There’s something about a surprise party that you just want to be a part of. It’s innately celebratory but there’s something more, something about the unknown of it all that makes it extraordinary. My mom has been quietly braving breast cancer for years and although far from your ordinary “milestone” birthday, every year when you’re battling a disease is worthy of a lovely celebration. And to top it off, our birthdays are one day apart and as any momma can attest to, you’d rather pour your celebration into your child so she’s never had a surprise party or any celebration just for her. She’s just the sweetest soul I’ve ever known so there really wasn’t a question in my mind about throwing her a party with her dearest friends.

This party was recently featured on 100LayerCake. What an honor! See the full photo gallery and details here.

My parents live in the Napa Valley and they aren’t short on beautiful party locations but since I was planning this from 3000 miles away in Boston and didn’t have the energy to plan it from the ground up (ie tent, caterer, rentals, etc) we searched for the perfect restaurant location. Having it at a restaurant meant far less / any party rentals since it would be a location, food and seating all in one. So that limits your choices since I was going for the right “look.” I wanted a neutral canvas so the party details could pop. Boy did we ever find the most lovely spot. Archetype restaurant is on Main St in St Helena and it could not have been more perfect. They have a enclosed front porch with beautiful white painted brick fireplace and wall to wall shelves with potted plants. Gorgeous windows and natural light and better yet, the tables and chairs are right out of a Paris bistro. Perfect for a spring garden party. I worked with the manager to select 5 entrees for a custom party menu. They provided grapefruit mimosas and we brought in Rosé.

I designed the party based off of my mom’s favorite colors–coral and navy. To make things interesting I played with the texture of materials, from navy ikat pillows and runners to the coral velvet pillows and raw silk ribbons on the favor boxes to the shiny vintage brass candlesticks. The variety of textures add dimension. When styling a party don’t forget to think about how textures layer upon each other. The subtle details really make parties extraordinary.

I knew I wanted a floral invitation so I sneakily asked her opinion on invitations by saying I was helping a friend with wedding planning. She fell right into that trap and pointed out her favorite. Bingo. Invitations found. Zazzle did a fantastic job with the invitations. I used the same pattern to make custom signs, favors tags and labels for the dessert table.

The beautiful two-tiered, hand-painted ikat design and sugar flower cake was made by Perfect Endings in the Napa Valley. They also made the cupcakes. The cookies are by my favorite baker, Kessacakes, an Etsy shop. Here cookies are art. And yummy! They were the stars of the dessert table. Dessert tables are my favorite part of parties. It’s where the sugar-loving kid in me really gets to come out.

This whole day would never have happened without the amazingly talented floral designer Morgan Honings and her team at Tulips & Toadstools. I was able to drop all of the homemade details–linens, signs, chargers, plates, etc off with her before the party for her to set up the day of. Such a blessing. If it had been up to me to set up the party it never would have been able to be a surprise.

When trying to find an idea for unique favor boxes I loved a picture I had seen on pinterest that used a fresh flower and various ribbons. Of course that was too much work the day of so I looked for alternate options that would allow me to make them in advance. I knew we were going to be filling them with Sees Candy Dark Chocolate Nougat (my momma’s favorite). But I wanted them to be lovely. Not loving the idea of “fake” or silk flowers I happened to stumble upon paper flowers that were almost too beautiful to be fake. After some searching I found the original creator of these beautiful paper flowers. I sent an email and we corresponded back and forth. Turns out sweet Christine of Christine Paper Designs is in Romania and was kind enough allow me to be her first customer in the United States. Thank you Christine for the most lovely flowers! She made the most gorgeous garlands for the big balloons.

The surprise itself was really sweet. She had no idea. We had all successfully kept this enormous surprise from her. 35 of her dearest friends, some having traveled over 10+ hours to be there. What a gift. Many tears in all our eyes made it so worth it.

These gorgeous pictures are by the sweet Ruthie Allen of Ruth Eileen Photography. If there is one splurge when it comes to planning parties, think seriously about a professional photographer. When it comes down to the details, there is really no comparing professional photography. At the end of the day, you want to enjoy your guests and experience the memories, not be snapping away like a crazed tourist. You never regret lovely pictures.