My heart always skips a beat or two when I see an email arrive in my inbox from Toni about a new idea. Those that know me will think I sound like a broken record here, but I never miss a chance to say just how incredibly flattered, honored, thankful, and blessed I feel when friends and family members allow me to contribute to their events with my décor or planning services. Each and every order or party I book means a great deal to me and to my business, but there is something so extra special about being a part of my loved ones’ big days. So naturally I replied to Toni’s note with my signature, overly enthusiastic “COUNT ME IN!” before even really taking in all of the details.
But I knew that whatever the project was, it would be extraordinary. Over the past eighteen months, I’ve come to learn that working with Toni always means a challenge (in a good way!), a creative freedom, an open-mindedness, and so much more. The first item she ever asked me to make, for example, was a piece for Darlington’s nursery a few months before she was due. When I told her that I felt the strong need to create a mobile featuring tigers jumping through a flaming hoop for this newborn baby girl, Toni had no hesitation in telling me to go for it.
And she meant it. In fact, I was chatting with Khanh Nha Khanh (Toni’s go-to fashion designer), and we both blurted out—nearly verbatim and in sync—the sentiment that our favorite part about working with Toni is the trust she has in us and the freedom she gives us to really run with her ideas and put so much of ourselves into her vision. It’s rare to come across a client/friend like that, and it makes these collaborations so effortless, so fulfilling, and above all so very inspiring.
Even in the initial email about Darlington’s party, Toni had already decided that she wanted what we ended up referring to as a “Boho Chic Fiesta” theme. We passed some ideas back and forth and sent each other inspiration photos, and eventually we came up with the key pieces I would create—tissue paper flowers, macramé banners, the photo booth décor, and a few other accents here and there. Having just completed my DIY Macramé Statement Bib post, I was totally in the zone and couldn’t wait to get started.
A few weeks later, Toni ran across these gorgeous “potted” tissue flowers in a store window display and sent them over as a reference for the color scheme and feel. Meanwhile, I stumbled upon some whimsical macramé hangings in the displays of Free People at Northpark, who also happened to end up styling our latest MB Revamp, so I knew we were right on-trend with our theme!
I have a secret: Store window displays are the absolute best place, in my opinion, to get inspiration for party, holiday and home decor DIY projects. I often do laps around the mall, taking photos of different window displays that spark ideas I can call upon later.
With the scale of this undertaking and the sheer volume of supplies I’d need, I had to really budget my time between this, my shop, my business, my “real” job, my family, and my other responsibilities. I needed to make a clear schedule of what exactly I would do and when. To help with that, I created a notebook with each page representing each full day leading up to the party and filled in which items I needed to have completed by the end of each day. This really helped me stay on track and organized. And I even enlisted the help of my three-and-a-half-year-old son, Trent, my husband, my mom, my grandmother, and our babysitter to help cut the thousands and thousands of feet of macramé cord in their spare time!
I spent mornings and evenings, when the house was quiet, sitting at the kitchen counter tying macramé knots. I brought my supplies everywhere we went, really, and worked on knotting during any spare chunk of time I could find.
I designed a different, unique set of banners for each area of the house to make sure everything had a custom feel and to add a little variety between each space. Again, because of scale and time, I knew I had to keep the knotwork fairly simple, but I was able to put together a nice collection of designs using just a handful of knot techniques in different combinations. Each banner took about 4 hours to complete and, believe it or not, after tying the very last knot in the twenty-fourth and final banner, I could have kept going! You know that feeling you get on Christmas Eve when you think, “I’ve wrapped five billion presents and can NOT wrap even ONE more!” Well, when after 100+ hours of macramé I was not at all tired or sick of it, I had a realization. While I always knew I loved macramé, I discovered during this party-prep that it’s one of my truest passions and that I want to keep working with it, in as many ways as I can, forever.
Next up were the tissue flowers. I experimented a bit with the construction of these until I found the perfect technique, and things moved along fairly quickly after that. With a combination of folding, cutting, stapling, and tying, I was able to get all of the tissue paper flowers to a flat-packed state for easier transport to Toni’s house where I planned to do the final two steps on site, as these are not the easiest items to travel with. Special thanks to my husband and children for living in a complete disaster zone for the last several months!
Dan and Toni gave me free reign of their expansive basement to spread out and put the finishing touches on my items in the seventy-two hours leading up to the party. I rigged up a rope line with clothespins on which to hang each flower I unfolded and assembled so that they would maintain their shape, and I’m pretty sure all of the other vendors were kind of over having to do the limbo on their way to the downstairs restroom, but hey, their quads are probably thanking me now! I have to admit that I underestimated the time it would take to unfold and assemble all of the flowers, but in the end it was well worth it to keep them intact and beautiful versus the alternative of trying to transport them fully assembled.
I also spent those three days building up my own quads while climbing the ladder at least 567 times to hang and adjust each macramé banner and flower around the kitchen, loggia, and photo booth. Toni’s assistant, Erica, had sent me photos and measurements of the spaces ahead of time so I was able to tailor each banner to a certain spot and only had to do minimal trimming on site. With Toni’s okay, I chose to leave somewhat of an unfinished fringe on the banners which I think gave it a super boho, whimsical, artisan look rather than having a uniform trim.
The morning of the party was hotter than blue blazes and windier than expected, but it made for an exciting setup! As fellow Behaviorist Priya said to me later that week during a separate event, the energy on a “party day” during setup is such a unique feeling. She doesn’t know this, but I realized in that very moment that I don’t just like that rush. I’m truly addicted to it. As much as I love to create, and as much as I’m a maker, deep down I’m a doer. I love attending a party and I love making the items in anticipation of a party, but that magical window of setting up for an event in the hours before guests arrive is where I truly thrive. I love each knock on the door by another vendor, each unexpected snafu that arises, each chime of the clock that means we are getting closer and closer. The buzz and excitement of it all is like none other for me.
Another secret: I put Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on my headphones during every setup and get into a zone. The first movement calms me and puts my mind in the right place while I get my equipment unloaded, organized, and ready for the day. The second movement brings me back to the real world and gets me rolling right along with my to-do list. The third movement is where the adrenaline really starts flowing and I feel that amazing energy of racing against the clock and putting all of myself and my heart into my craft.
I always spend every second I possibly can on setup. Yes, I want each party to be perfect, but I guess somewhere inside I’m selfishly soaking up every ounce of that high I can get! After I finished hanging the last of the outdoor flowers and paper lanterns, I used Toni’s “fair/carnival booth” inspiration to add piñatas and some extra tissue poms I’d made to the side panels of the photo booth area to accent the macramé and flower backdrop.
From there I had just a couple of minutes to add a little pizzazz to the tent entrance. At the very final second, I was racing down the 10 ft ladder in the middle of the parachute tent, throwing the last of my supplies into my toolbox and literally sprinting into the house.
Last secret: I was so sad it was over.
Every party I do, big or small, family or strangers, always takes me a little while to come down from. But if that feeling ever stops, then I don’t want to be doing this anymore! It keeps me invested and reminds me that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.
After a quick wardrobe change, a few gallons of Ozarka and a “bath” with baby wipes—I’ll spare you the details—it was party time!
I can’t believe it’s already been over a year since we were anxiously awaiting baby D’s arrival. It has been such a joy to follow along on all of her adventures and milestones this first year, and being a part of her birthday celebration was the icing on the cake!
If you’d like to learn more about how to make the tissue flowers used in Darlington’s Boho Chic Fiesta, I would love to see you at my upcoming class which is being featured as part of the Texas Pinners Conference in September. Use my unique coupon code SWEETORANGEFOX to receive 10% off your class registration fee!