Birthday Bash

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This weekend has been one to remember and I can’t wait to share my festivities with you in this post! But first I would like to thank you all for all of your kind wishes this past week and weekend. I feel so fortunate to have such wonderful people in my life to celebrate with and I definitely felt the love this past week!

I’ve been thinking about Birthdays a lot lately (coincidence, I think not!) How some people love to celebrate and go all out while others prefer to keep it to themselves and enjoy their day in private—we all have different personalities!  I’ve also been thinking about how we sometimes look at it as being one more trip around the sun and a time to reflect on all our accomplishments in the past year. It’s also interesting to me how our personalities change and develop with time, but also how we sometimes rely on our age as being a standard to measure where our priorities should be focused and what goals we should work towards next.

Since graduating college, I’ve taken on the mentality that age is just a number. I look at the various friends I’ve surrounded myself with and although we’re all very different ages, we’re all in similar stages in our lives and that’s what brings us together rather than a number or “what grade we’re in.”  However even at 24 now, I’m still often one of the youngest when it comes to groups in LA. The youngest at work. The youngest in most of my friend groups. But being the youngest has been something that I’ve learned to cherish. When looking back at all the things I’ve accomplished during 23 there are a lot of milestones on that list and I’m so proud of myself that I accomplished those things sooner rather than later. There’s no time like the present to just go for it and get things done when you know they feel right. At the same time, I hope that I have plenty of time to look forward to.  There’s no perfect age to do things so from now on I’m just trying to live in the moment and try my best not to plan every step of the way.

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It’s no secret how much I love holidays and my day of birth is no exception. While it’s nice to feel extra special at one day out of the year and get a little extra attention, I most look forward to using my birthday as an excuse to get family and friends together (and maybe even throw a party or two!

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My Birthday celebrations started a week early when I went back to Iowa! My brother and I are 4 years and 1 day apart which always made for a bittersweet celebration growing up (bitter because he usually got to pick what dessert we were having and sweet because it was unique and we could celebrate together—which I’m sure made it easier on my parents too.) So, this year was no exception, we celebrated both of our Birthdays together with a family cook out! I also got to celebrate with Emory

 

Between traveling and having an already busy week and big weekend plans, I wanted to keep things a little more relaxed on my actual birthday! I decided I wanted to do something that I’ve thought about doing for years but always chickened out and made an excuse—more ear piercings! A girl friend and I made our way to Oak and Poppy (the coolest tattoo parlor I’ve ever seen and a place that also specializes in piercings.) I was not brave and was nervous as could be, but honestly it really wasn’t that bad. Also… did you know using a piercing gun are not the normal method and actually if you go somewhere that’s using one… there’s a greater chance for them to be messed up? Well me neither but now I know. They do not use gun here but do it all by hand which is honestly a relief considering the noise the gun makes was always the worst sound! Afterwards we met up with a few other friends and treated ourselves to some fancy desserts at Crave Café (easily one of my favorite casual restaurants I’ve been to in LA.) I got a chocolate brownie cheesecake… YUM!

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Saturday was the day for the big celebration! As I mentioned, I love coming up with different ways to bring people together and try new things and make memories! This year I wanted to come up with something that I could invite all my different friend groups to so that everyone could all have a chance to meet one another AND I wouldn’t have to pick and choose who I do with what. Also, as I get older, I certainly can’t handle going out quite like I did during my Iowa City days… I like to go to bed at a decent time now, I can’t drink that much without being hungover the next day… I sound so old already. BUT I still love an excuse to get all dressed up and I still enjoy night life energy of being out and about.

All these factors lead me to the idea to do a Classy Cocktail Crawl, like a bar crawl but classier. LA has sooo many bars, many of which are very cute and are designed to look good on your Instagram at any part of the day. Since many of us are always up for a crazy rowdy party— I thought it’d be better to start earlier and end earlier. Then I picked a location that was somewhat centrally located for everyone, Hollywood, and then from there I researched bars in the area within walking distance of one another and picked 5 places I had never been before.

We started the night at 5:00 pm at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s. This bar has been on my list for a while. It’s like walking through a time machine and traveling back to 1968 completely styled in 60s and 70s decor. We started here early because this placed gets packed as the night goes one. There’s also outdoor patio space, throwback music, the option to get food, and the coolest entrance ever! I will be going back at some point!

