Throwing a Surprise 50th Birthday Party

Last summer my momma turned 50.  Being the only girl of four, I knew it would be up to me to make sure she had an awesome celebration.  I didn’t mind though- I live for this stuff! Planning, baking, crafting, celebrating!  (Some of my favorite things.)  I had been thinking about a surprise party for her ever since she turned 49.  I knew I had a year to get it together- plan & execute a celebration that she would remember.

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Venue/ Date & Time

I started really planning in January, and her birthday was in July. My first order of business? Find a venue.  This was the hardest part.  My brothers agreed to split the cost of wherever we chose to have it, but I still found that having an event on a Saturday in the middle of summer made for extremely expensive venue costs.  I called around to everywhere local; hotels, halls, wineries- you name it.  Nothing was in the right price range. After feeling a little defeated, I was so tempted to say screw it and just have the party at my house.  But, I kept looking anyway, hoping the perfect place would present itself soon.

As an almost “last resort” I started looking into some of the local grange halls in the area.  I was super skeptical and almost dreading this at first because, let’s face it- those things are ugly.  And I really didn’t want an ugly place.  The only reason I even considered them was because I hoped they would be inexpensive- and they also come fully stocked with kitchens, tables and chairs.  The first one I called on ended up being a little overpriced still.  (I never did look inside it, but my hubby and I did a drive-by and it was not pretty.)  I kept looking at other grange halls- hoping to find something the teeniest bit attractive.  Lost cause?  Yeah, that’s what I was starting to think too…

That’s when I found the Chumstick Grange Hall, located in the Bavarian village of Leavenworth.  The perk of Leavenworth?  The buildings have to look Bavarian on the outside, to go with the theme of the town.  Do you know what that meant?  The grange hall was adorable!  After emailing with the lady who has the key, I found that it was also super affordable.  It was going to be around $200, split between four of us to have the place for the whole day!  And it had an upstairs and a downstairs level, with two kitchens!  Here’s what the place looked like, located downtown Leavenworth.

IMG_5194 copyCute, right?  And it had a wonderful view!

Okay, venue, check.  We also had to pick a date at this time, in order to book the venue. Although her birthday is July 14th, we chose to celebrate the week before so that family from California could join in on the festivities.  Added bonus, I knew she wouldn’t suspect a surprise party the week before her birthday:) We chose to have the party from 4-8, with my mom not arriving until between 4:30-5, so people had a half an hour to arrive and get ready to yell “Surprise!”

Invitations/ Guest List

With the venue and date decided, we could start working on the invitations and the guest list. My invite partner in crime was my lovely sister in law, Genia, aka the organized-super-perfectionist. I love working with her on projects because she get’s things done.  She is awesome.  I could not have pulled this off without her.  For the invitations, I wanted to DIY them because I enjoy that sort of thing. Also, I’m game anywhere I can save some $$$. I typed up a simple invite layout on Word, messing around with the spacing and fonts until I liked it. I found shimmery light gold card stock, and my sister printed them up at work (so we didn’t pay for ink, score!) and she cut them down to uniform squares using her paper cutter. I had found a booklet of pretty card stock with different designs, and using adhesive sticky tape, we were able to stick the invite squares to the pretty card stock. I had some pre-cut gold ribbon from a previous project that I used to tie a bow around the finished invitations to fancy them up a little.

We bought envelopes and pretty stickers to seal them with. My step dad and aunt helped me put together the guest list, and voila! The invites were addressed and sent!

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With the invites on their merry little way, it was time to hammer out the details.  Decor, menu, speech… I wanted the party to have some sort of a theme, other than just “50”. I ended up landing on “It’s a wonderful life.” It’s a feel-good movie she loves, plus- I thought a 50th birthday would be the perfect opportunity to showcase her wonderful life and how loved she is. Here’s some of my party inspiration:


The night before the party, my auntie Laura (my mom’s best friend) came to stay with me. Thank goodness, I needed her! She is a creative genius! I am so thankful I had her help throughout the whole thing. Another great thing? She was a surprise to my mom because she lives out of town. My mom had no idea she was going to get to see her best friend that weekend:) I was telling Laura, “She’s going to have this huge surprise party, but you are going to be her favorite surprise.” I know how it is- I have a bestie too:)


I snagged random things from the dollar tree such as frames, glass vases, etc. You never know what you can find there and use somewhere unexpectedly. I used a lot of things that I already had as well, like mason jars, jelly jars, baskets, candlesticks, tea lights, you name it- I brought it just in case ;) I found a lot of great printables which I printed and placed in frames. I also printed out a lot of pictures to have on display throughout the party- showcasing her wonderful life. I picked up a few packages of the blow party horns too, which the kids loved using.

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I loved displaying old pictures of her grandparents and parents! Something about those black and white photographs…

Tables and Flowers

We got flowers the morning of at Safeway, where I can usually find some good deals on fresh flowers. I picked up some coral and peach carnations and roses, baby’s breath, and yellow daisies. We cut them and stashed them in vases, arranging them ourselves. For the tables we used the flowers, jelly jars with tea lights, and framed pictures as centerpieces. My aunt had ordered white linens for the tables, which really kept the tables from looking tacky.

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My mom is the cutie in the middle ^

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Memory Wall

I really wanted an area where people could share a favorite memory with the birthday girl to display for everyone to read. I had a ton of twine at home, so I bought some clothespins from the dollar tree and used gold puff paint to spruce some of them up.

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I emailed some far away people, and they emailed me back some memories which I just printed out and displayed.

