Well, I’ve always loved a good party! From paddling pools in the back garden on hot July weekend’s in the 80’s to celebrate my childhood birthdays or a street party to celebrate my Nan & Grandad’s Ruby Wedding Anniversary to getting friends over for BBQs with vodka jelly in mum’s back garden. Any excuse to get people together, laugh, eat and of course decorate!
UK shops are full of party decorations, and I wasn’t as eco-conscious back then, so too much thought didn’t have to go in to it.
Fast forward to 2008 when I moved to a beautiful tiny island in the Caribbean.
Corporate team parties always needed a little something extra and that’s where the DIY decor habit really took off, culminating awards show team Christmas party for my big finale in 2016 – red carpet, host scripts, awards, swag bags, a VIP after party, we had it all (and I couldn’t have done it without my amazing party planning partner in crime Jayne).
Although that wasn’t the first party I’d put together with a red carpet. I think it was 2010 when myself and the other fabulous ladies of 25PP , Nancy and Alethea, hosted an Oscar’s viewing party at our apartment. The red carpet was essential along with beautiful flower arrangements and gold bottles of champagne (no fancy ice buckets for us, we just filled the kitchen sink with ice).
Anyway, my diy decor really came into its own at my wedding (there’s a whole post about that here) – Eat, Drink, Be Married bunting for our reception, a ring cushion incorporating a beautiful brooch which has belonged to my Nan, flower girl baskets, palm fans (it’s hot in Cayman, even at 6pm in February), welcome baskets for our overseas guests, colouring books for our smaller guests, food cards and anything else that came to mind.
The next big event was Sebastian’s 1st birthday a year later. He actually got two parties, a Cat in the Hat (think Three Cheese Trees, Truffalo Trees, Green Eggs & Ham and masses of red, white and blue) party in the UK on his first visit when he was 10 months old, then his actual 1st birthday in Cayman. You can read about the under the sea explosion that took over the downstairs of our house here.
After that we had an Elmo party (the cake tin came back to the UK with us), a Spiderman party (complete with a visit from Spiderman himself). Lucas only got one party in Cayman so for his first birthday we brought Dr Seuss and the Cat in the Hat to Rosemary Street. The joy of living in the Caribbean is that even though your birthday is in October you can have a pool party and celebrate in the sunshine.
When we moved back to the UK there were no parties in our first year but I went all out on decorating the house for every occasion.
The next couple of years brought parties at a local leisure center (bouncy castle, soft play, plenty of space but limited decorating options) and by this time I was concerned about the amount of single use paper and plastic I’d seen at parties. So rather than buy more paper plates, I brought 40 plastic reusable kid size plates and some plastic reusable serving bowls from Sainsburys.
In 2019 we went glamping in Wales, staying at the beautiful Henfryn Farm which had a massive old barn which they used for events sometimes. I was hooked. The dream of becoming a party planner evolved into owning a complete events space.
You know the kind of place where you could just call me up and say, I’d love a flamingo/monster truck/insert your theme here party on Saturday 19th July, 2pm for 30 children and parents, to which I would be reply sure no problem leave it with me, don’t worry about anything just turn up on the 19th and have an amazing time.
I was realistic enough to know that was a long way off. So during lockdown #1 in 2020 I start researching parties in a box and eco friendly party supplies. This was how I came across the amazing Party Kit Network and I signed up straight away!
Sunshine & Smiles – Events by Rachel had been in existence for about 12 months at this point. I’m a great believer in taking the first step so there is no going back even if you can’t move forward too fast. A big shout out to the amazing Vicky of Lexis Place Design for my absolutely amazing and fantastic logo.
I knew lockdown would mean no parties for who knew how long but I also knew I needed to get on with it. So I set out ordering supplies and discovered some amazing bunting markets on Etsy and before long the party kits were born.
There is still a long way to go. My confidence took a knock many many years ago and, although I’m working on it, marketing my business is one of the things I find most difficult. But I need to get over myself and shout from the rooftops about the massive environmental benefits of hiring reusable party supplies and also my love for creating custom DIY party decor out of things which usually be bound for landfill or the recycling bin.
Would love to hear about all your favourite parties so please comment away.