Parties

Feminist Bachelorette Party Ideas

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Hopefully you all saw my post on Magic Mike Live, what I consider to be the ultimate feminist bachelorette party experience of all time. If not, get thee over there and read it, pronto.

But for those who can’t afford Vegas or who want to avoid travel all together (there is ZERO reason bachelorette parties need to cost an arm and a leg), I wanted to put together a round-up of some other ideas to consider, for those feminists in your life who are getting married and still want to celebrate, but sans penis straws.

  1. The most important part is that the celebration celebrate the person themselves. Ask what they want (and more importantly, don’t want) and tailor it to THEM

  2. Rent Magic Mike XXL, have a slumber party and drink boat loads of champagne. If you can’t go to Vegas, bring Magic Mike to you

  3. Speaking of movie rentals, a Wonder Woman themed bachelorette would also be effing amazing. Costumes optional.

  4. Head to a karaoke bar - or organize your own lip sync battle

  5. For those who aren’t night owls and don’t want a party atmosphere, spa it up, followed by brunch, boozy or not

  6. Co-ed party - Baby showers are going co-ed (I had one) and so should bachelor/bachelorette parties

  7. Wine tasting at a local winery. But hire transport - safety first

  8. Organize an afternoon of volunteering for your favorite local organization - or use the party as an opportunity to raise money and donate to Planned Parenthood or other worthy, feminist causes

A couple of other suggestions:

Don’t call it a “last hurrah” or other awful references to marriage being the end of fun or independence or freedom. Marriage is neither the beginning nor the end - it’s a moment to celebrate. Period.

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not cool

I generally recommend staying away from gay bars and drag shows as a straight, cisgendered woman. As Skylar Baker-Jordan wrote, “true allies understand that they are not entitled to a marginalized group’s space or time or companionship.” But if you are cisgendered and want to go, please keep these tips in mind (more details here):

  • As Miz Cracker wrote in Slate, gay bars “provide a haven from the heterosexual gaze. In small towns and big cities alike, these spaces allow queers to talk, flirt, and unwind without drawing sneers, slurs, curious stares, or even unwanted support—My son is gay, too!”  So if you’re determined to go, just remember to be respectful that you’re entering someone’s safe space and the LGBTQ community do not exist to entertain you.  

  • Help offset the decline of queer spaces by putting your money where your mouth is and tip well.

  • If you meet someone new, use gender neutral terms unless they’ve told you how they identify

  • Don’t act like a tourist. Don’t gawk and always ask permission before taking a photo of someone

  • Don't get up on a stage uninvited

  • Don't expect the music to have been selected for you

The Ultimate Feminist Bachelorette Party

Feminist Bachelorette Ideas

This is the first of two posts I’m planning about feminist bachelorette parties. A round-up is forthcoming (with lots of other ideas), but this one focuses on one special option that blew my freaking mind. I do want to briefly mention that I am a cisgendered woman - and though feminist, this perspective is certainly a cisgendered one.

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post since last May, when I took a trip to Vegas with my sisters to celebrate their 40th birthday. My sisters and I stumbled upon what I truly believe to be an excellent feminist bachelorette party option. In a sea of penis straws and strange, bedazzled “Bride to Be” sashes, this experience was empowering, super fantastic fun (my face hurt from smiling), and jaw-droppingly feminist.

Our trip was centered around going to the newly opened Magic Mike Live show which opened in Vegas in March. And no, I’m not joking. For those of you who may not be aware, the second Magic Mike movie (Magic Mike XXL) was - truly - one of the most feminist, revolutionary films I’d seen in a while. Please take a moment to read these articles to learn more (here and here) - but suffice it to say, though the plot was ridiculous and somewhat non-existent (I didn’t say it was a GOOD movie), the film at its core was about men’s earnest desire to please ALL women, or as Andrea Grimes writes, “Magic Mike XXL is about a whole LOAD of dudes who have two main priorities: think up new ways to make women happy, and dance.” I’ve never seen so many different women - black, white, large, small, old, young - in a movie, not to mention being PLEASURED in a movie. If you haven’t watched the movie, do so now. No seriously, now, and then come back and read the rest of this post.

So. Fast forward to Vegas. Despite our love of Magic Mike, we really didn’t have high expectations for this show. Our main hope was that the men would actually DANCE and it would be a slightly less sleazy version of a strip club.

