My daughter had her 11th birthday at the end of August. She spent months agonizing over the potential arrival of a letter from Hogwarts, which, if you’re not in the know, arrives on a child’s 11th birthday. By owl.
I figured that this was the perfect opportunity for a Big Birthday Party, not something we do annually but more like twice in a lifetime for our kids. One of the motivating factors for me, the mama, was that this birthday was destined to be magical. My quest then was to figure out how I could add to the magic and not detract from it. Another thing, we are not wealthy. This is not some big-budget, Real Housewives of Coastal Virginia, multi-thousand dollar party.
So here are some of the things we did, on our budget, to make this party rock:
I rented costumes and ordered cheap accoutrement from Amazon. Snape? That’s just how he looks, plus some hair gel. Bellatrix? A $30 wig from our local costume shop and a homemade dress. Check out you tube for videos on how to do her makeup. The Bowtruckle! Isn’t she adorable? Brown clothing and a crown of silk leaves from our autumn decor stash. Dumbledore was, as usual, the most expensive. A rented robe, and cheapo hat and beard/hair from Amazon. Me/Prof McGonigle–honestly, I planned on this looking much better but was strapped for time and didn’t manifest what I had hoped for. Thinner being one of those things. 😉 The birthday girl wore a rented, very nice, Griffindor robe but you can find them on Meijer’s website. So, there we were all looking a little weird but excited because we love playing dress up.
The first order of business is this: the party was a surprise. I managed to make it thus while spending 100% of my time with the birthday girl. This included a trip to our local costume shop where I RENTED COSTUMES FOR THE PARTY with this kid in tow. The secret slipped slightly, but she was still not sure what was going on. She was very good about not peeking in the bags.
Amazon was another life saver. Party favors; costume extras; gifts! All came in brown boxes to our front porch.
Party favors? Yes. Generally, I think gift bags are crap. The birthday kid is supposed to receive gifts, not the guests. In fact, this just seems like one more way to be more of a consumer and we are under a lot of pressure to spend, spend, spend not only on the birthday child but all of the guests as well. When do kids learn to give without expectation? But I digress, I bought party favors and we made a bunch of them. My son, aka Professor Snape, made 20 wands. Plain wood with the bark left on the handles. I bought inexpensive owls and other animals for the menagerie, and this was, by far, my largest purchase. I also bought cool candy for the candy shop. Yes, yes, we had Diagon Alley right here in our living room! My husband even dressed up like a goblin and handed out the gold to the kids who had keys to their vaults…(I put a blue bow on a skeleton key and we placed it right beside the counter where they had to withdraw funds for their shopping spree. The taller children had a hard time finding the key. The little people got it more quickly, it being closer to their line(s) of vision. There was a small bag of gold coins for each guest and they had to buy a wand, a pet or owl and a broom if they wanted to play quidditch before they were allowed in the candy shop. All of the stores were staffed by family and friends.
This picture does not do it justice. My son’s girlfriend spent the afternoon painting signs for Ollivander’s Wand Shop, Magical Menagerie, and the other shops. My husband made brooms for quidditch and an ENTIRE QUIDDITCH FIELD. I just sat and pointed. Hah. Or you know, I suggested pine branches would make great brooms and planned the whole thing, orchestrated, ordered and cleaned and set up with a TON of help from my beautiful elves, one of whom was Bellatrix LeStrange. You see, Bellatrix came and kidnapped the birthday girl early to take her on a birthday date. There was a little bobble when Bellatrix and Lucius came to the door because the outfit was so convincing on Martina’s blonde, older sister that she ran away into my bedroom and locked the door. She actually thought Bellatrix was coming after her. I think the singing of, “I killed Sirius Black. I killed Sirius Black,” made it extra convincing.
Eventually the kid came out of the room, put on her robes and left with the bad guys.
Then we got to work making the front room and kitchen into the Leaky Cauldron, the living room into Diagon Alley and our downstairs into the dining hall at Hogwarts. Oh, and Mark made the riding arena into a Quidditch field. Obviously the brooms didn’t fly but that darned Snitch sure did. It was awesome.
My husband rigged fishing line and a fishing pole to the snitch so that he could run up and down the field with it and raise it up and down. Only a couple of the kids noticed how it was working. This was one of the most totally amazing things that happened that day.
Once the kids were properly worn completely out, we dragged them inside and away from the West Nile carrying mosquitoes for cake and magic.
My friend, Shelley, made this amazing cake. She also did cupcakes which you can see in the slideshow. This was her family’s gift to Martina. There’s not enough money in the world to buy a gift like this! We have a lot of friends with food allergies and she made certain that there were cupcakes for everyone to eat. I made Butterbeer using cream soda and imitation butter flavoring. Healthy? No. It’s Butterbeer, it’s not supposed to be healthy. I also ordered mason jar mugs from Amazon and printed Butterbeer labels from Avery’s label maker site for the mugs. They were cute.
Shelley’s son, Caleb performed magic tricks for the kids and parents. He was very good, well-practiced and adorable. He even dressed up as a Weasley! I think I was too exhausted by this point to take photos of Caleb or George or Fred or whoever he was, while he was performing. Take my word for it, he was great. (Note, added later: There *is* a pic of Caleb in the slideshow.)
And then we ate and I didn’t make enough food. But we ate and the guests left and we all collapsed and felt really good about it, especially our 11 year old witch. She loved her party. Magical? Indeed.
Please enjoy the long, long slideshow!