The only picture I have of (only) myself from the evening. Thanks, Mom!
After going through dozens of 25th birthday party ideas (which you can find here and here), I finally decided to celebrate my 25th birthday by hosting a late night boozy brunch for 70 of my closest friends. I rented out a brunch venue in Philadelphia that usually wasn’t open in the evening that was BYOB, brought in a DJ, and they served brunch and cupcakes all night. It’s definitely one of the better birthday parties I’ve hosted through the years.
Why am I documenting this party in such detail? Well there are a few reasons for that: (1) to learn from my experience, (2) so somebody else might be able to learn something from it, and (3) so I can google it later to see exactly what I did. I hope that through all of the planning and logistics I can inspire you to host your own late night boozy brunch. It’s easier than it seems, all you need to do is plan ahead.
Making The Guest List
I started the guest list for my 25th birthday party right after I decided on the party type, in Excel, of course. I made a preliminary list of all of the people that I usually hang out with, then scrolled through my cell phone, and then I looked down my gchat. I did a final quick glance over Facebook.
At the end of the day I had a list of my 158 closest friends and family (including their other halves) – which were essentially separated into church choir, co-workers, college, resident assistants, and friends from home. Yes, that number sounds crazy, but 73 of them lived out of state, which left me with 85.
That being said, come the day of the party I looked around and I felt so honored and blessed and loved by everybody who had made it in for my 25th birthday party to visit me from out of state, in a snowstorm, – people from NYC, New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana, Texas, and a bunch from towns over an hour outside of PA.
Deciding on the Budget
I decided at the beginning that I wasn’t going to be able to fund the entity of my 25th birthday party by myself. For the size of the event and the fanciness of the event that I wanted to throw, it just wasn’t going to be possible.
I’ve been informed that it’s unorthodox to charge people to come to your birthday party, but after doing it for my 21st Birthday Party Prom which had over 100 people I decided my friends knew what they were in for with me. The number I decided on was $25 per person. What was this price covering?
- All you can eat late night brunch
- All you can drink late night booze
- The venue
I also ended up deciding that if you’re going out for the evening with you’re friends you’re nearly guaranteed to spend over $25.
Sending the Invitations
I decided to email the invitations for my 25th birthday party so I would have a more direct line of communication with everyone. I was shocked to find out how many of my friends email addresses I didn’t have, so that was an adventure in itself. Also, I made the executive decision to email groups of people together so that people knew who else was invited to the party that they would know. Here’s the invitation I created:
I tried to keep it simple and I tried to figure out what questions people were going to ask before it came up. A big one at my parties is dress code, I don’t know when it started – probably at the murder mystery parties, but people always think they’re supposed to dress a certain way – I should probably take advantage of this at some point, but this time I didn’t. I ended up deciding on Smart Casual. Mainly because – just look presentable and jeans are totally fine, but if you want to wear a dress with me that’s totally legit too, but don’t forget it’s going to be cold because it’s January in Philadelphia – was too long.
I also liked how in the end it ended up being $25 on the 25th of January for my 25th birthday party. I also asked for homemade cards, because you’re allowed to do that on your birthday.
A few days before the party I sent out an email to everybody who had RSVP-ed yes with every detail they ever could have wanted divided into the following categories: the basics, the food and drink, the atmosphere, the dress code, the payment, and what to bring. I also inserted this nifty pie chart that I created.
I figured it would grab people’s attention. And it did. I got text messages of everybody asking which group they were in if it overlapped.
The Food for my 25th Birthday Party
Food was covered by the venue. We talked through their menu and my budget and finally decided on a pancake station, eggs Benedict two ways, veggie fritata, and cupcakes.
It was really interesting to negotiate the cost of the items. I had originally wanted to do cannoli french toast, but found out that fresh fruit is more expensive in the winter, which was driving up the price of the french toast. When I decided to switch to the veggie fritata, things got much easier.