 

Next, we walked a few blocks to The Highlight Room, a pool and patio bar and cocktail area at the top of the Dream hotel. This was by far the fanciest stop of the night with the most amazing views and priciest drinks. I loved the atmosphere and it was so great to be able to sit down with everyone and catch up. It was also the most “LA” place we went too but I loved every minute of it.

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Afterwards we literally walked around the corner to the next bar, Beauty and Essex. Again, a cool and interesting place. Primarily a restaurant/lounge kind of place. When you first enter, it looks like you’re walking into a high-end pawn show with a whole bunch of sparkly jewelry cases and an assortment of memorabilia.

From there we walked next door to grab a slice of pizza from Lucinis and across the street to the Powder Room. I have to say although we had a great time playing games and hanging out… this was my least favorite stop of the night. It was way smaller than expected and the décor was a little off due to the child’s bedroom additions. All around it was interesting…

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Last but not least we went to No Vacancy, another beautiful house that has been transformed into a bar! We got there a little behind schedule about 11:45 and had to wait a good 15 minutes to get in but we easily could have had to wait a lot longer. The experience of entering the place and the surprise at the top of the stairs is by far the most exciting part. When we got in… it was beyond packed and felt like we were at a frat party. We hung out, danced a bit, and fought our way to the bar.  It didn’t take long before we were already to go. I would definitely go back, but earlier in the night for sure and leave before the crowd gets so out of hand!

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The whole weekend was a blast! I enjoyed every minute of it and 24’s celebration will be a tough one to beat. Thanks again to everyone who celebrated with me and made this year so special.

 

Party Planning

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Party Planning has always been one of my favorite hobbies and I seem to have a knack for it. I love everything that goes into the process of planning a big event from deciding the theme to organizing even the smallest of details. Party planning really plays well with my OCD. I like to have some control, think out of the box, organize things, make decorations, but most importantly create an experience and memories for others!

“There’s nothing that makes me happier than a social event that brings people together.”

Needless to say, that when one of my greatest friends asked me to plan her bachelorette party, I was beyond excited and ready for the challenge.  It was going to be a new experience for me having never been to a bachelorette party let alone never having planned one.  It’s also the first event I’ve ever planned remotely here’s how I got started…

Party Planning for Bachelorette Babes

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1.) Research

The first step of planning a Bachelorette party (or any party really) is doing your research. I made sure to ask the bride-to-be all about what she’s interested in and how she’d like to celebrate. It’s really important when planning a Bachelorette party to keep the bride’s personality in mind. You want to plan an event where everyone will have a great time but also be comfortable with one another (not everyone is excited about having a male stripper show up to their home, and I don’t blame them…)

Although it can be awkward, it’s important to have a conversation about budget and realistically what you can contribute as well as the bride (and in some cases, what you’re asking of the attendees.) They’re your close friends, they’re going to understand one way or another! Making sure all of that is transparent from the beginning will make the rest of the process go a lot smoother.

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2.) Location

Picking out a location can be a fun and exciting trip. While it may be tempting to road-trip it to Nashville or book a flight to Vegas, keep in mind that that can be a pretty big ask of people and a pretty expensive weekend.  A mini-weekend getaway or even an overnight somewhere nearby can be a great compromise.

For Rachel’s party, she knew she wanted to have it in Des Moines. It’s where she lives and is the city she loves. It’s also pretty centrally located for all of the friends and family she was planning to invite. BUT also, it was realistic for everyone’s time and budgets!

Knowing the party was going to be in Des Moines, we also had more resources available to us and most of the guests were somewhat familiar with the area. We had her apartment available, tons of bars, restaurants, and other activities easily accessible, AND Rachel’s apartment was nearby and a perfect solution for a cost-effective venue!

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3.) Theme

The foundation of a great party usually stems from an awesome theme or event. When comes to picking activities and themes, it doesn’t hurt to look around and see what other people have done. Of course, Pinterest is an excellent source and a great place to get started.  It was my personal goal to plan a party that would not only be a great time, but I also wanted it to be memorable. I wanted to get everyone out of their comfort zones a little bit and do something that they wouldn’t do on and regular basis.

I started brainstorming with the bride ideas of what she thought would be fun. We talked about all the things Rachel loves to do in Des Moines and in general and came up with a list that included minor league baseball games, tailgating sporting events, going to breweries—you name it!  One of Rachel’s favorite things though, is the Des Moines Farmers market…

I think she knew I laughed a little when she first suggested that… I mean come on, Farmers Markets don’t usually scream “Party” let alone a Bachelorette Party. But it’s her day and it’s what she wanted to do, and it was now up to me to make a Farmers Market into a party-worthy activity (also… I love a good challenge.)

