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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

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!!

Party Supplies from Oh Joy! at Target

Oh Joy! for Target A quick post today to give you a heads up that Target is launching their partnership with Oh Joy! on March 16th. Target partnered with top Pinterest pinners to create party collections and this is their first launch. There will be four Oh Joy for Target collections this year—Spring, Summer, Fall and Holiday—each in stores for six weeks only.

After the cold spell we've had around here, her party supplies will bring a lovely breath of spring air. The collection looks pretty awesome - dynamic colors, very cute supplies like cake stands, banners, party hats, lanterns and more. Based on my past posts about things you need to party and putting a party together at the last minute, you all should know I'm a big fan of Target and of using small items to make things festive. You don't have to go crazy and you don't have to craft. Sometimes, splurging on some fun purchases is what makes it easy - which means you get to have fun and stop stressing!

Let me know if you all pick up anything fun. I'm looking forward to checking it out. And no, this is not a sponsored post. I just really love Target and cheap, happy, party goods!

Lip Sync Battle: The party game of the future

On a long drive to my in-laws’ lake house this summer, my husband and I were bored and trying to keep ourselves occupied when we happened upon the greatest idea ever (slight exaggeration).

We’d recently watched Jimmy Fallon’s lip syncing contest videos and so to pass the time we started asking each other what song we’d have various family members sing. And that’s when we decided as our new family tradition, we’d have an annual lip-syncing contest. And it would be amazing.

Backing up slightly, if you haven’t seen Jimmy Fallon’s lip-sync battle videos, watch them. now. please.

Jimmy Fallon Lip Sync Battle Part I

Jimmy Fallon Lip Sync Battle Part II

You’re welcome.

Here’s the thing: it’s so much better than karaoke. You don’t need to be talented. You just need to be willing to make a bit of an arse of yourself. And that is why I believe lip-sync battles are the party-game of the future. They can be done in your living room. They can be done at a wedding (hint hint). They can be done at a birthday party. Whenever you do it - you will have fun.

We had a BLAST doing it over our Christmas holiday. A blast. Now, keep in mind, my whole family happens to be performers in one way or another. We’re also people who don’t half-ass anything. So this crowd was dedicated and they BROUGHT IT. My sister learned all the Korean lyrics to Gangnam Style. My brother-in-law brought down the house with the always classic, “Dick In a Box.” I pulled out the *NSYNC dance moves I learned 10 years ago (long story) and brought the early aughts to my living room. There were costumes. There were knee slides. The songs ranged from Michael Bolton to LL Cool J. It was amazing.

There were not, however, videos (that was one of the rules). But I wanted to share this idea because I truly think it’s a sure way to guaranteed fun.

I do highly recommend rules. Here were some of the basics we shared with our family:

  • The battle will consist of each contestant lip syncing three songs. The songs may be any song - from any era, any genre, as long as you are able to provide the audio

  • For time’s sake, we ask that each contestant choose approximately 1 minute (it can be slightly over or under) of each song. We recommend one verse and one chorus, for example.

  • A hair brush microphone will be provided, but not required.

  • Dancing, movement, etc are encourages, though please note this battle will be taking place in our living room in front of the fireplace, and next to the Christmas tree, so space is somewhat limited.

  • There will be three rounds, with each person performing their first song, then second, then third. Each contestant may choose their order.

So let’s make this the new trend, eh? And if you decide videos are allowed at your own battle, please share them with me.

P.s. This also ties in to a great discussion that's been happening on A Practical Wedding for a while now regarding creating your own holiday traditions. Go check it out if you can cause it's an important conversation for all engaged and married folks - navigating the holidays is never easy. But having lip sync battles to bring families together might just be the trick.

