11 August 2015

Sadness-Themed Goodbye Party

When you need a party planner, just call Rachel. I can make an epic party out of any situation--or at least I'll try.

This month, the family here is shrinking considerably since we are saying goodbye to 3 of my siblings, as well as my cousin, as they head back to the USA to start or continue their university education.

Goodbyes suck. There's no getting around it. Goodbye parties--when you really don't want the people to leave in the first place--are not the most fun kind of parties to plan or to attend. I'd pick a birthday party or a summer party or a New Year's Eve party or a I-just-bought-a-fridge party over a goodbye party, any day.

But someone's got to plan the goodbye party.

We decided early on in the planning that the theme of the party would be sadness.

This theme is most clearly shown in the repeating blue sad face motif of our centerpieces:

Yes, we are goofballs.

I put together a little table with cute notebooks for people to write messages to the college-bound students. We put out both pens and crayons for people to write with, and this table was a popular place throughout the evening. There were nearly always people sitting down writing--and all the kids liked drawing pictures with crayons. {Shiloh told me that the picture she drew in Lizzy's book depicted my grandfather, my father, me, and her, as a baby.} There were also pictures of all the grads for people to take and keep as mementos. Except there were no pictures of Isaac. Apparently photos of my brother don't really exist.

We counted about 180 attendees at this party, and, just for the record, the food was prepared entirely at my parents' home, by my family plus a few friends helping out, in a tiny kitchen with a 2-burner gas stove. We kept food cold using the "room refrigerator" method: Turning on the air-con in Mom and Dad's bedroom and shutting the door, storing trays and containers of food all over the bed. Keeping food hot is easy, here. When it's 90 degrees--even hotter in a kitchen when the stove is on--food doesn't really cool down on its own.

This means that you too could self-cater a party for 180 people if you had access to 10 willing kitchen helpers and 2 burners and a bedroom with air-con. Early in the morning on the day of the party I was sitting on the living room floor, watching Once Upon a Time, using the big cutting board and the extra-sharp ceramic knife to chop a bazillion tomatoes for homemade salsa while my brother complained about slicing beans (angled slicing is a much slower process than bean-snapping) at the dining table. It was great fun.

The party's menu:

Chicken curry
Lemongrass chicken
Fried chicken
Spicy green beans w/carrots
Spinach cooked in coconut milk
Deviled eggs
7-layer salad
Marshmallow salad
Watermelon tray
Papaya tray
Beef roast with gravy
Mashed potatoes
Beef Tacos with all the fixings (including my own pico de gallo)
Chocolate chip cookies

Even the marshmallow salad was sad!

There was so much food! The hot items, like the curry and lemongrass chicken, were actually made in huge vats, so we had enough to refill the trays several times over! By the end of the night, we had absolutely NO leftovers. The small amount that wasn't actually eaten was taken home by guests for further snacking. Safe to say, our friends know how to appreciate a good meal!

When it came to making this goodbye party fun, we decided to add a simple photobooth (okay fine we taped paper chains to the wall and put a few props, including a sparkly sad face, in a basket). The paper chain background and dress-up props were especially popular with all the little girls who came to the party--and at the end of the night, the little ones asked to take the chains home, so our decor went on to serve a second purpose!

The newlyweds!

But the highlight of the evening was the dancing.

Anna specifically requested that we swing dance at her goodbye party, so ahead of time, we prepared by collecting some upbeat swing songs as well as a bunch of line dances that either I already knew, or had the instructions in the song so that we could follow along (i.e. Chacha Slide or the Cupid Shuffle). Now, it should be noted that among our community, dancing as a group is not a super common activity. Most people would find dancing with a partner a little awkward, and would probably feel self conscious in a line dance, as well. But we also knew that there would be a lot of kids and teens at this party, and I'm not self-conscious at all about getting out there on the dance floor and teaching the electric slide while nearly everyone I've ever met in this town stares at me--so we knew it would work out fine.

In the end, probably about 30 of the guests ended up on the dance floor at some point during the night, while everyone else watched us and were entertained by our exuberance. The youngest one out there was little almost-2 year old Joshua, and the oldest one, and the only "real adult" to brave dancing in public, was my dad. Hurray, Dad! I don't have any pictures of the dancing to show you because, as I mentioned, I was the dance teacher and also the photographer this evening. I couldn't handle both jobs at once. :)

It was such fun! A lot of the teens danced for about two hours without hardly taking a break for a single song. Sometimes the little ones got too tired to dance, but still wanted to be a part of the fun, so they asked to be carried. I was line dancing with a 4 year old on my hip at more than one point in the night.

Basically, if it were possible for a goodbye party to be awesome, this one was. It was nearly as epic as the kids we were saying goodbye too, but not quite. I miss 'em already.
Laura Darling said...

Aw, goodbyes are the WORST but I do love your sadness theme! So clever and appropriate! :) The green and blue paper chains are awesome. I'm going to have to make them for the next party I host!

The Peculiar Treasure said...

Your sadness decor is so stinkin' cute! I definitely think that next time someone is leaving, I am going to do that. It's adorable!
I'm sorry you had to say goodbye, but I am so glad you had the time you did with them.

Anonymous said...

Awwww, I hate to say it, but what an adorable theme for a good-bye party! Like...sadness but in a cute way.

Julia said...

Such a cute party, even if it was a somewhat sad one! All of the food looks so good!

Miss Angie said...

Hahaha, that is cute for being sad! I love that even the fruit salad is frowning. lol

Bekah Loves Blog said...

That is fabulous! Way to incorporate honesty in a fun way. Oh, those cupcakes...

Adriana Renee said...

Haha, I love this! Such a creative idea for a goodbye party!

Becky Ginther said...

Aww! You know what would be cute? If you've seen Inside Out, there is a character that is Sadness. She would work very well in a party like this.

Unknown said...

what a cute and fun idea for a going away party!!

Stop by and chat :)

ilona said...

Such a cool party:) Very creative!

Kezzie said...

You are brilliant Rachel! That party, despite the sad reason for its inception is utterly genius! It sounds so fun, the food looks truly amazing (that currrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry, swoon!) and I love the photobooth idea with the chains!x

Lisa said...

Very cute party idea! Love the cupcakes.

Kayla Christina said...

OMG I'm dying right now lol! Those cupcakes are the cutest!!! LOL super creative idea, but I love all of it! Totally made my day! xoxox, Kayla

Ali Hval said...

Hahahaha, oh my gosh, you really are the most fun event planner ever! You know how to make a memorable event out of anything! I adore how much you put into it, really. Sounds incredible that you got so many people out on the dance floor--I bet it was a hoot, even if it was for a sad reason.

Midnight Cowgirl said...

I don't like goodbye parties, either, but it sounds like you were able to make this one a lot of fun! I love a party with lots of food and dancing, and the room refrigerator method is genius :)

Lauren {at} Life.Love.Lauren said...

This is adorable!

Jennifer Prod said...

what a fun post! i'm gonna have to remember this for the next time i'm charged with throwing a goodbye party for someone i love :)

Brita Long said...

I love this theme for a good-bye party! You're so creative. :)

I'm majorly impressed by how much your family and friends managed to cook. Wow! That takes major coordination and dedication.