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4.) Help & Delegating

Being over 1,000 miles away, there’s only so much I could do.  I knew I’d have to fly in for the event which was not only and expense on my end but also meant what I could bring with me was very limited.  Luckily so many of Rachel’s friends stepped up and offered to help! Since I love the whole process of planning things… It can be hard for me to let go of responsibility sometimes—it’s hard to give up control (but I’m getting better at it.) Delegating out the tasks though was THE MOST IMPORTANT step. I couldn’t have done it without the help of the other ladies, they pulled through to help make it happen!

So, I planned out the itinerary and then asked the other girls to pick a portion of the day that they’d lead and take care of the background stuff. We divided and conquered:

  • Bringing Snacks
  • Making Party Favors
  • Decorations
  • Hotel Reservations
  • Planning Games & Activities
  • Dinner Reservations

5.) Itinerary

After we decided on the date, I moved forward with planning the Itinerary around the Des Moines Farmers Market!

10:00 am         Arrive at Rachel’s Apartment for Brunch and Ice Breakers

11:00 am         Farmer’s Market Scavenger Hunt

12:30 pm         Return to Rachel’s Apartment & Go over scavenger hunt findings

1:00 pm           Lunch at Apartment and Games

3:30 pm           Check into Hotel: Get ready, games, gifts

5:30 pm           Special Surprise

7:00 pm           Dinner

9:30 pm           Going Out

Itineraries are a great game plan, but they shouldn’t be set in stone. Keep the schedule flexible! It’s always a good idea to have some back up ideas and filler ideas in case things take longer or shorter than you expected. If something doesn’t work out, stay calm and keep moving on and try not to rush anything. As someone who is never on time to anything… I knew I couldn’t jam pack the day because I always under estimate how long things will take. This day was about me and I knew it needed to run smoothly for the sake of my friend. I always had a game plan but tried to go with the flow as much as possible!

The Big Day

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Arrive at Rachel’s Apartment for Brunch and Ice Breakers

Since the Farmers Market ends at 12:00 we had to get the party started early!!!  I always feel better about waking up early when I know there’s going to be breakfast involved.  We had a breakfast buffet complete with a mimosa bar in Rachel’s apartment. It worked out so well because everything could be bought directly form the store or easily prepared ahead of time and warmed up on the spot!

Bachelorette parties can be challenging because usually you have guests from all different parts of the Brides Life. Our party was no different, there were women she’d grown up with, friends from college, friends from graduate school, and family members. Many of us didn’t know one another so it was a little daunting to be social with strangers that early in the morning. I knew we’d need a little ice breaker to get everyone started wile ate our breakfast.

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I ordered a Wedding’s Mad Libs book off Amazon and it was just the perfect solution.  First off, it’s very affordable and required no additional planning or materials. It’s a good activity to get everyone involved in coming up funny words to create some silly stories. The Mad Libs in the book were also still pretty PG (maybe PG-13 after we added to them) so everyone was comfortable and participated.

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Farmer’s Market Scavenger Hunt

So, the morning of the big event—typical Iowa weather, it was storming all morning and they canceled the Des Moines Farmers market. My initial reaction was— oh-crap! (but I always have a backup plan!) I originally designed the scavenger hunt to incorporate a little bit of all of Court Avenue. Court Ave. in Des Moines is where Rachel’s apartment is located as well as the Farmers Market, so everything is walking distance. There’re tons of shops, restaurants, bars, and even a grocery store. We went ahead and did the scavenger hunt any way, we just all had to get a little more creative about how/where to complete the tasks.

 

We split up into four teams of three. I gave each team a bag with a pen and they’re scavenger hunt card and the option to either take a photo of the things for 1 point OR bring back the item for 3 points. We all had so much fun with it.  It was challenging, sometimes awkward, and funny as can be. By-standers got so excited about it too, coming up and asking us what we were doing and how they could help! It was a hit.

Go over scavenger hunt findings & Prizes

Afterwards we met back at her apartment and went over what we had found!  The pictures we comical!  One group went around the grocery store and asked for a sample of almost everything and the store agreed and gave it to them!!! One group made a lot of new friends and found a dog with an impressive mullet, and I somehow wound up taking a shot of Fireball with a lady at 11:30 in the morning… too much fun.

