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Coco's 3rd Birthday: A Witches Ball

Last summer, we got a hand-me-down witch dress and hat, initially for William as he was really into witches. Unfortunately it was right around the time when he became more aware of gender norms and despite my reassurance, he didn't want anything to do with the dress. Coco was just two, but she snapped that 4T dress right up. Last year was the first halloween she really understood and once we had that witches costume, she was set that that's what she wanted to be. It was way too long so I searched on Amazon for something similar in a smaller size, but after much searching, couldn't find anything close. Most of the dresses were short, which was odd, and she liked this long purple and black dress. So I took it to get altered and while the seamstress kept asking if I really wanted to spend $27 hemming it, it was the dress Coco wanted and there was no convincing her otherwise. I was sure after spending the money that she would change her mind at the last minute and want to wear one of her princess dresses, but she didn't. She was so happy to dress up as a witch. We even found a matching witches broom prop in black and purple at the dollar store to complete her look.

While she loves that costume and really loved everything about Halloween, I figured it was a phase soon to be outgrown. But no, she'd turn sticks at outdoor class into witches brooms and fly around. She'd collect rocks and other treasures for her witches brew, complete with her personalized magic spell of 'Abra-cadabra, kaziss- kazoo', and this continued months after Halloween. She absolutely loves Halloween books and we check them out year round. My personal favorite is At The Old Haunted House. She still wears that witches dress often, mixing it up with her princess dresses, a firefighter costume or a tool belt. In fact, she's already decided that she's going to be a witch again this year for Halloween and she wants to wear that same costume. She actually just walked in on me writing up this post and seeing all the photos and she just asked if we could do the same exact party again next year...

So as we got closer to her birthday, it looked like a Halloween party would be the natural choice, but it seemed so odd to be planning a spring-time witches ball. We talked about different ideas but her choice was clear and so I started planning. Part of my hesitation with planning the off-season party was that it was going to be harder to find themed colors, decorations and accessories. I often have so much luck in the Target dollar bin and at the Dollar Store, many times with items that aren't specific to my theme but colored plates or other decor that can be repurposed for my needs. I didn't find much this year, so I decided to post on our local Buy Nothing facebook group, in search of any unwanted Halloween decor, or items people were happy to loan out. I was able to borrow a huge blow-up for our front yard from a friend, and another friend replied loaning out a huge tub of Halloween decorations that worked perfectly. I picked up party supplies and Halloween decorations for two other people who wanted to get rid of them, but were waiting to post until it was closer to Halloween. I felt like I hit the jackpot! In the end, I only ordered a few things, some themed napkins and cups, a purple table cloth, but otherwise was able to incorporate a lot of what I got from others, the few Halloween decorations we had, and other things I already had on hand from previous parties like black craft paper which served as the tablecloth for the snack table.

I always question if I want to go all out for another birthday party, and I know Dave certainly has doubts, but in the end, I have so much fun doing it and always love the finished product. I have a pretty good formula that I continue to use so it's easy to start a list a few months before the party:
  • Dessert food, snack food and catered food
  • Decor
  • Outfits for each of us
  • Games
  • Goody bags
  • Guest list
  • Invitation
  • Book photographer and any entertainment and party helper, order catering and cake
Then I spend some time pinning stuff and eventually narrow it down to certain colors and decor style, and start ordering stuff after stops at Target and the Dollar Store, and this time, help from the Buy Nothing community.

Paperless Post came through with a really cute Meri Meri witch invite so I just edited that to personalize it for a birthday party.

For decor, I based a lot of it off of what I was able to source from others and tried to purchase minimal additions. I purchased a printable set off of Etsy for the banner and all the food tents, as well as a few signs we hung up around the party. Black and purple were the main colors with pops of green and orange. 

I bought a set of 12 witches hats, cut a tiny hole in the tip and strung string through, attached to the lanterns

This year I tried to simplify the food slightly as we didn't want to use the side yard, so we could keep it open for the bigger kids to play basketball. I set up a snack table and later added the catered food (from BaconBacon again, always a hit). Then we had the dessert table which I always love as a centerpiece for the party.

