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If you’ve already read my post about Madeline’s 13th birthday focusing on cake tips that I’ve learned throughout my cake making struggles, awesome!  Today I am going to focus on Decorations!! I used to HATE buying decorations.  It seemed ridiculous to spend money on stuff you were just going to throw away after the party.  What a waste!  But, honestly, I don’t normally buy a ton of decorations.  If I do, I’ll buy them on sale and try to buy items that I can keep and reuse for other parties or decor.  You’ll see!!

Let the party planning begin!

So, a Topsy-Turvy, multi-colored, Garden Party for a 13 year old girl….hmmm.  We thought the actual tea party would be coolest outside.  I looked at a bunch of ideas and it really left me wishing that I had a bigger and much nicer yard and had spent the last 7 years in our current house planting trees and flowers and ivy…oh my! Sadly, that was not the case.  Just our little, bitty back yard with the long, skinny patio.

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Location, location, location

Madeline has a favorite park near our house that we had even considered using but the thought of having to transport tables, chairs, food, drinks and kids was far too overwhelming to consider for long.  So, we were left with our yard.   Duh, duh, duh, duh (imagine suspenseful theme music here!)  I took some pictures of my very small yard to refer back to as I planned out decorations. It’s looking pretty boring and ready for a transformation!


Abbey Birthday Traditions!

We have a few birthday traditions in our house.  Check out my blog about our favorite birthday traditions here! One tradition is that we always decorate the house the night before our kids birthdays.  I think what started out as kind of a small thing with streamers and balloons has become much bigger!  (Imagine that??!!)

After my daughter Maizy’s 11th birthday in December, my husband, Kevin said he felt the kids were old enough that he didn’t think he needed to blow up 100 balloons for every birthday.  It was really special when they were little because they would wake up and be SO surprised!  They would run through the balloons and could play with them for days.  Now, not so much.  But, I still bought balloons.  Evil? Maybe.  Holding onto the past, hoping I would get to see a little balloon fun, maybe get a chance to participate in a balloon volleyball game…probably! 

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How to make the inside reminiscent of an outdoor patio.

I decided that it would be kind of “garden party” on the inside to have balloons run across the living room on fishing line as if they were hanging on an outdoor patio.  I had a few left over paper lanterns from a past party and bought a few on sale at Target.  The multicolored theme was really my friend because everything was the right color!!  (Any color!) Kevin (and even Weston) blew up the balloons and tied them on the fishing line, with the lanterns and some tissue paper pom-poms and we draped streamers over the top for added color and festive-ness!!


Pom poms

I learned how to make the tissue paper pom-poms for my friend’s daughters mermaid party few years ago.  For that party, I used blue tissue and stacked three pom-poms on top of each other.  They looked like something you’d find floating in the sea.  When I began making them for Madeline’s party, I felt like they were a little “fiesta” looking.  But, once I began stringing them up with the balloons and paper lanterns, they looked just perfect!  They are the kind of decoration that pretty much can go with almost any theme when they are put with other theme-specific decorations.

These pom-poms are super easy to make.  I bought one multicolored pack of tissue at Walmart for maybe $4.00 and I made 10 different sizes.  Talk about a bargain!  It is a little sweat equity, but they look great!  Heyletsmakestuff.com has a great tutorial!


Banners: So festive!

Madeline got in on the fun and made a banner.  It said PARTY!  She just used some old scrapbook paper that we already had and glued some feathers to it.  She is really into fonts right now and does beautiful letters by hand.  (You should see her sidewalk chalk!)  As much as I like things to look a certain way for parties, I always try to keep in mind that the party is for the kids and I am super happy when they help out.  I would be lying if I said it didn’t occasionally cause me pain to let go of some of the control, but the fact that they created something or that we worked on it together is priceless!!

An Awesome Focal Point: The tablescape!

