On Sunday, the Vice President of Packaging, Shipping and Special Projects and I took the girls to a roller skating party. (Hint: ear plugs.) Of course, the kids adored the activity, the birthday girl got to invite 20 kids, and the hosts didn’t have to risk all those kids in their house. So it was a win-win in many ways.

But how can you make a commercial party space special?

It’s a question I get pretty frequently and it’s a steep challenge. The best I’ve ever seen it done is from Anders Ruff, and so I’m thrilled to welcome Maureen Anders to the blog today for a special interview!


If you don’t know Anders Ruff, Maureen and Adria are printables designers with an incredible flair for party styling. I’m crushing. Find their blog here and their printables shop here.

Maureen’s son wanted a bowling party, and so they naturally hosted it at a local bowling alley. That’s the kind of space that (a) probably has a strong visual identity and (b) is probably high on the garish scale. So how do you put your own stamp on a bowling alley, or bounce house, or gymnastics facility? I turned to Maureen for expert answers!

Jennifer: Other than printables (obviously!) what are your best tips for personalizing a commercial space?

Maureen: Fabric is a great way to “cover up” areas that might not be the most appealing and also to tie into your color scheme and theme.  We used fabric backdrops for our dessert table and favor table to be the focal point. (Jennifer here: Those giant balloons didn’t hurt, either!)

Printables definitely help decorate the space such as chair backs, etc. (Jennifer again: Maureen even added banners to the ball return!)


J: Did you have any restrictions to work around, like limited time for set up and take down? How did you work within the constraints?

M: We spoke with the manager several weeks in advance and asked to come into the space 4 hours early.  We found out a less busy time (which ended up being Friday afternoon versus Saturday morning) so that it was less chaotic and so we weren’t in the way while we set up.


J: Can you describe how you created your two-sided backdrop?

M: Our backdrop was a fabric covered board. We were lucky that the table was lower than the bar table so we could lean it up against that to create the two-sided backdrop.  We were able to put it on the walls if we wanted, but there weren’t any good areas to do so.


(Jennifer here: Whenever you are hosting a party away from home, visit early, take lots of measurements and photos to help you plan. You want to have your plan in place so when you arrive for party set-up, you can hit the ground running. More on that tomorrow!)

J: How did you divide activity time versus snacking and gift opening (if you opened gifts at the party)?

M: We really limited the amount of activities that the children did at the bowling party and left it to bowling and snacking 😉  I sent the kids home with the printable coloring book activity, so that was something they could do at home after the party.

The children got changed into their personalized shirts when they arrived and bowled for 1 hour, and ate cake and goodies for 30 minutes, as well as opened gifts towards the end. Some of our guests had to leave because of the small children getting tired, but most stayed to watch Pierson open gifts.


J: I see you used a professional photographer, but do you have any tips for taking good photos in poor lighting conditions?

M: I try to not use a flash when taking photos, but if you have poor lighting, I’d suggest getting a low light lens for your DSLR camera. Post processing tools such as Photoshop can also help brighten photos if they are dark at first.

J: Did you have your own tablecloths made?

M: The tablecloths were simply long pieces of fabric that I sewed together to make the table cloths.  Don’t look too close! The edges were raw on the ends but no one noticed and sometimes you just have to make do with what you have 😉 (Jennifer here: I’m impressed with any level of sewing ability since I have none.)

J: Did your location have restrictions on bringing in your own food versus buying through them?

M: It always helps to discuss the situation with the management. My son has a dairy allergy so that helped because I needed to be sure some things didn’t have milk. We were told we couldn’t bring the “main food” in but desserts were okay (cake, cookies, etc.). We had a few little snacks such as popcorn, but the manager was okay because of the promotion we were doing for the bowling alley.


So many people walked by and were asking tons of questions about what I did, how I created everything and they all got excited about the possibility of doing a coordinated themed party at a place like the bowling alley. I think the bowling alley will definitely get more birthday party interest 😉

Jennifer here: Thank you so much, Maureen, for taking the time to do our little interview!! To see all the bowling party photos, visit Anders Ruff. You can find their bowling party printables in girl and boy colorways in their shop.

Vendor Credits

– Party Production and Styling: Anders Ruff
– Printables: Anders Ruff’s Shop
– Photography: Becca Bond Photography

– Cake: Got What It Cakes
– Cake Pops: Pop-A-Razzi
– Candy: Oh!Nuts
– Fondant Cupcake Toppers: Two Sugar Babies
– Lollipops: Vintage Confections
– Sugar Cookies: JP Creatibles

Fashion & Decor:
– T Shirts: Made By Morgan
– Shirt Name Tags & Team Logos: Anders Ruff
– Gumball Pipettes, Ice Cream Cups, Balloons: Polka Dot Market
– Drink Bottles, Favor Bags, Straws & Vending Capsules: Shop Sweet Lulu
– Gable Boxes, Tissue Paper and Cello Bags: Nashville Wraps

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Get the 12 worksheets I use to plan all my parties!

Plus, you'll get all the latest blog posts from The Party Teacher.

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