Without giving too much away, feminism in the show abounds to an insane degree. First, there are men of all types, shades and styles - as well as dancing of all kinds, so everyone who attends will find someone or something that they love (aka all women will be pleased and find someone to crush on). The show opens with a deliberate attempt to thwart the typical Village People male stripper experience, in a twist so lovely that even I, the person who always figures out the end of movies, didn’t see coming. The MC is female, so she is in a position of power and control, and represents the every-woman and what she (ie “we”) wants. They discuss how consent is sexy (!). They literally use the word “misogyny” as crappy guys threaten to take over the show. They provide you with fake money so that the exchange of money isn’t an issue. And that money has “You’re Welcome” on it, which is basically the theme of the show. As my sister so brilliantly put it, “instead of “You’re Welcome” implying that we should be grateful for something, it meant all women are welcome in this space. That women are safe in this space. That women for once don’t have to worry that admitting or expressing their sexual desire means they’re asking to be harassed or assaulted or raped.” Revolutionary. Truly. Get thee to Vegas.

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So if you’re looking to celebrate your or your friend’s marriage, but are tired of the old cliched activities and ideas, head to Magic Mike Live and have your feminist mind blown. And BTW, I saw the show stone cold sober (and a little queasy cause I was pregnant) so just imagine what a cocktail or two would do ;)

**I will state for the record here that this is not in any way a sponsored post (though hot-damn, I wish it were - send me back to see the show again, Channing Tatum!). I just want to spread the revolutionary, feminist stripper love

Stay tuned next week for a larger round up of other feminist bachelorette ideas!

The "styled" issue

Photo by Paired Images I had a bit of a revelation the other day. A hosting revelation. An event epiphany, so to speak. I’ve been fairly vocal on my blog about trying to ease the pressure to be crafty, keeping things simple when it comes to party and wedding decor and DIY projects, and even sharing my own personal holiday and party decor to show that it can be easy and uncomplicated. However, I wasn’t sure where this desire to calm people the eff down about decor came from. Why was I so anti-decor and making tables and centerpieces and events look nice? I realized the other day that it’s about the motivation. It’s about staying true to WHY you want your table to look beautiful.

I attended a small event recently that was really lovely. At the event was a beautiful dessert and drinks table that was “styled” by a local event stylist.

I got the creeps.

In today’s age of instagram and twitter and blogs, I had the sneaking suspicion that this styled table was not for the guests’ enjoyment. It was to be viewed through a filter. It was to be enjoyed by those who could not be there. For those who maybe wish they’d been invited.

Now, I obviously don’t know this for a fact. And I realize I’m walking a very thin line here. Why does it matter if we make things beautiful for ourselves, for our guests, or for instagram followers? Maybe it doesn’t. But I think trying to stay as genuine as we can, in any celebration, is really important. Our motivation to host should be real. It should come from a grounded place. It should reflect the desire to meet, and celebrate, and interact and socialize - not take photos of a table with our phones. We should be motivated to please our guests, absolutely - but to the point that they feel like an effort was made, and you care - not to the point that they’re afraid to reach for a bite of food.

I’ve always had a negative reaction to the word “styled” in the wedding industry, so I realize I’m biased (when I make my dinner table look nice, I don’t tell my guests that I “styled my table” just for them). Styled shoots are not my cup of tea. I prefer real weddings. Real parties. Real people. The fact is, if it’s a good party, shit’s gonna get messy. The cake will be eaten. Crumbs will be dropped. Drinks spilled, and food consumed. I’d really love to see more “after” shots in this industry. The first-looks are great, but some of my favorite photos are of the sweaty couple at the end of the night, hair disheveled, tie undone, dress hem dirty. I realize photos of a picked-over buffet or an empty plate aren’t glamorous. I really do get it. But in our over-styled world, our curated and filtered lenses can blur things sometimes.

So I want to emphasize that if the food is good, if the drink is plenty, and the company is great, people will have a good time. You don’t need a styled dessert buffet if the pie is the bomb. You don’t need an elaborate Thanksgiving centerpiece if you have your loved ones around the table. If you want to spend 2 hours arranging decor for your next event, do it - just make sure you're doing it because it brings you and your guests true pleasure, and not so that you can get 1,000 likes on Instagram. We can’t live our lives and enjoy our celebrations in a “styled” frame of mind. Because life is beautiful and messy.