For the tablescape, I usually try to find at least some of the stuff lying around the house. That really helps with the budget! I know you may not think you have decorations that would work for a Mad Hatter Party, but I bet you’d be surprised if you looked.  I also tend to borrow stuff from my friends!  So fun to be my friend…?! 
I bought a few wood frames that were on sale at Hobby Lobby (I know they have these at Michaels, too) and painted both sides.  In went a cute picture of Madeline in one frame and I left the other one empty.  To me it was reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, even though we weren’t totally going for that theme.  To hang these, I used real ribbon.  Inexpensive if its on sale and I thought it gave it some elegance, which I thought a garden party deserved.
Its always nice to have some height on your table.  I used books.  I always keep my hardcover books and toss the jackets.  They look sophisticated, add height and Madeline loves books!!  Plain white candles and candlesticks from my mantle (both of which I already had), layered with some teacups and saucers incorporated the theme and looked so cute!
Like I’ve said before, budget is always a concern.  In addition to using stuff I already have around the house, I also buy stuff on sale.  The little round sequined fabric pieces on the table are actually Christmas tree skirts for mini trees that I got for 90% off at Target at an after Christmas sale.  They were less than a dollar!  Whaaaaat??!!  General idea here, think outside the box.  If you see it on super-sale think about all the different things you could use it for.

Mini Mad Hatter Hats

And, what about those super cute little hats on the table?!!  It was the first thing Madeline commented on when she woke up the morning of her birthday and looked at the table.  My super cool niece, Keana made these.  They are basically a small paper cup and round cardboard shape, covered in tissue paper and glued together.  Decorate them with homemade hat pins, feathers, playing cards, gems and ribbon. Voila!  Mad hatter hat! 
Of course, these have a bigger story!  Remember how I said that I borrow stuff from friends?  Well, I borrow from Laura, too!  When I started planning the party I called her.  When I told her what kind of party we were having, she looked through her old party stuff and found these mad hatter hats that Keana had made for a 16th birthday party. (Not only are the hats awesome but the fact that she kept them AND could find them after 5 years borders on amazing!) By the time they were sent to me, they were no longer attached to the headband but looked great on the table!  Check out the link here for her blog about having a Mad Hatter party for teens.

Let them take pictures!

So, for the outside, we had a photo area.  I don’t always know what 13 year old’s like, but I’m pretty sure they like pictures of themselves and their friends!  I thought it turned our really cute!  We used a bench that we had in our hallway. I actually saved this bench’s life one day when I happened to walk over to the neighbors garage and they were about to cut it up for firewood.  I added a mirror that was in our garage. We’ve kept it because we bought it so long ago we can’t bear to get rid of it.  Well, I can’t bear it.  I’m sure Kevin would be thrilled to have it out of the garage. 

Photo booth accessories

I added a few ribbons, and some old keys that I had from Maizy’s Harry Potter party decorations, a small glass votive holder and an old bulletin board from Madeline’s room.  The keys were another salute to Alice in Wonderland without being too much.  We hung an old wire birdcage and some books.  (Like I said, books- awesome for decorating!) We used the fishing line for the books.  The books were super heavy!!  Most of the stuff was hung in a tree with ribbon (not even our tree, but the branches hang over in our yard).  Overall, I thought the look was whimsical and fit the garden party theme!

The Table

For the actual tea party table, we kept it simple.  We decorated it initially, but the girls informed me there was no space for the food!  And, the food was both cute and delicious.  I guess that is kind of important.  I used different chairs from our porch, house and the neighbors.  It was cute and eclectic.  The topiary was also borrowed but, made the perfect centerpiece.  And, the height…awesome, right?! 
We already have lights hanging on the patio.  (Festive year round!)  We hung the paper lanterns and pom-poms on those.  I also made two cute banners.  It was just a ribbon and I used mini clothespins to secure playing cards.  Super cheap and easy!  Big effect!

The Mad Hatter Party decorations looked great!

I was really happy with the decorations and most importantly, Madeline loved it!  You could tell by her big smiles! The party decorations looked like a million dollars, but it was really pretty economical.  It was mostly about finding cute stuff around the house, borrowing from friends, making the most of what we had with our little, unexciting yard and buying a few specific party themed things.
I felt like the “photo booth” area could also be considered a party activity.  The kids had fun and I ended up with some really cute pictures of them and their friends!  Did I mention Kevin dressed up as the Mad Hatter???!!!

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