At one point we had considered that maybe I should bring my own cupcakes to cut down on cost ($2 per person), but once I realized how much work that was going to be, I decided it was easier to pay them to make them – and I wouldn’t need to transport them.
The Drinks: How Much Alcohol to Serve for 70 People
The first thing to note is that the venue I chose was a BYOB. And I decided right at the beginning that I was going to be the one to supply all of the alcohol. It seemed like the easiest answer. Otherwise, people would bring in different bottles of things, some people would try to bring in hard liquor (which the owner and I had both individually decided on our own was a bad idea), and if somebody brought something more expensive than somebody else they’d probably want to keep tabs on it and that just sounded difficult. So I tasked myself with figuring out exactly how much alcohol to bring to my 25th birthday party.
After a two-hour discussion with a boy with a heck of a lot of patience and an engineering brain, we ended up at an answer. First, we assumed that half of the party was going to drink wine and half of the party was going to drink beer. We tried to figure out if we could base it on gender thinking that girls would drink more wine and boys would drink more beer – but the numbers were about even and my friends don’t really hit those stereotypes. Then I tried to go through and label every person as a heavy or light drinker and that was just a mess, and felt super judgey. So, I just had to go on gut instinct in the end. I ended up deciding that everybody could drink 6 beers or a bottle of wine in 4 hours. Then I made this preliminary chart based on some internet research:
At the time I made this chart, there was still a possibility of 95 people showing up.
I ended up deciding that more people would drink white wine with brunch than red. I also decided more people would drink Yuengling than Blue Moon, but I wanted to have some beer variety. Oh. And in Philadelphia, PA, Yuengling isn’t even a question, it’s a standard (also, it’s only $16/case, how are you supposed to argue with that?) So here’s what I learned, I needed 11 cases of beer and about 50 bottles of wine. Ridiculous, right? Here’s what that looks like.
Some things changed from this original list. I went with a Victory variety pack instead of Blue Moon – and ended up with 7 cases of Yuengling and 4 cases of Victory. Also, we found out that you get a discount on wine if you buy a whole case, so we ended up getting 15 Chardonnay (it’s my favorite), and then 12 of the remaining three types of wines.
Here was the party outcome:
- During a 4-hour party, people averaged 0.86 bottles of wine.
- During a 4-hour party, people averaged 4.57 bottles of beer.
- More people drank white wine than red wine during brunch (which might have to do with red wine turning your teeth red?).
- The least drank type of wine was the one no one had ever heard of (and I can’t even remember the name of), so only get things people have heard of.
- The two favorite wines of the evening were the Chardonnay and the Malbec.
- The beer with the highest alcohol content will disappear first.
In other words, I bought way too much alcohol for my 25th birthday party. (As per usual.) Lucky for me, at certain stores you can return extra alcohol, so I was actually able to return about $160 worth of alcohol that was never chilled, which was awesome.
Getting the RSVPs
As we got closer to the day of my 25th birthday party, I really really needed the number of guests and I became woman on a mission about it. I emailed everybody a week before to remind them that I needed them to RSVP in a week. Then I texted/called/IM-ed/and g-chatted everyone I could get a hold of.
So you know how my life is a little bit… out of the ordinary? Always in a different state, never quite sure when I’m going to be anywhere. Well, there’s a bunch of my friends that are the same way (and I love them for it and wouldn’t have it any other way). My two favorite, “I’m not sure if I can come yet” reasons were – (a) I’m not sure what day I’m flying back from Chile yet, and (b) she doesn’t have a visa to the country yet so she’s not sure she’s going to be here.
Personalizing the Party Details
With 70 of my closest friends coming to my 25th birthday party (the final count), I wanted to find a way to make sure that they knew exactly how excited that I was for each one of them to be there. I wanted to find a way to tell everybody everything I wanted to say to say to them throughout the entire course of the evening, just in case I didn’t get a chance to do it.