Cake Table

The cake table was my pride and joy. I made the cake from scratch, and I also made the cake stand and cake topper. My sister in law and aunt really did an amazing job at putting everything together to make such a beautiful cake table!

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A quick run down of the details for the cake table: The “It’s a Wonderful Life” banner was one of the first details I new I wanted to make a reality for the party. Genia made it happen. Seriously, without her it would’ve been a sloppy handwritten mess. She used Word to find the perfect font and typed up (I believe two letters per page) the sentence and printed it out onto the awesome shimmery gold card stock we had used for the invites. She cut the shapes uniformly with her paper cutter, and I hole punched them so we could string twine through. Ta da! I’m so happy with how it turned out!

I kept an extra invite and framed it to display so my mom could see what they looked like. The quote, “If you want to feel rich, just count all the gifts you have that money can’t buy” was a quote I found associated with “It’s a Wonderful Life” so I typed it up in Word and printed it on card stock. We did the same thing with “Fifty & Fabulous”. The motherhood quote was a printable I found. There are so many great free printables out there! Thank you to all those bloggers who share their craftiness!

The blue “curtains” are actually two blue tablecloths I picked up from the dollar tree, just in case we needed some color somewhere. Genia and Laura used them as curtains to frame the table, which was perfect! I never would’ve thought of that. I also brought the twinkly lights from home with no ideas for them, I just knew I wanted them somewhere. We picked up the white balloons when we got our flowers because what’s a birthday party without balloons?

And more importantly, what’s a birthday party without CAKE? (My personal favorite part of birthdays…) I made the cake myself from scratch for multiple reasons. I wanted to save money, I love to bake, and I wanted to get creative with the flavors. Yes, it is misshapen and not at all frosted well, but it was made with extra love! The top of the cake is butter cake with salted caramel butter cream frosting as the filling, and the bottom is funfetti cake with vanilla butter cream frosting as the filling. The whole cake was frosted with vanilla butter cream frosting. It was tasty.

For the cake topper, I ordered the numbers off of Amazon because none of my local craft stores had the right size. I bought blue glitter from the dollar tree and used glue to stick the glitter to the wooden numbers. Glitter. Got. Everywhere. I was seriously going to have a meltdown… My mind was racing. “I can’t use these… glitter will get all over the cake!” I was so bummed because every time I picked them up, more glitter would fall off. Then I thought of one last ditch effort to salvage them. Decoupage glue! I took a paint brush and covered the numbers with it. After it dried, I was thrilled to see that the glitter wasn’t going anywhere. Phew! I used a hot glue gun to glue the numbers to skewer sticks. It worked perfectly!

The cake stand was just a glass plate and candlestick that I purchased at the dollar tree. Genia helped me superglue them together, and it worked like a charm. The cake was not light, but the stand was sturdy enough. Such an easy DIY- thank you Pinterest!


The menu was a simple one. There were a couple things I knew I wanted to have, and then Genia and I just whipped up some other things we thought would be good. My mom had been raving about these roasted red pepper stuffed chicken breasts, so I thought they would be a great option for our meat menu item. Genia made her killer pasta salad, veggie cups, black bean and vegetable salad, mini quiches, and little sandwiches for the kiddos. I got a little creative and chopped up kalamata olives, feta, tomato, and onion, mixed it with some vinaigrette dressing and served with sliced cucumbers. (So good!) We also had crackers, a couple different types of cheese, hummus, chips, and chopped fruit. Genia brought a bunch of fruit snacks and snack mix for the kids too. (She thinks of everything.) I made chocolate chip cookies as another dessert item, aside from the cake. It was a delicious spread!

We used card stock folded to make labels for the different menu items.

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Mimosa Bar

My mom isn’t  a big drinker, but she loves mimosas- so I knew I had to have a mimosa bar at her party! We had champagne, pomegranate juice, orange juice, and V8 Tropical Splash with some raspberries and blueberries for garnishing.

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Party Time!

After a TON of preparation including decorating, cutting, taping, hanging, cooking, frosting, placing, arranging, REarranging… it was time to party!

We were all frantically adding the final touches when we got the text that the birthday girl would be arriving any minute. She was with some family that had flown in from California and said they wanted to “visit” Leavenworth, wink wink. We put up these fliers on the outside, so she would think there was craft fair inside the building.

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When she walked through the door, we all yelled surprise! She was SO SURPRISED! It was fabulous! And then there were tears…

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She was so happy and surprised to see her bestie!

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After she went around greeting and hugging everyone, it was time to eat. Everyone lined up, buffet style, and filled their plates. After eating, it was time for the toasts. I kicked it off with a sweet little speech I had written beforehand. I kept it light and simple, sharing a few laughs. We then, sang happy birthday, served the cake, and opened presents. I had put together a couple HUGE photo albums full of all the scattered pictures she had at home. She was so surprised! And it was nice for everyone to pass them around and look through them.

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The remainder of the party was carefree, with some good music, a little dancing, a performance from my nephew, and great conversation. In order to get ourselves out of the hall in a timely manner, everyone pitched in and we had that place back exactly how we found it in no more than fifteen minutes. Now that’s what I call teamwork.

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Overall, it was SUCH a successful surprise party! We still talk about how we pulled it off and how surprised she was. And now, here it is- July again, and almost my sweet mother’s birthday- again. She’s telling me her surprise birthday party was enough to last her ten more birthdays. But, we all know that if there’s a reason to celebrate- I will make sure it’s celebrated! :)


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