I'm all about the semi-homemade approach, and am fine to completely outsource too. I found this amazing chocolate cake recipe last year and all of us love it. Coco said she wanted that cake so I decided to do the cake myself and just get a cake topper to bring it to life. I gathered some inspiration from Pinterest and Joy at The Magic Oven nailed it! I bought cupcakes and then topped them with half an oreo cookie with a dot of frosting and an unwrapped Hershey kiss. I always like making sugar cookies because it's a fun way to tie in the theme with different cookie cutters. But I didn't want white cookies, I wanted spooky black cats, so I went with this recipe for Brownie roll-out cookies. I also plated some white powdered donuts with mini-chocolate chips for eyes so they looked like ghosts. I spent too much on the Frankenstein Peeps but it was a small splurge that added height to the table. Sprinkled candy corns, gummy frog and worms brought everything together.

I always love coming up with fun themed snack foods. BaconBacon breakfast burritos and sandwiches were for the adults and crescent-rolled wrapped hot dogs, 'mummy dogs' out for the kids, complete with ketchup 'blood' for dipping. Other snacks:

  • Applesauce pouch 'mummies'
  • Grape eye balls
  • Pretzel broomsticks
  • Blue tortilla chip 'Witches Hats' with 'Dragon Blood' salsa
  • Cheese stick ghosts
  • Pumpkin cuties

serving with pumpkin scoops

I always like to leave a bottle of hand sanitizer on the table along with napkins, plates and any serve ware. I love these compostable plates and forks. This Meri Meri witch was actually the design for their invites on Paperless Post which I just loved, so splurging on the cute witches hat cups and themed Meri Meri napkins brought everything together.

Games are always one of my favorite things to do for a backyard party and while I usually go with 4 or 5 different ones, there are always a couple that are hits. And oddly, I can't always tell which ones will be. I usually go with something that's fairly easy to prep but can also serve as a party decoration even if it's not used much. 

the boys helped me add all the faces :)

  • Rock box grave digging - the rock box isn't used too much by us at this point but is always a hit at the parties so I open it up and add the theme, this time with skeletons and tombstones and some construction trucks for digging.
  • Witches hat ring toss. I placed witches hats over a ring toss game we had gotten a few years back. They sat perfectly in place and the rings were easy to throw over.
  • Disappearing ghosts - I saw this one on pinterest and who knew compostable packing peanuts were so easily available.
  • Witches brew soapy foam - this is a harder one to keep for the length of the party as it looses a lot of the foam after 20 minutes or so, but it still worked.
  • Witches potion sensory bin - water beads, also adding little spiders, eye balls etc.
Everything was used, though I was surprised the disappearing ghosts were so popular. I had the water beads potion in the playhouse so that didn't get discovered by many. We also had the Amazing Rachel come to do faceprinting and ballon animals and the kids loved her. Coco didn't warm up to her this year and didn't want to get either, but the highlight of the party was the excitement on her face when Rachel surprised her with a balloon witches broom, priceless! She was in heaven until that thing popped an hour later, after Rachel had left and she was seriously upset...

This year, I hired a 15-year old boy for our party helper and while his jobs were set up and take down of the party, as well as warming up some food during, I asked him to keep the bigger boys out of trouble, ideally with basketball. They had SO much fun with John and we actually invited him back another day to play with the boys while I was out of town.

I'm over the junky goody bag fillers so while not as themed as I'd usually go, I chose Melissa and Doug activity books good for different ages since we had older siblings at the party too.

This year Coco's party wasn't until the first weekend in June, which is later than usual. With Mother's Day and Memorial Day weekend, and a class camping trip planned for the boys and Dave on her birthday weekend, we ended up pushing it off. In the end, it all worked out. It ended up raining on her birthday and that Saturday, very rare for May, so unfortunately the boys' trip was canceled, but I was thanking God I wasn't trying to move a party inside.

Another fun party and it's such a great feeling to have your kid want to repeat the exact same party again for their next birthday :)

Thanks to Alyssa Hunter for capturing another one of our parties!

Cake topper: The Magic Oven, joylagos@gmail.com
Catering: BaconBacon
Halloween-themed napkins and cups: Meri Meri
Invitations: Paperless Post
Entertainment: The Amazing Rachel 
Banner, signs, food tents and favor tags: Lilacs and Charcoal on Etsy
Adult witch headband: Amazon, sold out, similar here
Kids witch hat hair clip: Zara, sold out