P.P.S. I wanted to update this to add a link to a wedding who did a lip sync battle at their holud - You’ve got to check it out ;)

Holiday Hostess Gifts

The holidays are fast (FAST) approaching. I can’t believe it. I yelped to myself “WHATT??” the other day upon realizing there is only one free weekend before my family arrives. And so - I wanted to share some inexpensive, practical gifts (cause you know I love me some practicality) to bring to those holiday parties this year:

Modern House Wines have a line of very cute and hip wines available at Target. I picked up some “Here’s to You” to have on hand. I think the labels make for very cute gifts - and fyi, these also made Oprah and Gwynyth Paltrow’s gift guides - so that’ll either make you want it more or less. You decide. I went for it because of the price. And cause I could buy it at Target. I love Target.

Another option is to drop by your local cheese store. I happen to have Cheestique nearby and I adore them. Little known fact is that I wanted to own a cheese shop when I was a girl. Long story to be told another time, but needless to say, I love cheese shops. Pop in to yours and pick up some goodies - my favorites are Taleggio and Epoisses (for those who love the delicious and don’t mind the stinky). You don’t need to stick to cheese though - buy some cured meats, some bread, or even a lovely slate cheese board for your host or hostess.

Fabric cocktail napkins are another favorite because they’re something you’d never buy for yourself. I don’t have any. But I’d totally use them if I did. I think these from Crate & Barrel are very festive and modern without being overly cutesy and holiday-y.

I also love these silicone ice cube trays from Tovolo that create extra large cubes. These are so much more stylish for those drinks “on the rocks.” Your boozehound friends will adore them.

And why not also give them some bitters to make the perfect cocktails? I love this gift set from Scrappys

On the cheaper end, why not just make them a mix of your favorite holiday music? You already know True Blue Miracle from Christmas Eve on Sesame Street is one of my favorites. Some others include the Andrews Sisters (classic), as well as Benjamin Britton’s Ceremony of Carols. Amahl and the Night Visitors is the best, though. My mom used to play this every year and it always gives me the warm fuzzies. A beautiful Christmas story and I’m not kidding will make me cry so I have to stop talking about it right now.

Flowers are always a good standby. But why not DIY some florals? Middle Atlantic Wholesale Florist doesn’t only sell wholesale! They’re an amazing gem - drop by and they can help you find and put together whatever you need, including vases and greenery!

Headed back to my Del Ray hood, I have to recommend a pint of Frozen Custard from the Dairy Godmother. You can see their flavor forecast here. I’m dying to try the eggnog flavor. This is a can’t miss gift. Unless they’re lactose intolerant. In which case, skip it.

And finally, this is a season about giving. So why not donate to a charity in honor of your host or hostess? World Vision has a great gift catalog with amazing options include goats, ducks, clean water, or education for young women! That is what it’s all about, folks.

Happy Holidays!!!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

I've finished cleaning and prepping and errand running - so in my first free moment (whew), I wanted to wish you all a very happy thanksgiving! We're hosting my husband's side of the family and some friends who are coming down from NYC. It's a smaller gathering than some holidays, but I'm looking forward to it. The husband was off hunting with his father and brother and I just learned they bagged 7 geese so we're doing goose again this year!

Things have been pretty stressful for me lately, so I tried to keep Thanksgiving simple even thought we're hosting. Easy table decor, easy place cards, easy does it. I think Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday to really take a step back and remember what matters and what doesn't. Direct attention on the blessings and the priorities in life. And although I'm an event planner and I love me some gatherings and decor and festivities… sometimes it's good to keep it simple so you can focus on what really matters: the friends and the family.

So I'm wishing you all a wonderful day filled with thanks and love (and hopefully some tasty food as well). Happy Thanksgiving!

The pressure to be crafty

Guys... I have been terrible about blogging. Terrible. Per my Valentine's day post, my Puritan heritage is lashing myself for being so awful. Lots of craziness in my personal and professional life lately, so I do apologize for my absence. Trying to get back into the swing of things by getting something off my chest. Oh Happy Day, one of my favorite blogs, had a great post about what to have in stock so that you're ready to celebrate at a moment's notice, providing some great advice and ideas. It actually really ties in with this post I wrote recently, about how we quickly pulled together my Mom-in-Law's birthday celebration. All that being said, I have to respectfully disagree with the idea that you need 1 hour of crafting to prep for a party. One HOUR of crafting? For a party? The 1 hour of errands, yes. But you don't need to be crafty to party. Seriously. Like, seriously. Let's stop it with the craft pressure, ok?

