Traditionally, events that require months of preparation and organizing are bound to disappoint in minor or major ways. Images of how you want your event are firmly in your head during those planning stages and, often, your imagination is often much better than reality. And many times you're so in hostess mode that you can't even enjoy the day. I'm thoroughly pleased to say that our day at the Gatsby Summer Afternoon actually exceeded our expectations by many degrees of wonderful. This was, by far, my absolutely favorite birthday party. Ever. If the event was an eBay seller, it would get a strong A+++++ Would do business with again!
It's hard to properly judge the event from pictures alone. For months I have been looking at photos on Flickr from past years and had the expectation that this event was really quite remarkable. I had studied various picnic spreads, costumes, props, etc. and had a pretty fair clue of what to expect. When I got to Gatsby, however, I had no idea of the scale of the event, nor the amount of details that went into each spread. People take this day seriously. Quite damn seriously. I like to think of this day as Burning Man for those who bathe and prefer a strong cocktail over sand and hallucinogens.
Because I really wanted to make the day special I chose to prepare a sit-down lunch for my nine closest friends (and two toddlers). For the last couple months I have spent the weekends thrifting, hitting garage sales and flea markets and scouring the web for just the right essentials. I wanted the lunch to be intimate and, considering that we were all dressed up more formally than we're accustomed to, wanted to be comfortably civilized. Though I went back and forth on whether I wanted to do the whole sit-down thing (and have to lug the tables and chairs that I rented to the picnic), I ultimately decided to go that route. Being able to sit down and talk and eat made so much of a difference and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Other folks attending the picnic were delightful as well. A number of women who had read about the dresses I made came up and said hello. Special thanks to Carole who gave me a bouquet of handpicked flowers and a bottle of champagne! So so kind. Everyone who came up to wish me a happy birthday and comment about the dresses was so sweet and it totally made my day. If any of you ladies have web sites, please send me a link!
Because a picture is worth a thousand words, here are photos from the day and more detail about the, well, details.
The picnic big picture:
All of this stuff was brought with us. Luckily one couple had a pick-up truck and we were able to get fairly close to the location courtesy of an early admission pass. If you're going to bring a lot of stuff, the pass is a must-have. The chairs, table, linen tablecloth and champagne saucers were rented from Abbey Rents. The lanterns came from Daiso.
The table, a closer look:
I acquired the china from the Alemany flea market a couple Sundays ago. The cocktail napkins under each person's plate were fashioned by me from a bigger table cloth and I used my sewing machine to embroider each person's name in green. The red border glasses also came from the Alemany flea market. I bought all 8 for $7! The silver bread basket was given to my husband's great-grandfather in 1915.
Brought by my friend, Krissy, the cake and cupcakes were from Miette's. Called an old-fashioned, it was wonderful! The table linen was actually an old bed spread I found at the Alameda Antique market.
I found these vintage labels on etsy. They're all unused originals. I found bottles online and we made drinks to match the labels (sort of).
Another view of the bottles, alongside our phonograph:
I picked up the portable phonograph at the Alameda Antique Fair. As luck would have it, I found a number of old 78s at an estate sale in my neighboorhood just last Friday.
As far as the menu goes, my husband made quite the meal. Corn, potato and pasta salads, biscuits and the most amazing fried chicken. He also prepared period-specific cocktails: Ward Eight and Aviation. For dessert we had cake and his bread pudding.
Everyone ready to eat:
And now, some photos of all of us enjoying the day: