How to throw a surprise 30th birthday party with a burgers, bourbon and beer theme.
It’s been over a week and I still can’t believe that Matt’s surprise party has come and gone. I had an idea in my head at least a year ago and really started planning months ago. Given the way summers typically fly by, I wanted to make sure that I had a head start on things and really got to work in May. At that point I reached out to our parents to make sure the date worked and started mapping out the party plan.
I had in my head that I wanted a theme for Matt’s party and it wasn’t hard to decide on one that would be perfect for him. Since we weren’t all going on a golf outing, I picked a theme that he would love and guests could enjoy- burgers, bourbon and beer. My husband loves a good cheeseburger and beer pairing, but he also really enjoys trying new bourbons and whiskeys so I added that to the mix. Plus, burgers, bourbon and beer just sounds good!
Once I had a date and theme, it was onto the invitation. These days we live in a world where Facebook invites and evites are a dime a dozen. They can be easily overlooked so I wanted to make sure Matt’s invite stood out. I wanted this party to be taken seriously (in a fun way)! My mom and sister helped write the invitation poem and fellow blogger Courtney put together the design. <—- I highly recommend her, I got SO many compliments on the invitation! Matt and I both agreed that the invitation set the tone for the whole party. When he saw it he was so happy that I had gone the extra mile of putting invites in the mail.
I considered throwing the party at a great burger restaurant, but decided to host it at our apartment instead. I wanted everyone to be able to relax, enjoy and stay a while. I also wanted freedom to cater the desserts myself (with the help of mom, of course). Since I didn’t want to stick my dad or Matt’s dad on the grill all night, making the burgers was out. I can’t tell you how many places I called to try to get the best burgers for Matt’s party. Finally I found Ronnie’s All American. They have a great selection and the people were a pleasure to work with. We decided on a build-your-own slider menu that also included hot dogs and fries. I also added some chicken sausage to the menu. They did the grilling and serving so that everyone else could enjoy. I highly recommend Ronnie’s if you are looking for someone to cater your next BBQ-style party.
As for sides, since they are easy to make ahead of time, I kept them in-house. We had a giant salad, bean salad, pasta salad and green beans. This way we had vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free additions on the menu that could be treated as a main course if needed. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the regular food, I was too busy entertaining and enjoying the company to get my usual photos.
When it came to everything else, I made selections based on the theme and what Matt loves. Giant servings of M&Ms and mini Oreos were on the table all night long. Balloons, banners and confetti were used to decorate the apartment with the Happy Birthday / 30th Birthday theme.
As for alcohol, that might have been the toughest part. All of our friends drink something different so I needed to make sure I had plenty of everything. Think vodka, rum, tequila, wine, etc. Plus, the theme included bourbon and beer so I had to focus on significant variations of each. I had the owner of the liquor store help me select three special bottles of bourbon for the occasion: Blanton’s, a single barrel option with an awesome bottle; Angel’s Envy, from port wine barrels; and Breckenridge, a handcrafted version). When it comes to bourbon I am pretty illiterate but the guests and Matt seemed to like the selection. For beer we had a few different types I thought Matt would like and that also seemed like crowd-pleasers: Allagash Tripel Ale, Affligem Blond, Blue Moon plus another option that I can’t remember. Oh, and Coors Light since every party needs a domestic light beer.
The dessert menu was so much fun to plan and definitely my favorite part of the party.
To go with the theme, my mom made some incredible bourbon brownies and I made double chocolate stout cupcakes (recipe coming soon). I know Matt loves my salted caramel butter bars (plus they are some of his friends’ favorites), so they had to go on the menu too.
When I saw these No Bake S’mores Cheesecakes on Jessica’s blog, I knew I had to make them for my cheesecake loving husband. They were so much fun and oh so delicious. The only change I made was leaving out the layer of plain marshmallow fluff.
And speaking of cheesecake, my mom made these Birthday Cake Oreo Cheesecake Brownies. So good.
And then there were the ice cream sandwiches… I think they were one of the biggest hits of the night. I made mini M&M cookies and ordered ice cream from Emma. Half of them had a classic vanilla bean but the other half had her famous Stumptown coffee ice cream. Pretty much one of the best ice creams of all time and by far one of the best ice cream sandwiches I have ever had.
And then finally, the M&M Kit Kat Cake. I had to make this special cake for Matt but I knew it wouldn’t feed the thirty plus people at the party. To go with it, I made mini yellow cupcakes with chocolate buttercream.
So in a nutshell, my best advice for planning a surprise party like this:
- Plan in advance – giving yourself plenty of time will keep the stress levels low
- Pick a theme that the birthday boy / girl will love
- Design a special invitation to get the guests excited and set the tone
- Design a menu around the theme with additional items that will please a crowd
- Have plenty to drink
- Use the birthday boy / girl’s favorite sweets to guide the dessert menu
- Have fun!