I recently had two separate clients express in the MOST apologetic way (when talking about what kind of wedding reception they want) that "well, I'm... I'm not really crafty" (hung head in shame).

I got pissed. I screamed at them (in a loving way, I swear) that THEY DO NOT NEED TO BE CRAFTY TO BE BRIDES. Weddings do not need crafts to make them legitimate. Hell, they don't even need guests to be legitimate! Wedding receptions should reflect the couple who have just gotten married. Not crafty? People will be royally confused why you have hand-made burlap escort cards, a hand-made wedding cake topper, DIY-ed floral arrangements, and crafted pennant banners. Similarly, if you're not crafty then don't try and craft things for your kids birthday party, your next bbq, or the Superbowl. Let's focus on why we party and celebrate in the first place, right?

Now please don't get me wrong. My Mom is crafty. I love lots of crafty people, and if you love crafts - more power to you. They are a wonderful way to be creative and fun. And I do realize that sometimes crafting can save money (but keep in mind, it also takes time. Sometimes that time isn't worth the money saved). But this bizzarro pressure that now all weddings and celebrations need to have multiple handmade projects is absurd. So let's all take a deep breath and let this crafty DIY sh!t go with the exhale. If it's right for you, do it (and I'll help you hang the pennant banners). But if it's not, give yourself a break and realize you can and will throw an amazing, excellent celebration sans crafts.

 

brights and stripes

We celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday the Saturday before we left on vacation with a small dinner party hosted at our house. It was just us, my Mom and Dad-in-law and another great couple who are old friends of the family. Since we were in the midst of vacation prepping, I didn’t have a ton of time to plan the dinner party (for shame!) - but I thought I’d prove how you can quickly, cheaply, and easily turn a dinner into a celebration! My husband was doing the cooking (of course. and thank god) - and I asked him to pick up some flowers at Whole Foods while he was doing his shopping. We did a quick run to Target and I bought some crepe paper balls to hang from the chandelier. Not ashamed to say, I'm pretty sure they were $4.00

I made a rough flower arrangement from the flowers he brought home (the two extra stems I ended up snipping off right towards the bloom and putting in votive holders!).

 

We rolled out an old runner my Mom made for our wedding (I always love me some stripes - check out my Pinterest page if you don’t believe me), added some colorful napkins, and voila! Colorful, celebratory and ready for a birthday.

 

With the ridiculously tasty meal my husband prepared and some great wine, and we were ready to roll. We feasted on surf and turf: Lamb porterhouse with fresh pickles, roasted carrot with garlic butter mint glaze, pan roasted shrimp with thyme and lemon, and creamed spinach with nutmeg cayenne and mint from his new iSi whipping siphon.

 

Happy birthday, indeed.

a simple touch

If you asked her, my mother would likely claim she's not a great hostess. She always apologizes profusely before I arrive that she didn't clean enough, or didn't get something-or-other done. But I disagree. You see, my mother loves beautiful things. And so, whenever I come to visit she always has a small flower arrangement somewhere. Sometimes it's beside my bed

 

Sometimes it's in the bathroom

 

I think it's a great reminder that none of us are perfect hosts or hostesses. There's always going to be a dust bunny you missed. A meal that wasn't planned. A blanket you forgot to leave out. But small, simple touches are really all you need to make people feel welcome and special. These teeny tiny bouquets are so stunning and always bring a smile to my face - not only because of their beauty, but because I know my Mom did it because she loves doing it. The things you do for guests because you want to are the things they always notice and care about. Big thanks to my mother for that simple lesson.