Photo by Shandi Wallace

Our co-ed baby shower

10419429_10152672112119086_6990401396968443375_n Preggo brain has apparently hit - I meant to run this post weeks ago and forgot all about it. So… since we're still waiting for this baby to make its appearance, lets do this! As I mentioned in my Thanksgiving blog post, our family threw us a great co-ed baby shower the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Since my family was in town we thought it was the best time to get everyone together and celebrate.

What was so freaking lovely about it was that I didn't plan it! I can't tell you how refreshing it was to attend a party and not have any idea what to expect, how it all got done, and just sit back and enjoy. And enjoy I did!

It was held in Evening Star's private room - a space I highly recommend if you're looking for a local place to have a party. It was the perfect size, with a built-in bar and lots of furniture for people to sit but still space to mingle. Plus, the food was fantastic. We had deviled eggs, mini-tacos, and my favorite of favorites, their fried chicken sliders on sweet potato biscuits with gravy. HEAVEN. Oh, and cupcakes from Buzz Bakery. YESSSSS. It was perfect. I insisted on no games (are you surprised?) but the room had a pool table and table shuffleboard, not to mention the football game on the tv, so I think everyone was happy!

Though we're not going overboard with our "colors" for the baby, our general theme is gray and yellow and my family jumped on that, with some yellow and silver balloons throughout the room, adorable hand-made bunting (which I'm totally going to reuse in the baby's room), yellow and white flowers, and a hand-made "Baby" sign (which, again, so reusing in the nursery).

It was an awesome, easy afternoon, seeing family and friends and enjoying everyone's company.

I'm a big supporter of co-ed showers. My husband is just as involved in this baby as I am (except for that whole she's in my uterus thing), not to mention the other men in our lives (fathers, uncles, cousins, etc). I thought it was great to have everyone there to celebrate, rather than just focus on the ladies. It takes a village - not just to raise a baby, but to celebrate a baby, too! Thanks again to our whole family and all our friends. It was such an awesome afternoon!

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Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

I had a great Thanksgiving this year as I not only got to see my whole family, but they also threw me and my hubby a baby shower! More on the shower tomorrow, but first - a brief Thanksgiving recap cause I think all you lovers of things non-traditional might enjoy it. My husband rocked out a non-traditional Thanksgiving feast. As he has for the past several years, he and his brother and father went hunting and came back with goose and duck. He made an amazing goose and duck ramen as our Thanksgiving meal and it was so delicious. I decided to embrace the non-traditional aspects with the decor and do something more modern and minimalistic to match the seemingly simple ramen dish.

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As always, I like to go into the detail on decor to show everyone that even party and event planners can be simple and make things easy on themselves! I used a white tablecloth I already had, and reused some black and white striped runners my mother made for our wedding! I decided to drape them in a somewhat non-traditional manner and instead of doing a runner lengthwise down the table, we did them across. I grabbed some cheap chopsticks and spoons, as well as some simple black fabric napkins from World Market. I then used some leftover tags I had from a previous wedding to do simple place cards that we tied to the napkin with string I had around the house. We knew we wanted to serve sparkling wine with the ramen, so to match our new (and cheap - Crate and Barrel Outlet what what) champagne glasses I picked up some mercury glass votives and a silver tray at Michael's to add a touch of shine and some simple centerpieces.

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I was really happy with the result. I like keeping centerpieces minimal so that people can focus on the food and the people across from them. And it was fun to veer away from the traditional Thanksgiving decor of pumpkins and gourds and orange and earthy stuff and do something a bit more modern.

And for those who are really put off by non-traditional stuff, fear not - we had pie.

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DIY Ipad Photobooth

Per my blog post last week, I recently helped throw my mother's 60th birthday party. We were definitely on a bit of a budget, so we decided to try and DIY a photo booth - and I was pretty happy with the results. I thought I'd share how we did it for any of you wanted to roll up your sleeves and take on this project - the results were great and we were thrilled with how much fun it added to the party. I already owned an iPad, so we decided to not worry ourselves too much about super-high res images, and instead focused on the fun and ease of doing an iPad photo booth. My stepfather also already owned a tripod, so I bought a fairly simple (and cheap) iPad tripod attachment and voila! Our photo booth was already halfway there.

