Pepe’s Guide to Organizing an 18th Birthday Party Singlehandedly (Part 1)

For girls, the coming-of-age birthday party -- more popularly known as the “debut” or the 18th birthday -- is such a big deal. In such celebrations, I frequently get invited either to choreograph a dance number or perform a ballroom dance. I’ve attended numerous parties -- from the most simple down to the most lavish, and last month, it was my cousin Angela’s turn to celebrate her 18th. Guess what? Not only was I, by default, a performer, I was also the official party planner/event organizer!

Angela with her family

My previous experience with event planning is limited to organizing dancesport competitions, one that is very different to a debut, so working on this project was a bit stressful for me at the onset. Fortunately, my cousin knew what exactly she wanted for her party so all I needed was a little bit of direction. In addition, my friend Aleli who is part of an events organizing start-up called Team Eureka was helping me and giving me some ideas and tips!

Angela chose her favorite TV series to be the party’s theme: Gossip Girl. Upon learning that, tons of ideas flooded my brain but she pointed out another requirement: she wanted it in bar setting. What? How could I combine high tea and canapés with tugsh-tugsh?

My sister (leftmost) was confused as to whether the theme was "Gossip Girl" or "Titanic".
The solution: focus all Gossip Girl-related stuff into the decorations, invitations, and program flow – forget about high-end food and just inject the tusgh-tugsh element into the “after-party”.

So how did I manage to put all of these together? Below, I have summarized the steps I took to come up with a kick-ass party for Angela! Yes, the Queen Bee’s wishes came true—thanks to everyone who helped me out!

1. Budget

Perhaps the most important factor when planning an event, the budget determines the venue and other must-haves for the party, and decides whether you have enough money for add-ons or nice-to-haves. Angela’s family wanted to have the party in The Lounge, a bar in QC that caters to events like this. It was far from the usual hotel debut setting, but one that is slowly becoming more popular among the alcoholic youth, LOL!

To help her with budget allotment, I asked her to finalize her guest list as it would determine what package to choose. The number of attendees would also define the corresponding amounts for invitations, giveaways, and stuff.

2. Venue

The proximity of The Lounge factored in heavily in deciding whether to hold the party there or not. Angela’s guests would be coming mostly from Bulacan and Manila—where else to have it but the sandwiched city, Quezon City. Angela wanted a bar, and The Lounge was one of the most affordable event places around. If you ask me, the place didn’t look attractive when bare, but once decorated it transformed into a pretty stylish place. With ample seats—some in leather booths and some in cocktail tables—and a nice sound system, The Lounge was able to accommodate all 70 guests. The men’s bathroom could use a little improvement though, and I would suggest installing air-conditioning in the upstairs holding area/makeup room.

3. Photoshoot

My cousin being a bit too ambitious (LOL), we headed over to UP Diliman to have a photoshoot—basically for her invitation, banners, and AVPs. I have absolutely no experience with studio photography, natural light is my best friend, so I would say that this was especially challenging for me. Check out some of my shots below:

4. Invitations

While I agreed to organize the party, I never expected that I would be designing the invitations as well. With no advanced experience on Photoshop, I did the basic layout and passed over the work to my friend Yohanne from PoshThemes Design and Print Solutions when the Photoshop layering shits came in. The funny thing is, the last stupid piece I wasn’t able to complete was pasting Angela’s face and blending in the bubbles (bokeh)—so thanks Yohanne for fixing that!

Matching notes were included in the invitation envelopes, telling the invitee that he or she is part of the program (18 Roses, 18 Gossips, 18 Fabulous Finds).

5. Program

Aside from the normal 18 Roses segment, Angela decided to rename 18 Treasures to “18 Fabulous Finds” (she got inspired from my Fab Finds Friday column here in the blog, haha). In addition, she chose 18 people to be part of the 18 Gossips, which was basically 18 Messages. For this segment, we made these lips props that worked like masks in masquerades; each participant of the 18 Gossips held one of these as they spoke. A program was printed out and placed in each table for the guests’ guidance.

The debutante's sisters take their turns at humiliating her in the 18 Gossips segment.

6. Decorations

This was so much trickier. We didn’t have time to check out flowers that would complement a bar set-up, so we just stuck to balloons, tarpaulins, drapes, and printouts.

Each table was adorned with a table number, designed with the same NYC lights bokeh from Angela’s invitation.

A banner patterned after the invitation was placed beside the projector that served as the backdrop. Silver balloons were added on the stage, bearing the debutante’s name. Pink and black tablecloths were used to match the Gossip Girl color scheme.

A cocktail table displayed Angela’s birthday cake, which is also Gossip Girl inspired. A separate table held the cupcake giveaways.

Outside, a life-size tarp stood on the bar’s entrance: Angela welcoming the guests. Pink and white balloons were scattered along stairs leading up to the bar.

7. Birthday Cake and Giveaways

The Mad Butter was our supplier for everything sweet for that night. Check out this awesome Gossip Girl-themed fondant cake!

The chocolate cake was incredibly moist and delicious—and the fondant, with the right touch of sweetness.

The cupcakes were also made by The Mad Butter—vanilla for the men and chocolate for the ladies. Look at the matching decors on top!

Even the box had a gift tag designed according to the theme!

"Now I know you love me. XOXO."

Read the continuation here.

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