Friday, 25 October 2013

Halloween Parties!

It's just a week to go until my favourite time of the year.. HALLOWEEN! Hooray! I've started to plan this year's costume, albeit far, far, far later than I usually do. I've normally got it all finished weeks before Halloween but, this year, I said I wouldn't do a party. This is for a number of reasons:
  1. The wedding maxed out my event-planning energies (boy did it, I'm still exhausted!)
  2. New job/big pay cut this year means my usual £150-£200 party budget just isn't there
  3. Much, much smaller flat means we just don't have the space for more than 6-8 people to stand in our living room, let alone sit or move around in it.
  4. In recent years, guest numbers dropped, comments were made and I started to feel as though people were finding it a chore to attend rather than something fun.
So, I said, no party this year.

But, I said, that doesn't mean we can't have FUN! :D

So we have a couple of things planned, an outing on Friday 1st November to the very exciting Copperdollar: The Back of Beyond at The Old Market in Hove, a trip down to the Latin Voices Live! Day of the Dead Festival at the Brighton Dome on Saturday 2nd November and some close friends are coming round in the evening for a small, relaxed get-together with food, drinks and games. 

This will be the first Halloween in 7 years where I haven't hosted an official 'Halloween party', so I thought I'd do a little series of posts reflecting on previous parties.

Starting with my very first party in 2007:

We had just moved to Brighton the year before, I was in my second year of Uni and we were living in our damp little submarine of a flat in the North Laines. It was chock a block full of stuff, with no real seating and so wasn't really set up for a party. I invited a group of friends, and then they brought friends and before you knew it we had 16 people crammed into our little studio! I was just starting to build up my collection of decorations, so they were randomly scattered about the place with no real theme.

'Movie Madness' 2008:

This party was quite a learning experience for me, to put it mildly! We were still living in the studio, so I thought it would be a good idea to hold the party in a different venue. A local pub had a good sized and reasonably priced function room, so we booked the room and I set to work inviting people. The bigger venue meant we could have more guests, resulting in the biggest Halloween party I've held to date.. I think we had just over 25 people. We had a 'Movie characters' theme for the costumes. The problems with having it at a separate venue, however, were that we couldn't get into the room until a mere 3 hours before the party was due to start. This, as it turns out, isn't enough time to set up all the decorations. We also had to lug all of the decorations to the venue and then home again that very night. The biggest problem we faced were gatecrashers, as there was no real security set up to stop people just wandering in and quite frankly they ruined the night for me and several other guests. It caused unnecessary confrontation and upset and left me feeling sour about the whole thing. Lesson learnt!

'Dia de los Muertos' 2009:

By 2009, I was done with being a student and started working full-time. We'd consequently moved out of our damp ridden studio into a slightly bigger split-level flat. It was still quite small, but I SO wanted to do a Dia de los Muertos themed party as my love for all things associated with the Mexican Day of the Dead was blossoming. So, we had a group of about 11 of us, I made Mexican food, we played Loteria (a Mexican form of bingo), it was good fun. The best challenge of this was making a whole new set of decorations - it was the first time I had ever made papel picado, traditional sugar skulls and it was the first time I've worked with paper mache since I was in school! There was a lot of tissue paper flower making involved, so everything was quite time consuming. A lovely lady from the old Halloween forum I used to frequent sent me some of her Dia de los Muertos decorations that she was no longer using, and this really helped to complete the theme. The theme was bright, colourful and a lot of fun.

So much fun, in fact, that we did it again!

'Dia de los Muertos' 2010:

Same flat as last time, same theme and a much smaller guest list (just 7 of us this time!) led to a rather more relaxed affair. We chilled out, had food, played games, drank cocktails.. much less stress and an altogether more casual gathering. Because we had done the theme before, I had all the necessary decorations at my disposal and I had a better idea of where to put decorations, so this saved a lot of time when setting up.

'Vampire Masquerade' 2011:

Then came something entirely different! In 2011, we moved again, as our previous landlady wanted to move back into her flat. The upshot of this was that we ended up in a bigger flat, the downside.. well, it was a lot more expensive. And it was a basement.. so .. dark. Pretty dark. And a bit damp to boot. To make use of the extra space, I wanted to extend the invitation for Halloween a bit wider and we had a turnout of about 13 for this one. I changed the theme as I wanted to return to a more 'classic halloween' decor and get some of my old decorations out again. The shelving unit in the living room lent itself rather nicely to a big display, and the fireplace was the perfect spot for our pumpkins. I loved this set up, but because of the extra space, I found myself wishing I had more halloween decorations (my husband would go postal if I get anymore.. 6 boxes are enough, he reckons..)