My sister did the hard part. We knew the venue would be dark, and the iPad doesn't have a flash, so rather than rent lights - she DIYed them. We used this video tutorial and they came out really well. My sister made some adjustments from the DIY tutorial. Since people were actually going to SEE these lights, she wanted to make them look a bit nicer. She took a little more time to cut the cardboard to the shape of the lampshade, to tape it with clear tape, to use white Velcro on a white lampshade with white fabric.....to make it look a little more presentable.  All in all, each one took her no longer than 30 minutes or so to make. So with an hour's work, we'd saved a lot of money (my sister is the best).

For the backdrop, the venue had a really ugly sign up that we wanted to cover anyway. So I bought some silver fringe curtains from Oriental Trading company and we wrapped it in the corner of the room - thus covering some of the ugliness while also creating a simple but very festive backdrop for the booth. Because the venue was an old train station, it already had built-in benches wrapping around the room, so we also used that and didn't need to worry about stools or other seating. I thought it turned out really well!

We pooled our own Halloween costumes and created our own bucket of props including oversized sunglasses, a feather boa, some hats and funny sunglasses. It was rad.

We used the Insta Booth app. You could pick how many photos were in each "strip" as well as the length of the timer between shots. You can also apply different filters (which we opted not to do) but they had a ton to choose from. The photos aren't super-high res.  If you care about that, then this option probably isn't for you. But overall I found this to be a great, very cost-effective solution. With the iPad tripod attachment, the curtains and the light box materials, we ended up spending around $100 - much less than a $1,000 professional photo booth. And if you do it for a day-time party, or in a well-lit room, the light boxes shouldn't be needed.

The pictures were, in my opinion, pretty hilarious and awesome! Enjoy!

60th Birthday Party

My Mom turned 60 last week. She requested a party so I of course stepped up to help plan it along with my step-dad and sisters. She specifically wanted to dance - she's an amazing dancer (has been her whole life) and so I knew this would be an important part of the night for her. Because of the dancing, we opted to go for a slightly more casual venue, but one where we'd have complete control and no noise complaints! We rented a local Lions Club - something everyone should always keep in mind when looking for affordable venues. They aren't always the prettiest, but they're very low-budget and they generally don't have a ton of rules! Using a private room in a restaurant won't allow dancing, and doing the same in a hotel means higher cost.

The Lions Club we rented had a lot of wood paneling - it's actually an old train station. We decided to work with the venue and not go super-high end with the decor - keep it simple and lighten it up with some flowers, christmas lights, ivory linens and silver votives. We were definitely on a budget - so we opted to spend our money on the food and drinks. We hired a local caterer to do one stationary appetizer (cheese and fruit display) and some tasty passed hors d'oeuvres. We also had them create a signature cocktail, "The Kendra" (my Mom), which was a ginger Tom Collins and was really delicious.

Specialty cocktail

In all other aspects, this was very DIY - and I'll be doing some follow up posts to go into more detail about our DIY projects in the hopes that they help other people with their own endeavors! We strung christmas lights ourselves and created a christmas light clothes line where we hung photos of my Mom from throughout her 60 years. We also created a DIY photo booth - and it was such a hit. I know it's not as high res or high quality as what we might have gotten had we hired a professional - but everyone had a blast!

My sister and step-dad did a Michaels run and bought all the other decor items - votive candles, vases for our DIY bouquets, and other goodies. We ordered cupcakes from my Mom's favorite bakery and I created a fun DIY cupcake topper (more on that to come).

My husband and I labored over the playlist and I think we did a pretty great job. We got some requests from my Mom, and built a cocktail playlist for the first hour, then created a separate dance playlist for the next 2 hours. The crowd was a mix of young and old. We had my 87 year old grandfather there and my cousin's newborn! So we created a good mix of new and old dance songs - focusing on a lot of great 80's tunes mixed with some motown/oldies and current hits (for the record, Pharell's "Happy" is what officially got everyone on their feet. That song rules).

By the end of the night we were all a sweaty, happy, slightly drunk mess - in other words, very satisfied party-goers. Happy 60th MA!!