First, I put a really big sign at the door that said everything I would want to say to someone walking in the room for the first time.
The first item on the to do list was for everyone to find his or her letter. That’s right, I had actually typed up personalized letters for everyone who came to the party. The letters were only about 60 words a piece, but it was a good chance for me to spill my emotions.
How I did it: I typed up the letters in Microsoft Word. I turned the page horizontal, divided it into 3 columns and typed a little message into each column. Then I got them printed at Kinkos on cardstock – AND they cut the pages in thirds for me, which made my life so much easier. The Kajal helped me fold them all at the bar in Baton Rouge one night, while I cut one side into a triangle. I wrote everybody’s name on them and alphabatized them on a plane (the girl next to me asked if I was doing something for a wedding…). Then BJ helped me tape all of them closed and stamp them when I finally arrived home late Thursday night before the party.
(Clearly the one downside to being anywhere near the party planner the week of the event is that you get pulled into a multitude of things. Oops. They both did a wonderful job though.)
The next thing I wanted to do was personalize the wine and beer station. Since there were so many options, I wanted to let people know what they were ahead of time. I made signs for each type of alcohol. The wine was in red, and the beer was in yellow.
How I did it: I found the descriptions on the Total Wine website, which worked out perfectly. I vaguely remember sticking in my own “#thatswhatshesaid” on one of them, but I’m not sure anybody actually read it.
The final personalized detail was that I had wine and beer tags available for everyone if they wanted it. The wine tags were a gift from Marie (thanks, Marie!) and everybody was able to choose their own.
How I did it: The beer tags were made using a circle punch, some packaging tape, and string (BJ also ended up helping with these). I came home with a lot of them, but I think that the people who did used them enjoyed it.
How the Party Went
When all was said and done at the end of my 25th birthday party, I would tell you that I got to talk to about 60 people and actually sit down and have conversations with about 30 of them. I think I said to a few people throughout the course of the evening, this is what a wedding must feel like. In retrospect, I probably should have had somebody else collecting money at the door so that I would have more time to talk to people, but at least that gave me a chance to see most people for at least a little bit.
One thing that made me feel a little bit better about not being able to see everybody was a recurring comment that people keep sharing with me. People kept telling me that it was so great to see so many people together again and to be able to catch up with everyone. And you know what, that in itself made it worth it for me.
The Final Cost of My 25th Birthday Party
The total cost of my 25th birthday party came out to about $40 per head, or $2,800. This total was comprised of $1,700 paid by attendees and $1,100 paid out-of-pocket.
- Room Fee: $500
- Food: $1,650
- Alcohol: $540 – This is the number once the excess alcohol was returned. It came to about $7.70 per person.
- Miscellaneous: $110
- DJ: $0 – One of my friend’s parents are wonderful human beings who just enjoy a good party. They’re pretty much just awesome. They also drove almost two hours in a snowstorm to do this.
Overall, $1,100 is a decent amount to pay for a 25th birthday party, but I decided to look at it is a mini vacation with all of my favorite people. Not only that, but I got a bunch of awesome handmade cards, a lot of great memories, and a lot of friends and family that traveled pretty far to get there.
How to Lower the Cost
Overall, there are a few tips I would give you on lowering your own party cost:
- Decide at the beginning how much money you’re willing to spend.
- Do your research on venues ahead of time.
- Send out paper-items electronically or print them yourself.
- See if you can substitute individual items to make the cost cheaper (a different kind of wine, or a cheaper menu item).
- Look to friends and family for assistance when possible.
- Consider serving food in a buffet instead of sit-down (like this was).
- Remember you can always return things you don’t use.
- HOWEVER, consider how much your time is worth (for me, not making cupcakes was worth the extra cost).
Let me know what you think. Have you hosted your own boozy brunch? I’d love to hear about it. This event was such a success that I would absolutely consider another one in the future. Who knows, maybe for my 30th birthday party?