Aloha from San Francisco! Last month my dear friend, Esther, approached me to plan an elegant house party for her husband’s 40th birthday. Knowing that Hawaii has been a special place for them throughout their relationship, (they were married on Lanai, and return each year for a little rest and relaxation) I jumped at the opportunity to design a refined, tropical event to celebrate her husband, Shao’s, milestone birthday.
The hardest part of the planning process was keeping the whole operation a secret. The plan was for Shao to enjoy a round of golf the morning of the party with out-of-town friends and return to a full house. Despite a couple close calls, we successfully avoided giving ourselves away and he was visibly shocked to see friends from so many parts of his life waiting for him when he walked through the door!
Vintage travel posters greeted guests at the door as if they were being transported to the warm shores of Hawaii.
We displayed a tray of pink orchids for the ladies to tuck behind their ears, hiding clips for securing the flowers in a crystal pineapple jar.
We passed on the typical luau kitsch and focused on florals to convey the theme. We selected a simple green and white color palette to ensure the overall feel was appropriately elegant and masculine. Sculptural arrangements of leaves created the feeling of being surrounded by palm trees and oversized white orchids spilled over hydrangeas on every table. Everything had a real flower on it. My favorite element of the party decor was the orchid wraps we made for the pina coladas. (You can find the perfect pina colada recipe here.)
In addition to pina coladas we offered Pellegrinos, mint and raspberry infused water, and a selection of Hawaiian beers from Kona Brewing Company.
We served Hawaiian-inspired snacks buffet style, including the most delicious Hawaiian BBQ Chicken Pizza, Chicken Kabobs, Mint Pea Soup Shooters with Spicy Crab, Hawaiian Fried Rice (my first time cooking with SPAM!) and an elaborate tower of fruit.
These sand dollar sugar cookies were the perfect sweet treat to tide guests over until we sang “Happy Birthday” and cut the cake. (Find the cookie recipe here.)
The only dish that wasn’t homemade was this fabulous tropical coconut cake, purchased from SusieCakes, and decorated with a few orchids and the best sparkling candles. (I just love the font.)
Mahalo to Susanne, Mido and Danny for their help setting up for the party, and Clayton for risking life and limb to make sure our chicken kabobs were grilled to perfection. And of course to Esther for being the most fabulous hostess (she’s a pro playlist-and-embarrassing-photo-montage maker) and to Shao for giving us a reason to celebrate.