Everly’s San Francisco themed birthday party (Part 1. The decorations)

I kept joking at Everly’s party to our friends and family not to expect all of her parties to be like this - The one million details, elaborate food display, etc.  To be honest, I think there is a lot to be said for a good ‘ol fashion kids birthday party. The kind I had a lot of growing up. Burgers or pizza, a cake (or if you were really lucky an ICE CREAM cake), maybe a balloon on the mailbox.  Kids don’t really care if you spent $50 or $500 on their party, as long as they feel special on their big day.

But this was a her first birthday. One of only a handful of birthdays that falls into that “super extra special” category - her first, her thirteenth, her sixteenth, her twenty first. This party was more for those people who have had the joy of watching her grow and flourish this past year and so all of the extra effort was worth it.

Here’s our sweet bungalow on party day. We might as well have special ordered the weather. It was in the low 60’s, overcast and misty - typical San Francisco weather and a bit out of the ordinary for North Carolina this time of year.

I am completely in love with this birthday banner. It was handmade by Bekah Jennings and her shop is full of sweet banners for every occasion. It provided a cheery welcoming for our guests and best of all, we can use it for years to come as our little ones grow!

I know what you’re thinking, “Gee Melissa, that sure is a lot of presents for a “no presents" party." And you’re right.  Brent and I picked out 6 little gifts for her to open thinking that would be all she had, but a few more were kindly brought by grandparents and family members.  The good news is that we raised over $400 in donations for Band of Parents. I was SO excited about that!

One of our favorite spots in San Francisco is the Musee Mechanique. It’s an old warehouse down on the Fisherman’s Wharf filled with arcade games, fortune tellers and entertainment machines from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. We used to have so much fun with a handful of quarters in that place!  We have so many photo strips from the old timey photobooths at Musee Mechanique that we wanted to try to recreate a bit of the silliness for her party.

We couldn’t afford a real photobooth, so instead we made a low budget version. We tacked a colorful table cloth to a wall. Used posterboard to make a banner sign, and set up a table with hats and fun accessories for guests to use as props. To make the mustaches, beards, and lips - I cut them out of felt, used a fabric stiffner solution (available at any craft store) to make them firm and attached bamboo skewers I found in our kitchen with a hot glue gun. We then had a tripod and camera set up with our remote for folks who wanted to take their own or had someone behind the camera to grab a shot of folks before they left.  It was so easy to do, cost us a total of $5 in supplies and will make for a great keepsake of everyone who came for Everly to look back on when she grows up. I also uploaded all of the photos to Facebook and tagged our guests so that they all had a copy.


Brent made the awesome Golden Gate Bridge piece for the wall. He used a couple of cardboard boxes, hot glue gun, a can of red spray paint and some yarn  to create it. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve thanked my lucky stars for having an artistic husband. I totally loved his bridge!

This table featured Ghiradelli Square (another SF landmark) chocolates and sweets and “Everly’s Bridge” Golden Gate Red Velvet cupcakes.

I used small cards and my Dymo label maker to make signs for each of the themed foods and attached them to each item. 

I was utterly obsessed with the party hats and pinwheels we used for her sweets table. Both items were sponsored by Crossroads Cottage - one of the coolest party supply shops on etsy. I was able to choose from an array of custom paper colors and designs that they created based specifically around my needs.  The pinweels turned our basic cupcakes into a beautiful display and at one point, I looked around the room to see everyone wearing a colorful party hat and just got the biggest smile on my face. I loved the whimsy and playfulness the pinwheels and hats added.

The food table featured foods from around the city - Sourdough bread and seafood chowder from the Fisherman’s wharf. Eggrolls from Chinatown. Mini Sliders from one of our favorite restaurants in the Castro and a “Make your own burrito” station to represent the Mission.  I unfortunately didn’t snap a photo of the beverage table, but we had “Lola the Lemon Tree" lemonade (Withoutmelissa.com readers will know that reference) and glass bottle Coca-Colas on ice in a big metal tub. Adding the little signs at each dish helped our guests who had never been to San Francisco know what neighborhood they were eating from.

We bought a 3 pack of paper lanterns off Amazon and tinkered with them a bit. I glued doilies and origami paper to the two smaller ones and Brent spray painted the largest one red. We hung them with yarn above the food table and next to our birdcage light fixture.

I love this shot of Everly with her Aunt Katie, checking out all the yummy food.

We also sent everyone home with these fun party favors. Chinese takeout boxes filled with sidewalk chalk. Drawing on the sidewalks was another special memory for us in San Francisco so this an obvious one for a party favor. I had hoped to also have a sidewalk chalk collage on the front sidewalk for everyone to add to , but the damp weather nixed that idea.

The key to pulling this off on our budget was a lot of pre-planning. I’ve been collecting party supplies (paper plates here, party decor there) a little bit at a time for months on end. We handmade as much as possible and I simply could not have pulled this off without amazing support from Everly’s Mimi & Gigi, Nana, Grammy and her godparents, Kathy and Terry. They helped with everything from party set-up, to cooking the food, running errands and providing some of the goodies we served. What would we do without our amazing family?!!?!?

Whew. I’m now completely exhausted just typing this out. You moms out there who pull these things off by yourself in a matter of weeks, I don’t know how you do it! It took Brent and I four months and a full team of family members to get this together. I’ll never look at one of those “birthday party inspiration” websites the same way again!

Next week, I’m going to do a separate post on what Everly wore and some of my favorite moments from her party to keep this from getting too long. I’ve also got some fun giveaways in store from some of the etsy sellers who participated in Dovie’s party!