A Wild West Birthday

Ok I’ll admit I probably enjoy planning Westley’s birthday parties a little too much. I usually lock in next year’s theme the day after his party. Type A extreme? I think so. But also I recognize I only get a finite number of years where I get to be the CBO (Chief Birthday Officer) and I am fully taking advantage.

I was especially thrilled for his third birthday party because he’s now at such a fun age. He’s immensely enjoying everything, fully participating and really into his birthday. From the song and blowing out the candles to the party and of course the presents.

Because W has a January birthday, immediately following the holidays, I want to make sure he feels like his big day is special and not lumped into the Christmas craze. This may be the June baby (celebrations and gifts every six months) in me speaking, but I’ve always felt bad for people who have birthdays around the holidays because so often you hear – “this is your Christmas and Birthday gift.” Or worse, there is no celebration because everyone is holiday-ed out. So this mama has made it her mission to ensure her wild man’s wildest birthday dreams are realized.

Ever since we landed on the name Westley, I’ve been dying to bring to life a “Wild West” themed party. And lucky for me, Westley is absolutely obsessed with horses. He watches Spirit on Netflix repeatedly, rides his rocking horse and loves cowboy boots. So naturally, I decided this was the year for Wild West.

Here are the details on throwing a party that will have guests saying, “howdy partner.”

The Venue

A venue should bring the theme to life and there’s no better place than a horse farm to create your own version of the Wild West. Lucky for us, North Florida provides the perfect backdrop. We landed on Happy Trails Horse Ranch because the birthday party package includes a variety of activities for the kids and the location is roomy and open for the adults attending. Ms. Nikki, the owner and party host, is incredibly sweet and patient with kids!

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The Décor 

Being outdoors, surrounded by pastures, horses and nature, the décor doesn’t have to be too extravagant to create the Wild West feeling. I landed on the traditional red bandana print to pull everything together, ordering table runners for the picnic tables and a table skirt for the cake table from Oriental Trading. I used large mason jars with fresh sunflowers as the centerpieces and voila, the West is born.

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The Goodies

This theme is perfect for maximizing party favors/goodies since they serve a dual purpose as part of the décor. I wanted each child to feel like they’re part of the Wild West, so I ordered cowboy hats, bandana, sheriff stars and mustaches! Oriental Trading has a great party pack that included most of the favors for a really affordable price. The best part, these favors were used as table settings, adding another visual element to my tablescape.

I also wanted to provide some fun propos for photos, so I purchased a giant “Wanted” sign along with a pack of western themed props on a stick. This is a fun and inexpensive way to highlight the party theme and inspire people to capture fun photos!

The Cake

The cake to me is the centerpiece of the party and should really embody the theme. We have an incredibly talented cake artist here in Tally who has been making Westley’s cakes since his first birthday. Her cakes are not only works of art, but they are so delicious. My favorite part of working with her is I trust her vision completely. I usually tell her my theme, send a few inspiration pics and she comes back with a description of the cake creation. Of course, the final product is always ten times better than I imagined.

This year was no exception. This is my favorite cake yet. It captured the Wild West theme perfectly incorporating denim, cow print, a cowboy hat, sheriff’s star and rope. It was absolutely gorgeous! The inside was equally satisfying with red velvet (my favorite) and chocolate cake with buttercream icing. Nom nom.


The Food

When I think Wild West, I think hot dogs…no clue why, but in my head it made perfect sense. I researched a few options and landed on a hot dog cart called Frankly Delicious. It was a cool visual with the cart and big red umbrella, but it was also a great decision because I did not have to worry about picking up food, setting up, getting plates, etc. The hot dog cart was a one-stop-shop. Party guests could choose from hot dogs, Bradley’s sausage or chicken sausage along with fun toppings including coke onions, chili, cheese and traditional toppings like mustard, ketchup and relish. The meal came complete with chips and drink. This was the perfect meal for both kids and adults! I highly recommend a food option like this because it’s totally hands off for you as the host, kid approved and nostalgic for adults.


The Fun

The party was kid and adult approved. The kiddos got to meet the horses, feed the horses, go on a hay ride and then ride a horse. It was a perfect mix of activities that kept the kids engaged and entertained. It was an absolute blast! After all the fun, we sang Happy Birthday and wrapped up a very magical and memorable birthday.



Birthday Party Planning Tips

I’m a big fan of planning all events, but especially my son’s birthday parties every year. Pro tip: start early and plan throughout a few months, so you’re not stressed and have plenty of time to nail all the details. This also means you’re spreading out your expenses and not paying for everything at once. With Westley’s birthday right after Christmas, I usually plan his parties in three phases, breaking up the tasks, so I’m not overwhelmed.

Here’s a breakdown of my party planning choreography.

Phase One (Pre-Planning, a few months out)

  • Decide on theme
  • Plan your party budget
  • Secure venue
  • Design and order invites (I’ve used Vistaprint the last few birthdays and they have cute designs and awesome promos)
  • Lock in cake (my cake lady is in high demand and books far in advance)
  • Research food options and get pricing for comparison
  • I also research décor and goodies and usually create a wish list for reference when I’m ready to purchase

 Phase Two (one month out)

  • Mail invites
  • Finalize food plan
  • Purchase decor and goodies for guests
  • Have photo plan in place (If I’m in charge of taking photos A. I’m not in them and B. There won’t be very many memories captured)

Phase Three (night before/day of)

  • Open all decor, paper goods, goodies, etc. and have everything sorted and ready for party time. (This saves an enormous amount of time and makes things way less stressful)
  • Pack necessary supplies in vehicle including a cake knife (forgot that for his 2nd birthday and my FIL had to make a grocery store run, while guests eagerly awaited cake…won’t EVER make that mistake again), lighter, tape, etc.
  • Confirm with any vendors (cake, food, venue) to ensure everyone is stil on board
  • Give yourself time to decorate and arrange party goods and have a team of people willing to help (my hubby and mom rounded out the party trio this year).
  • Sit back and actually enjoy your child’s birthday party after all the planning!

 Lessons Learned/Things to Consider

  • Plan ahead
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate
  • Have a friend, family member or professional photographer capture the memories
  • Have someone else handle food (having a hot dog cart offering a one-stop-shop for food, chips and drinks was well worth the investment)
  • Be in the moment and enjoy the birthday party with your child

Do you have any party planning go-to tips?



Approaching Wedding Planning like a PR Plan

I’m recently engaged and am now in wedding planning mode. A lot of people have said – “Don’t stress.” or “Planning a wedding is a huge task – take it easy, hire  a planner.” Maybe I’m just naive and have no clue what I’m getting into, but for me planning events is fun and part of what I do for a living. So my motto is to approach planning my wedding the way I would planning any type of event for a client. I will create a “PR Plan” of sorts to be my guide. I will be my own client and of course my fiance also will be considered a client too, although he is not as demanding a client as I am! 🙂

Using a PR plan as my guide makes things easy and clear. I have my goal: To have an amazing wedding! I have set measurable objectives including booking a ceremony and reception site by the end of July, finding a photographer by September and setting up a engagement shoot, and booking a band to play at the wedding. To meet these objectives I have set clear tactics and activities that go with each tactic.

Just like in a PR plan, I have a target audience AKA my guest list. These audiences are split into categories: family, friends, colleagues. I also have a budget I must adhere to and a strict timeline. All of the elements of a PR plan successfully translate into my “wedding plan.”

Ask me in a year how it all goes, but from where I’m standing my training in PR has come in handy as I embark on planning the most special event of my lifetime so far!

Do you use PR as a guide for other things in your life?