On Friday April 17th 2015 I woke up with an idea. Why not hold a surprise party for my husband’s 50th birthday? What a fantastic idea! Why hadn’t I thought of it before? Good question. The fact of the matter is, surprise birthday parties aren’t exactly my husband’s thing. To be honest Aaron doesn’t do surprise anything. Now I’m not saying my beloved is boring or he’s not spontaneous, but he doesn’t like to leave anything to chance. He likes things to be done properly with no loose ends. But this birthday is different. This is his 50th birthday and quite a milestone as far as Aaron is concerned. In my eyes he is still the athletic, good looking guy I married over 20 years ago, but lately Aaron has been looking in the mirror at his gray hairs and his slightly increased waistline, secretly wishing he could turn back the clock.
Wouldn’t we all like to turn back the clock! Most of his friends are fifty or well into their fifties and seem to be doing ok. So when I woke up on that Friday morning with thoughts of a surprise 50th birthday party for Aaron, I knew he would love the idea of celebrating his birthday rather than shoving it under the carpet. He is not a shove under the carpet guy.
So where do you start to plan a surprise party? Now the word surprise implies a few things. A. Aaron mustn’t know about it. B. Some other people will need to know about it….and C. I can’t keep a secret. Oh dear. I would always have to tell my Mom or my sister what I had bought them for Christmas, I would blurt out the news to my friends if any one of us was pregnant etc. I know it’s a terrible failing on my part but it’s just the way it is. So how was I going to keep this one a secret eh?
Aaron leaves for work and I have managed not to tell him of my idea to organise a secret party for him. You have to remember this is already a challenge for me. Then I start phoning the wives of his friends and my girlfriends telling them of my great idea and swearing them to secrecy. Bearing in mind I am the person most likely to spill the beans. The next thing I decide on is to make a list. A “to do” list. Isn’t that the way all good projects start? Oh yes, I had already decided this is a project. Aaron’s surprise 50th birthday party project. Bit of a mouthful. There must be an acronym to make things easier. ASBPP. AFBPP, ASP??? So I settled on ASP Aaron’s surprise party. So, project ASP it was.
The next thing I did was give myself a shock. I checked the calendar and I had only 6 weeks to organise it. Aaron’s birthday falls on Thursday May 28th so I would organise ASP for Saturday May 30th. From then on in my days were spent plotting and planning project ASP. So let’s get started.
Right, who do I invite? Family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues? Wow this is a pretty long list already. So, I worked on the list and it totalled around 70 people. How would I let everyone know? Bearing in mind I had to keep the invitations and the replies or responses secret. I decided on email. I created a really cute invitation online. This meant everyone could email me their response and Aaron wouldn’t see cards flipping into the mailbox or I wouldn’t have to answer phone calls from long lost friends or relatives and arouse his suspicions. Ok, so I could tick invitations off the list. But then I started to remember other people and the list got longer. But eventually I called a halt and all the invitations were sent by email. I was very clear on the invitation that it had to be kept secret from my husband. The replies soon started coming back. Some people were flying in, some were driving, some were coming from overseas. All wanted and needed accommodation for one, two or three nights. Some asked if I would organise the accommodation for them. Well of course I would. Well I would if I could. How much would they want to pay? How would they get from the hotel to the party venue? WHAT PARTY VENUE??? I hadn’t even thought about the venue.
I just assumed it would be our backyard with a small tent or something like that. Now my mind started thinking about something a bit more special or something with a theme. Aaron adores F1, so maybe we could have a motor racing theme. He adores carnival so maybe we could have a carnival theme. STOP STOP STOP!! Take a deep breath and go back to the beginning. So I sat down with the guest list and started planning accommodation and transport from hotels, motels and from guest’s houses to our house. Then I had guests who asked me to book flights for them. Plus there was a big game the same weekend so accommodation came at a premium. Anyhow eventually I started to make my way through the list of guests and I moved onto my next big item for project ASP.
The venue. We have a pretty big backyard. All the neighbours were invited so I had no worries we would disturb anyone. We needed a tent. Or a canopy. But what size? Who supplies tents? So I scoured the internet for a tent supplier who would erect and dismantle a tent. So I phoned a wedding canopy and tent supplier in Santa Barbara and entered the world of tents and tent accessories. There are pop ups, market tents, panorama tents, tents with windows, side walls and solid walls. You can have draping and leg drapes; for lighting you can have a globe chandelier, a brass bulb chandelier, perimeter lighting, string lighting…the list goes on. I decided on a 30’ x 40’ tent with draping and leg drapes with string lighting. Plus tables and chairs for 75 people with drapes and table furnishings. When could they deliver and erect it?
How can you keep a darn great tent in your backyard a secret? Big flaw in my master plan. Aaron would have to go out for the day. I would ask one of his friends to come up with something and take him as far from home as possible for several hours while the party was taking shape. Right then, guests arriving and a tent in the back yard. So far so good.
Next big item for project ASP. The small question of budget. So I did some sums and justified everything I spent by comparing how much I would have spent if I had chose an outside venue. If I had an hotel venue with guests staying at the hotel and booking a party room, with catering and drinks it would have far exceeded my spend. I looked at various venues in Santa Barbara. Some of my guests were booked in at the Simpson House Inn and Hotel Indigo. Both of them had fabulous banqueting and party facilities but were fully booked. I also considered the Cabrillo Pavilion and the fab Eos lounge.
Both terrific venues but for this occasion both fully booked and over my budget. Maybe I would consider the Eos lounge for my next venture. Perhaps a weekend away for Aaron and me. So in fact I was actually saving money by having the party in our backyard. This was a big day for Aaron so I wasn’t too worried about cost, I mean I didn’t want to cut corners. I just didn’t want to spend way too much on the venue when I already had a readymade one in my backyard. I mean It was fairly straightforward wasn’t it? Just a small get together in a tent in the back yard.
Food. How do you feed 70 plus people. Probably two or even three times in the course of a day. On paper I tried to upscale a buffet that I had done for a dozen people and the quantities become frightening. This is when I decided to call in the experts.
Again I trawled the internet and finally decided on two. The first was Mai’s Aloha Café. Now Mai’s Aloha’s specialise in Hawaiian and Vietnamese cuisine. This was when I had my second brainwave. Why not make this a Hawaiian themed party!! Everyone could come in Hawaiian shirts and enjoy Mai’s kahlua pork. Plus I decided to take Aaron on a surprise trip to Hawaii after the party was all over. Mai’s Aloha would be the afternoon meal and then for the evening I hired in a taco bar with a margarita machine. A chef cooked the tacos at the taco bar and it was so much fun. Plus there was margarita on tap!!! All the food tasted and smelt fantastic. That kahlua pork was divine.
The tent looked really pretty lit up at night. I bought in flowers for the tables and I hired china and cutlery and glasses. I also hired a popcorn cart. A good friend of Aaron bought all the beers and liquor at Costco and I had plenty of willing hands to help.
The list of things to do was getting longer and longer. Music. Do I hire a DJ? Of course I do. I hired two guys named Steve and Mike. And they really rocked! They played a huge selection of music for all ages. We had such great fun.
I wanted a really special cake. Something about Aaron. So it had to be an F1 car!! I contacted Foxy Cakes and they were fabulous. A met up with a guy from the bakery and he drew out the design for the car shape and told me all about the ingredients. Only the best. Organic flour, free range eggs and the freshest lemons etc etc. The cake was one of the highlights of the day it was truly spectacular.