Hosting my Grandmother’s 80th Birthday


Several months ago, my mom and I sat down to brainstorm ideas for my Grandmother’s 80th birthday. Our initial ideas were grand: a four course meal and a string quartet. But as the weeks progressed and our ideas receive feedback from our financial backer (Dad) and the guest of honor (Grandma), we decided to tone down the party. It would be a simple cocktail party with heavy hor d’oruvres and lots of friends and family.

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Let’s start by taking about this amazing invitation. A link on Pinterest led me to Tiny Prints, a custom card and invitation website owned by Shutterfly. Though I initially thought this template was rather plain, I was amazed at how well it complimented the picture. This is my grandmother’s engagement portrait. (Isn’t she stunning!) The template added a cool filter, which helped make the white text stand out. Unlike some templates, this invitation left plenty of room for all of the information we wanted to include. (And it was Mom who came up with the wording, “Please no gifts – only many good wishes.” I thought it was pretty clever!)

Fifty of Grandma’s dearest friends and family were able to make it. The party took place at the retirement community Grandma lives at in its grand ballroom (which was great because the room itself was already well decorated and beautiful).


We coordinated with the staff beforehand, and they had the entire room set up when we arrived. All we had to do was set up the finishing touches. The facility even had its only helium tank, making it easy (and cheap) to have lots and lots of balloons. Despite it being a cocktail party, we had enough chairs for everyone to set down. My parents hired a piano player, and as you can see below, a few couples danced (so precious!).


For the table decoration, we used 14-inch-wide burlap table runners at each table. Though the runners looked incredibly long when we pulled them out the box, they ended up being perfect length for the tables – only skimming the floor on either side. Each table also had three to four gold, mercury glass votives. (I purchased sets from Z Gallerie.) We weren’t allowed to use real candles, but the fake candles we purchased worked just fine.

We knew we wanted to have a florist help with the flowers, but to avoid a crazy cost, we decided to purchase only four centerpieces. My mom said she met with the florist for 45 minutes, and the woman created arrangements that were even more beautiful than we imagined. We wanted to color scheme to be white, deep reds, dark greens and purple with touches of yellow. And she did beyond an amazing job. (The picture below fails to display the head of kale she included in each arrangement.) Again, simply stunning!


For the other tables, we filled them with pictures. I found these cheap white frames at Walmart. (Though, disclaimer, the stands that held the frames up easily fell down when someone picked them up. It probably would have been worth spending a little more to avoid this annoyance.)

Along with pictures, I also included frames with a beloved Bible verses. The one pictured below is one of my favorites.


To help fill in spots, I foraged around the retirement community for lots of rosemary, holly and other interesting foliage. Using jars I brought from home, I made arrangements for the tables without flowers. And on a spare table where we set the guest book and party favors (some delicious candied pecans), I placed large vases full of holly.

These arrangements were the perfect touch to complete those “empty” spots.


Using Shutterfly, we created a photo book as our guestbook. Each page had a picture of Grandma with plenty of white space for people to sign. We knew that people wouldn’t fill all 20 pages, but we figured Grandma could place cards or pictures from the night in it.

The best detail of the night was a collection of photos my sister-in-law sent of my nephew. I have distinct memories of doing this as a kid – holding up each letter and then Mom mounting them to a board. The fact is – pictures of a 2-year-old will always be a crowd pleaser!


Finally, what is a birthday without cake? Mom purchased the cake from Pat-A-Cakes in Columbus, GA. The details on the flowers were spectatcuar, and it tasted even better than it looked. For a sweet touch, I made gingerbread cookies – using a B-shaped cookie cutter – to help tie in the holidays. These cookies are always a crowd pleaser.


Overall, this party was a blast! It was an honor to be able to do something special for someone who means so much to me and many others. My grandmother is the kindest, most generous and supportive person I know. In her career as a nurse and still today, she spends countless hours selflessly helping so many people. And in her spare time, she can whip up the most spectacular sewing projects you have ever seen! From making clothes for my American Girl doll to teaching me how to set up my sewing machine, she has always encouraged my creative side. Plus, she’s the most avid reader on this blog. I know she’ll be reading this soon, so Grandma: Happy Birthday. I love you!


6 comments on “Hosting my Grandmother’s 80th Birthday

  1. Barbara Waller says:

    Thank you Sarah. You are my inspiration! It was a beautiful evening with such wonderful memories that will always be with me. Love you back, G-ma

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Beth says:

    Oh this is so lovely! You thought of everything! Lucky Grandma 🙂

  3. Barbara Waller says:

    A blow by blow description!

    Sent from my iPhone


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