the "ROCK & ROLL FOREVER" tattoo off her neck. We are a fun family!

Decor: KISS (and I don't mean the band)

Keep It Simple Stupid- that is how it goes, isn't it? I did a few small but simple decoration projects. First, the banner I mentioned above.

Once again, free from Vistaprint- I only paid $5.30 shipping. There were a bunch of backgrounds to chose from- I opted for the hand holding the beer bottle since there weren't any "rock" themes. They also have a lot of font choices. I edited the photo since everyone knows my husband from our last name and I don't particularly want any crazy Housewife fans showing up in the middle of the night (unless you come bearing gifts of spray paint and cookie mixes.)

I didn't really plan ahead for hanging the banner and it fell off the wall a couple times. It just became the musical banner and changed location every now & again.

I made a pretty simple photo wall for the gift table.

Sorry for the small size, I resized the image so the guilty could remain faceless. I think I paid around $5 for the presentation board at Michael's and received the photos free from Snapfish for setting up a new account (paid shipping only). I emailed all his friends beforehand and asked for old photos. I don't recommended this for wives who are easily flustered. I learned quite a bit about my husband from the photos that came in.

Notice that the only gift on the table was a 6-pack of beer. Either my husband registered behind my back at The Beer Barn for gifts or all his friends just know him all too well. Some of the gifts he received were: bottles of craft beers, scotch, fresh New York bagels and a big bag of Reese's peanut butter eggs. These are the gifts that keep on giving!

For the walls I purchased a set of 18 concert flyers off Ebay.

I didn't know who any of the bands on the posters were but I checked with my husband's best friend and sure enough, they knew all of them. I paid less than $20 for all the posters with shipping and I figured the Hubs could use them to decorate his office or the bar area in our not yet renovated basement.

The tables were pretty simple: black table clothes with vinyl record centerpieces. (I didn't put anything in the bowls because I wanted the labels to show.)

I used a piece of silver scrapbook paper as the base (so the black record didn't disappear into the tablecloth) and put skull & cross bone stickers around the edges. I purchased the records from Records & Stuff on Etsy- all rock & roll bands, of course. (Mob Rules by Black Sabbath pictured) We gave a couple of these to my uncle for his home bar and we have one hanging up in our living room now.

The only real budget buster was a last minute decoration add-on I just had to get. I can't show you a photo of them, because I don't think the Hubs wants to be embarrassed all over the internet but I purchased 100 paper beer coasters with his face on them. It was a drunken photo, I do believe, taken at a wine festival. He was throwing some serious horns and looked very bad-arse.

Paper coasters are sort of a bone of contention between us. He likes to collect them, I don't like them scattered all around the house. They are meant to be disposable but he keeps them forever. I don't really get it, we have perfectly nice coasters at home, but I bought these for him as a way of showing him that day was all for him.

I hid the coasters under the party favors...

Favors: You can find awesome at the Dollar Store. 

I found these beer mugs at The Dollar Tree for... as you might have guessed... $1 each. What a deal! They were HUGE and very substantial glasses. I used my handy-dandy Cricut machine with the Rock Princess (shhh... don't tell my husband that is what its called) cartridge to etch rock hands and guitars in the mugs. You might have wondered why there were pieces of chalk in the centerpiece photo...

I purchased these vinyl chalkboard rock hand stickers from The Vinyl Chalkboard on Etsy. These were on the back of all the glasses so people could write their names to keep track of their mug. 

Not including the purchase of the cartridge, the glasses were about a $40 project (for 30 glasses). In hindsight, given the alcohol content of the awesome beer our brewery friend made for us, I wish I had purchased smaller glasses!

Birthday Gifts: The Kind that Keep on Giving!

The party was really my gift to the Hubs but I did a few more things just for him. First, I did a little searching and found some old friends from college that he hadn't seen in years. They came from all over the state to celebrate with him which I know he really appreciated.

I also bought him a flip cam, which he didn't get to open. In fact, I don't know if he knows that was one of his gifts. Oh well! I used the video camera to document the whole night (for black mail purposes- I mean...) and made him a video card with messages from everyone there. We then used the camera to send video thank you's to everyone who came. I think the guests really appreciated that!

Crowd Involvement!

My last tip for a theme party is to totally get the entire guest list involved. Since we didn't do much to decorate, I decided to let the guests decorate for me by asking everyone to wear their favorite rock/band t-shirt. I even told the venue ahead of time to ask their staff to skip the tuxs and dress down for the night. I think they enjoyed being able to wear their Zeppelin and Sabbath shirts at work for a change.

So, that was my heavy metal theme birthday party. I wish I could show you all the photos but the Hubs would like to retain a little bit of a sense of privacy (not that you haven't already seen our dirty window sills, all the expired items in our fridge and the inside of our bedroom closet.) What do you think? How did I do? Leave a comment or shoot me an email!


  1. this is so cool...thanks.and true, there's not much to see over the internet about college or workplace rock parties :)

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