Like so many of you, we’ve now faced the “birthday in a pandemic” dilemma. My twins were turning 16 and all they wanted was a small party with friends. The girls and I planned their party together and came up with this boho picnic sweet 16 birthday party.
We had a couple of advantages on our side:
- Fortunately, our area allows small, outdoor gatherings.
- The end of February tends to warm up in Georgia.
- Our three guests (and my girls) are all good about mask wearing.
- And – this one will sound weird – 4 of the 5 have had mild cases of COVID, so none of the parents were very worried about transmission because of the antibodies.
Step 1: Find your venue
The first thing we needed to find was a venue special enough for a 16th birthday. Tip: follow local photographers on Instagram; they know all the best places! Barefeet Imagery took all these amazing photos and recommended Mayberry Acres, a photography and event venue.
Mayberry Acres was 100% perfect. They have 7 acres of photo sets – it’s like walking onto a Hollywood back lot, except in the woods of Canton, GA. They also have looooads of photo props. I sent them some inspiration photos and could not believe the three sets they created for us! They even built our low-to-ground picnic table and make it extra-long to allow for some social distancing.
Step 2: Pick your party style
The trick with my girls is always style: Baby A wanted pampas grass and disco balls. Baby B wanted blue transferware and Versailles-like touches. I defined our style as boho disco with touches of rose, blue and silver and – miraculously – everyone agreed!
Step 3: Pick a date and line up your vendors
If you need party help, you’ve got to make sure your vendors are available on your party date. I locked in the venue, photography, baker and florist ASAP. Paying for help was more important to me than usual because I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss a minute of this special party.
(Want to know how to decide when you need party help? Want tips on picking the perfect party day? Want to plan and manage your budget? Check out The Party Course.)
Step 4: Shop
We needed floor pillows and throws, picnic baskets, napkins, basket liners, silverware, disco cups, disco balls, candlesticks and candles, table linens and dessert dishes. I found pillows, the rose napkins and silver candlesticks on Facebook Marketplace, then filled in with extra pillows and throws from Tuesday Morning and Amazon. I tried to keep the pillows and throws to $10 each. (Opt for two pillows and one throw per person.)
Mismatched vintage silverware and dessert dishes, plus the blue and white napkins all came from Etsy sellers (linked below). If you are re-creating this party, you could certainly skip the vintage silverware; that was a splurge, but I also knew I’d use it again and again.
It was a lot to transport, and fortunately, Mayberry Acres invited me to bring as much as I could the day before. (Tip: pack everything by location/use in large plastic totes, being sure to label the totes. I’ve got a whole lesson on “away from home” parties in The Party Course.)
Step 5: Craft
I wanted to frame out the barn doors in front of our picnic area, so I made extra-long versions of my ribbon buntings into curtains. Mayberry Acres installed them for me: hooray for not having to climb a ladder!
We also tried to make some faux flower swags, but couldn’t get happy with the results. And if you follow me on Instagram, you already know about the multiple pinata failures. Which leads us to…
Step 5: Dodge the curveballs!
If you are trying a party craft for the first time, give yourself some runway in case the project doesn’t turn out and you need to go to plan B. Our plan B was Joann’s for pre-made floral swags and a local pinata shop for a disco ball pinata.
Once you receive all your dining table elements, set up a test table. When we did that, everything fit as expected, but… I realized I’d misunderstood the table linens listing and needed to re-order a different size. Thank goodness we figured that out before party day!
STEP 6: CHOOSE A menu
I made grazing boxes for the first time, which was easy and fun, if you’ve never tried it. I’ll do a separate post with tips, but basically, we served an assortment of meats, cheeses, crackers, nuts and fruits. We had water in our disco ball cups and bottled rose lemonade (pretty much just because it was pretty).
step 7: style your Dessert Table
Since our guest list was small, we kept the dessert table small with cake, chocolate covered strawberries and “grocery store brownie bites” – Baby B’s request. That was more than enough for our little group.
The cake was a semi-naked cake, vanilla with buttercream frosting.
We chose sparkler numbers to avoid blowing out candles (and maybe spreading germs).
STEP 8: PLAN YOUR ACTIVITIES
Pose for photos: Our main activity was letting the girls pose for Barefeet Imagery. You know they just want to look cute for Instagram! We took a LOT of photos.
Tip: 100% try balloon delivery from Party City! Stuffing giant balloons in your car is a pain. Also, we inflated the confetti balloons on-site with helium tanks and it was TOUGH to tie those suckers. Just leave balloons to the pros. It’s so worth the delivery fee. To dress up the balloons a little, I added silver satin ribbon tails.
Painted rock hunt: We have a thing in our town – maybe you do, too – where you paint and hide rocks with little messages. You can find them on the walking trails and pretty much all over. So, I painted a bunch of rocks with “16” and hid them Easter egg hunt style. The girls had a blast finding rocks, except maybe Molly who only found one! But she named him Uno Bruno, and now he’s living the good life as a pet rock, so all was well.
Baby B dramatically overbought pinata candy, so we gave handfuls out as rock-hunting prizes: least amount of rocks, smallest rock, darkest rock, lightest rock, largest rock, most rocks – basically whatever category I could think up.
Pinata and corn hole: We also played corn hole because the girls love it. Beating up a pinata is apparently is age-less.
STEP 9: CHOOSE Party Favors
Having a small group let me spend a little more on individual favors. We bought an assortment of candy at Sprouts, then packaged it in clear pillow boxes. And the girls picked a friendship ring for each girl from enewton. All the favors were given in little wood baskets tied with a rose ribbon.
MORE pandemic party ideas
If an in-person party is not for you, here are some other pandemic party ideas:
- Virtual party – Try an actual backdrop instead of a virtual one for your Zoom call party. Send out electronic invites via evite, Paperless Post or Minted. Before the party, deliver “party kits” with a cupcake and activity.
- Drive-by party – Birthday parades from the beginning of the pandemic have been upgraded to drive by parties with outdoor sets, party favors and cupcakes for guest who cruise by and (optionally) drop off gifts.
- Yard cards – If you don’t want to build (or hire) a set for your drive-by party or birthday parade, opt for yard cards. These are a great option even for “just the family” parties. Have the yard cards delivered and set up before the birthday child wakes up in the morning. Then, get your photo ops.
- Drop-in party – If you’re hosting a baby or bridal shower, and still want a little guest interaction, try an outdoor drop-in party. Just like a holiday open house, but a smaller guest list and shorter visits.
What’s your next party plan? I’d love to hear what you’re working on in the comments.
- Party styling: The Party Teacher
- Photography: Barefeet Imagry
- Location: Mayberry Acres
- Flowers: The Woodstock Flower Truck
- Cake and chocolate strawberries: Sweet Little Something Bakery
- Pinata: The Pinata Factory Atlanta
- Rose Napkins: Hand & Hearth, Target
- Blue/white Napkins: Fabulously Handmade on Etsy
- Vintage plates: Seaside Creations on Etsy and On Madelyn Avenue on Etsy
- Picnic baskets: Lucky Clover Trading
- Water hyacinth placemats: Amazon
- Vintage silverware: Bee Haven Home on Etsy
- Disco ball cups: Koyal Wholesale via Walmart
- Rose lemonade: World Market
- Rose chiffon table runner: Amazon
- Silver sequin table runner: Amazon
- Pillows and throws: Tuesday Morning and Amazon
- 34″ foil 16 balloons: Party City
- Favor baskets: Hobby Lobby
- Rose chiffon ribbon: Amazon