The Best Birthday Ever!
A local event planner and mother of four, Raquel Wells Williams has hosted countless weddings, homecoming events, birthday parties and church occasions.
“Living in a small town presents a set of stumbling blocks when it comes to hosting and decorating parties,” Williams said. “Theme parties have made an unsupported entrance to the common plain cake and ice cream parties in the past decade.”
Williams is a married mother to Elias, age 24; Chandler, age 14; Brady Mack, age 9; and Mallory, age 2. She said she first became interested in hosting parties because she was a “helicopter mom.”
“I wanted my son to experience good clean fun and cater to hormonal teenagers,” she said.
With Google and Pinterest at her fingertips, she tailors birthday celebrations to clients’ exact wishes.
Of all the events she’s done, the royal party Williams helped bring to life for her daughter Mallory’s second birthday last year tops her list. She hired decorator Tiffany Smith of CreaTif Event Planning in Southaven to help create a gathering fit for an heiress. “Princess Promenade” was the perfect theme for the August party.
Mallory and her friends matched the glamour of the party, as a makeup artist did their makeup and nails at the venue. To announce them into the party, profile sheets, which read the toddlers’ nicknames, favorite food, hobbies and attire description, were used.
Williams shared that she chose a pretty pricey party package, which included invitations, decorations, linen, stemware, glassware, drapes, a photographer and party favors. The venue was the classic, yet elegant Cutrer Mansion in Clarksdale. Additionally, she booked a caterer, DJ, and baker for the cake. She took on the duties of coming up with the design for the invitation, the theme, color scheme, and age-appropriate entertainment for toddlers.
Miniature gold replicas of carriages filled with white and pink flowers graced the round tables. A pink Cinderella-esque slipper sat atop a floral, satin pink tablecloth in the entryway. The cake of ruffles and a tiara topper was embellished with gold accents. Along with a candy bar of princess gumballs and chocolates, there was a spread of finger foods.
The formal attire the birthday girl and her guests donned was a joy in itself.
“I decided that I wanted little girls to dress up as if they were going to a ball,” Williams said. “Yes, toddlers in tiaras with big beautiful dresses with becoming a princess in mind. I really wasn’t considering exclusivity, but I invited only a select few as the demands for ball gowns or pageant dresses are costly.”
“I started off with a $600 budget,” she explained. “By the time I got to printing invitations that I liked, I had spent $1200. Then there were the deposits for the venue, the cake and her dresses, because she had to change outfits.”
Although such costs are out of reach for many local Delta region families, there are many ways a party can be held, and at much lower price points.
If you are a parent wanting to give your child a birthday party to remember this summer, or during any other season, here is some advice.
Raquel Wells Williams’ Party-Planning Tips:
— Establish a budget
I’ve found that having a budget is the best start, whether you are hiring an event planner or doing it yourself. Manage your time and be honest with assessing your abilities and deciding on what you most value.
— Taking the Party Planner Route
As an event planner, I’m aware of the responsibilities that accompany planning, executing and following up with clients, guests and vendors. There are some people who can offer a party package, but you should be careful with the extras and add-ons, since those are the trimmings that personalize events. It is better for your planner to consult with the guests of honor or the directors for specifications in these areas. Social media sharing drives social functions today; be sure your event planner incorporates photographers into the plans.
— The DIY Route: Do It Yourself
My advice to any parent interested in celebrations or social events is to research and budget! Hold yourself accountable for every invitation sent, every cup sipped, and every picture taken. Nothing compares to the joy on a kid’s face to see that you have put so much energy into the special day. And to be honest, focus where it matters most: kids often won’t even recognize the decorations; they look for the food table, and wait on you to call for cake and ice cream. Find out what your kids like and go from there. Even the most minute detail can be highlighted if promoted the right way.
Melody Darneice Dixon is in her early 20s and a native of Clarksdale, Mississippi. She is a graduate of the University of Mississippi who enjoys singing on the Praise and Worship team and in the choir at her church, St. Matthew Church of God in Christ in Lambert, Mississippi.