Planning a milestone birthday celebration, anniversary or renewing wedding vows can be a daunting task – especially if you still believe the coolest parties include a limbo pole, strip twister, or a spirited round of Pass Out.
I don't know about you, but just conjuring the image of a gaggle of baby boomers contorted across a twister mat in varying stages of undress is enough to make me pass out before I've downed a single shot! How low can you go, indeed.
There's no denying we veterans of the Age of Aquarius still love to party, but there are more updated, and dare I say, age-appropriate ways to have fun and still maintain our dignity – and, well, survive to post the photos on Facebook.
I met recently with San Ramon based events planner, Darlene Laspina of Events by Wallace, who, along with sister, Bonny Wallace, has been organizing both corporate and private events for nearly 25 years.
Laspina has observed an increase in popularity of class reunions in the last few years.
"Reunions are often planned on shoestring budgets because the sites tend to be expensive," says Laspina.
Guests typically prefer to move around and socialize at these events. Activities such as gambling tables, a cigar bar set up outside with a bottle of brandy for the guys, or a candy table where folks can nibble while they catch up on old times can keep a reunion event entertaining and fun, and still stay within budget constraints.
When working with a small budget, it's important to prioritize expenses to ensure a memorable event.
"Your biggest expense is always going to be food and beverage," Laspina points out, "and that's probably the last place you want to cut, because that's what people will come away remembering."
One creative way to keep food costs manageable is to set up theme stations around the room. A station featuring Asian cuisine, and another with traditional Mexican dishes give guests the opportunity to sample a variety foods. More staff is sometimes needed to manage the stations, but this arrangement encourages guests to mingle, while still getting plenty to eat.
For a smaller event – an anniversary, or renewing vows – consider a Mexican Fiesta theme, and serve more economical chicken, instead of beef.
A recent event coordinated by Events by Wallace featured food from Los Panchos Restaurants, with locations in San Ramon and Danville. "Their prices are competitive, and the food is delicious," said Laspina.
Another idea for a unique food station is a potato bar, offering mashed potatoes served in martini glasses, with different types of toppings for guests to add, such as Italian sausage and exotic seasonings.
The same goes for beverages. If you limit the bar to beer, wine and soda, you can save a substantial amount. Or you might offer a signature drink for your guests. Margaratini anyone?
Finding just the right location for your special day is key to making the event one friends and family will remember for years to come. For a simple, yet elegant venue, Laspina recommends looking in your own backyard, literally.
"I don't think there's anything lovelier than using your own garden," says the veteran event planner. "Put money into sprucing up your yard, rather than spending it on a facility."
The Tri-Valley is a gold mine of incomparable venues for special events.
"We're so lucky here with all the wineries, as well as other sites, including the Black Hawk Museum, and our country clubs, Crow Canyon, Canyon Lakes, The Bridges Golf Club," Laspina said. "Even the community centers are beautiful."
San Ramon boasts two exceptional community centers – Station Community Center on Bollinger Canyon Road, and on Alcosta Boulevard.
If your tastes lean toward a vintage, bygone days atmosphere, Forest Home Farms Historical Park is now available to book both indoor and outdoor events.
Who doesn't love a theme party?
"Casino night works for all age groups," said Laspina, "from just a couple of tables to staging an extravagant Monte Carlo setting."
Don't forget to theme your food and your entertainment, reminds Laspina.
A recent event she coordinated with a Caribbean theme included a steel drum band, and traditional games, such as limbo. Tables with brightly colored tablecloths sheltered by umbrellas completed the look.
"We served teriyaki chicken kebabs, and blue corn chips with peach salsa," Laspina added.
Wait? Did she say limbo?!
A final word on theme parties is to remember, the best ones are staged around a theme that guests can easily identify with the honoree, or one that has special meaning to him or her.
Now that you're armed with these fresh, creative ideas for planning your special event, maybe that next "Big 0" birthday will be something to look forward to instead of a day to dread. At least it's guaranteed to be a lot more fun!