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Lunch at Apartment and Games

Afterwards we had lunch. One girl brought these croissant sandwiches from Costco… they were beyond amazing, and I now crave them all the time. If you have a party, I’d highly recommend them! Another girl planned out a game where she asked the groom-to-be 20 questions about Rachel and their relationship and she had to tell us the right answers, what she thought he might say, and then we revealed what he actually said. Man, this couple is meant to be because he was spot on for everything! It was great, simple, and provided a lot of heart felt laughs.

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Check into Hotel: Get ready, games, gifts

The hotel we were staying at, the Hyatt Place in Down Town Des Moines. It was beautiful. We got two double queen rooms with pullout couches that were next door to one another and they were perfect!!! We all freshened up and got ready for the rest of the evening and changed into our party clothes.

We “signed in” by signing a picture frame matt and kissing it to leave our lip-print. One of the girls made goodie bags for everyone that had lipstick (for the kissing frame) nail polish, band-aids, Advil, shout wipes, gum, a hair tie, and a Florapy facemask. AKA everything you could need to survive a bachelorette party out! We opened gifts and even played a “drop your panties” game where everyone anonymously brings a pair of new panties for the bride, and she has to guess who brought which ones—this game was not so easy, but still fun!

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Special Surprise

I wanted to do something special for the bride and have a surprise that she wouldn’t know about. Something to look forward to and of course something to hold over her head and make her guess a little bit. All week she was texting me begging that it wasn’t going to be a stripper but of course I had to tease her a little bit. The surprise however, was a photographer.

I hired a talented photographer friend of mine, Meursault Photography, to meet us down town Des Moines to meet us and take some cute, sorority-ish pictures of the whole group as well as individual shots with each girl and the bride. I knew it’d be great to have the photos for all the memories as well as content for everyone’s Instagram. Also, who doesn’t get excited about a photoshoot and being all dressed up, with a fun group of girls having their pictures taken. I brought a few fun props to try including some balloons but then really let the photographer go for it.

We lucked out and had the perfect window of no rain to get some great pictures (it was steamy and as humid as could be though.) It was also nice knowing we got some great pictures early on and could relax a little more the rest of the night and not worry about it!

IMG_8307-4I’m so thankful to Meursault Photography for capturing these moments and couldn’t be more impressed! If anyone needs photos for any event or even just because you’re in the mood to have your photo taken, I’d highly recommend (especially if your located in Des Moines OR Eastern Iowa.)

Dinner

For dinner we went to one of Rachel’s favorites, Malo. It’s a trendy Mexican restaurant close to the hotel and the bars. Mexican food was great because it’s a lot of carbs before drinking but also because some of us weren’t that hungry and just got a few street tacos. One thing to keep in mind when you have a large group is to definitely call and make a reservation a week or two in advance!  We also addressed the check situation when we made the reservation too. We knew everyone was going to want to be on a separate ticket, so we requested that ahead of time. That way the restaurant and wait staff were prepared. They had 2 people to handle our table of 20 and they automatically added in gratuity for us as well! They were amazing and did such a great job, and no one was un-happy because they got stuck picking up a 20-person tab only to have no one pay them back!

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Going Out

After dinner, it started raining! A lot of us were a mess, but since we already too photos we decided to go back to the hotel, take a moment and a few of us changed out of our cute shoes for more comfortable options (it was the best idea I ever made!)

We then headed to Hello Marjorie, craft cocktail lounge that is super trendy (because of this adorable sign) as well as the amazing atmosphere and delicious cocktails. It never hurts to start a long night out with a good-quality cocktail! From there, I didn’t really plan it out. I knew we’d head to the area of Court that’s lined with bars, but I didn’t want a strict plan (remember my itinerary comment.) We went where ever the night took us and as long as we had a good time! We stopped and got Fong’s pizza just before bar close and headed back to the hotel where we talked for a while and tried to recover. Then we all went to sleep, woke up, at free hotel breakfast and went on to our other weekend activities.

I think everyone would say it was just the right amount of everything. Everything was relatively affordable (nothing out of the realm of a normal dinner and night out) everything was pretty walkable, so we didn’t have to coordinate too many Ubers back and forth. Everyone got to go where they wanted!
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I had such a blast celebrating my friend and her engagement and upcoming wedding. I was so happy to be a part of it and so glad to see everything work out. I hope you were able to come up with some ideas of your own after reading this for whatever the next party is that you’re planning OR if you need help planning an upcoming party—let me know and I’d love to help!