Day of the Dead Dinner Party 2012:

Last year I was already feeling the first warning signs of my impending burnout due to increasing stresses at work and at home, but I still wanted to celebrate my favourite holiday with my friends. So, originally, I planned to have a dinner party. This plan was scuppered when I realised I could not fit all of my guests round my 4-person dining table (there were only 8 of us in the end, but still too many for comfortable dining). So, I made the food as planned, and we all feasted and then played games, had drinks, etc. It was a quiet little party, and in retrospect I can see that my heart wasn't quite in it, I was burnt out with Halloween, and this was a sign of things to come. 

This year, we're in a whole new flat again, and tomorrow I shall be attempting to 'Halloweenify' the place, for my own amusement really. Not hosting a party this year has been a godsend to my sanity, as I've been able to just focus on the fun parts of the season that I enjoy, without the pressure of trying to create a great party atmosphere, or trying to predict who is going to bail out on me, or wondering what gatecrashers might turn up. No, instead, I'm going to go out in the city at Halloween for the first time since I moved here in 2006, then spend some time with good friends, some yummy food and spooky cocktails whilst playing games. I cannot wait! 

Next time: Costumes!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

After the Wedding...

Wow, guys! It's been just over a whole month since the Mr and I got married - how quickly time flies, eh? Married life is pretty much the same as the life before, although the novelty of calling each other 'husband' and 'wife' has still not worn off yet! ;)

For anyone wondering how it went, it went beautifully. I truly could not have hoped for it to have gone better, everyone was just so helpful and loving and positive, it was truly heartwarming to be part of it. The collective feeling of so much love enveloping you was the most amazing experience. The weather was a bit touch-and-go but it came through in the end and we had the most gorgeous sunny afternoon for our wedding. We had the ceremony outside as planned, under the trees with Chichester creek as our backdrop. The tide was in and the water was glittering, with boats bobbing along quietly in the distance. The trees were swaying above us in the breeze, the bunting fluttered lazily, silver hearts glinted and gleamed in the light. It was magical!

We bathed in the sunlight of summer's last fling as we sipped prosecco on the lawn, took photographs amidst the trees and by the blue waters of the harbour. When it was time for dinner, we entered the marquee to applause and cheers, took our seats and had the most tasty meal of tapas and paella to the music of Buena Vista Social Club. (On an iPod, obviously, not the actual band - what am I, a millionaire?!) I think everyone enjoyed it, I hope they were at the very least able to share our love and appreciation of Spanish food even if they would have preferred more...traditional.. fare. I did my speech, as planned, which was very nerve-wracking, and I did have a bit of a wobbly voice a couple of times where I was fighting back tears, but I also made people laugh and a few people cry so I think I got away with it! :) Dean did his best man speech and even managed to get a few words from our friend Sam in there all the way from China, which was so sweet, he did really well. My Dad even said a little speech, which was a total surprise and rather adorable, bless him.

After speeches, we all had cake (and boy did we have cake!) The cupcakes I made went down rather well, as did the chocolate gluten-free cake, and Amanda did an amazing job with the big cake she made for us; it was gorgeous inside and out. After cake, our beautiful friends and family moved the tables to the sides, the bar got set up and we got the music turned up so we could have a boogie! I popped back into the cottage to change into my skeleton print 50s dress and my dancing shoes, and then it was quite late so people started to make their way on their journeys homeward. I had a dance with my Dad, probably for the first time since I was a child, and not one but TWO dances with the husband for the first. Time. Ever. He was so incredibly shy about being watched when he danced that we had a spontaneous first dance to Al Green's 'Let's Get Together' and then later, when there were but a few guests watching, we did our proper slow dance to 'our' song... 'Unintended' by Muse. In the end, there was just me and the husband, the best man and his wife, our usher Rich and my mum and stepdad (how rock and roll are they!?) left. We were all dancing like lunatics until gone 1am, it was the most amazing fun and the perfect end to a perfect day.

I have learnt a lot from the past couple of years of planning and I hope to share my advice and tips with anyone else out there who comes across some of the same situations or dilemmas as myself. Now that the wedding is over, I'll be doing several posts about each part of the wedding planning process and my findings and I'll also be working on some more DIY tutorials for some of the projects I undertook so that any crafty types can have a go.

And speaking of crafting and whatnot, super duper exciting....I've started a small business: Boho Buttons! After making my bouquet, the bridesmaids' bouquets and all the buttonholes from vintage buttons and felt, I had a lot of friends and family members suggesting I make them for other people. So I've started up a little Etsy shop and made myself a website and off I go into the big, bad world! Please, won't you join me?

If you're interested in my buttony adventures, please do join me on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you, lovelies!

I will return with a proper post about the wedding very soon! For now, here's a quick pic of us as we walked back down the aisle together as "Mr and Mrs" to Bob Marley's 'Is this Love'...

Happy Days! xxx

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