Topaz + Arrow // DC DIY workshop

topazandarrow diy workshops Last week I attended one of Topaz + Arrow's DIY workshops in DC. Topaz + Arrow is a monthly, DIY workshop series that "infuses the handmade into a curated and creative lifestyle." It was awesome. The workshops are held at the Ulysses Room, a modern yet warm space. We were treated to some delicious snacks and drinks from Honest Tea, Boulevard Brewing Company, Creme Yvette, Teeny Pies and KIND Snacks.

This workshop was called "Leather, Branches and Hooks: Handmade Jewelry Organizers with Topaz + Arrow"

It was a great afternoon. The workshops aren't heavily structured so the hosts, Virginia Arrisueno and Morgan Hungerford West, really want you to explore your creativity and make each project your own. They quickly talked through the basics and then let us at it (though they did walk around the room offering suggestions and also did a lot of the heavy labor, like copper pipe cutting and branch sawing).

I loved the branch I ended up with, and deliberately picked one with some character (some knots and holes, etc). I kept it simple, deciding to pick a nice blueish gray leather and subtlety painting the branch with copper accents (which matched the copper pipe accent on the leather).

topaz and arrow diy workshop

topaz and arrow diy workshop

Topaz and Arrow diy workshop

Topaz and Arrow DIY workshop

The cost included all of the materials and the lovely refreshments. I felt like it was totally worth it and was a great afternoon for anyone to either spend on their own, or with a group of friends.

Definitely check out some of their upcoming workshops, which include Paper Lanterns & Cherry Blossoms: DIY Lighting and Decor, as well as Hoops, Yarn and Feathers: Handmade Dreamcatchers.

It could give some couples great ideas for wedding or event decor, and would also be a great shower or bachelor/bachelorette hang!

p.s. Virginia is a fantastic artist - founder of DeNada, an accessories line, and Morgan writes a fab lifestyle blog, Panda Head. Check them out.

Studio DBI

Studio DBI March seemed to be the month of vendor events! In addition to the Dock 5 party, I was also invited to Studio DBI's open house last week - and had an absolute blast.

Studio DBI is an amazing, very creative company that provides floral and design services (as well as month-of coordination) for all types of events. They recently opened their own studio space in Old Town, Alexandria. Since it's right down the street I had to drop by! Liza and her staff had decked out the studio with beautiful floral decor (obviously). I unfortunately didn't grab a picture but they also hung tulips around the windows in a really modern and fun way which may or may not have involved staples (and as it turns out, was a list minute fix when something she'd ordered didn't come in! Brilliant).

They'd brought on some great partners to make the party a success, including DJ Maskell (who rocked not only the DJing but the uplighting as well), Little Bird Creative, Simple Flare Productions, Paired Images, and In Style Caterers who served some really delicious food! I had a lovely evening hanging with other wedding vendors and celebrating Studio DBI's success!

Big thanks to Liza and her whole team, as well as the awesome sponsors, for a great evening.

Dock 5 // DC event space

Last week I attended the launch of Dock 5, a great new event space in DC. Dock 5 is a very raw, warehouse-type space, and features over 12,000 square feet, 22’ high ceilings and glass garage doors. The venue is directly above the artisanal marketplace, Union Market, which houses over 30 of the top food producers in the region. By the way, the excellent photos, below, are taken by Mary Kate McKenna - the bad ones are by me (I was having too much fun to focus - isn't that the sign of a good party?) Dock 5

It was a really fun event. Buffalo Bergen provided wonderful cocktails and sodas. Dolcezzo Gelato had a Gelato truck with a choice of salted caramel gelato and blood orange sorbet.  Spilled Milk catering provided tasty passed hors d'oeuvres - but my favorite item was the bacon garden in which candied, spicy bacon was available on a stick. It was awesome. I've decided all events should now have bacon on a stick.

Spilled Milk Catering Bacon Garden

Rappahonnock Oysters also had a raw oyster bar (delicious and decadent) and we may or may not have taken some of Spilled Milk's bacon and used it as a topper on an oyster. Just saying. Maybe. And maybe it was delicious.

The space has a ton of possibilities. It is quite raw, so one definitely needs to consider lighting, decor, and furniture to create various spaces and help create a flow for your evening. The huge bonus is that it's very large for DC - it's hard to find venues this size in the area, so anyone with a large guest list and a modern sensibility should definitely check it out.

Big thanks to Dock 5 and the whole team for a really fun evening!

p.s. Sarah of Val & Sarah also most definitely created the next bridal trend. Two words: bacon bouquet

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