People have different perspectives of what they experience on their wedding day. For some, it is a dream come true, for others, a rite of passage, and still for others it feels like a means to an end (you want to be married, so you have a wedding). When it comes down to it, I think some people’s personalities are simply more naturally suited for the pomp and circumstance and attention that wedding days tend to bring.
I happen to be one of those people.
I was the bride that loved almost everything about my wedding. I enjoyed pouring over every detail planning the “perfect” day. I all but took on “bride” as my full time occupation during our nearly eight month engagement. While no day is ever "perfect," our wedding day was most definitely one of my favorite days EVER. Being surrounded by the people Woody and I love and who love us back, wearing the most beautiful dress ever made, and getting to become family with my true love all felt pretty perfect to me.
You may be wondering why I am talking about my wedding in a post about my 30th birthday. Well, it's because my wedding is where the dream for my birthday party started.
There were so many moments during our wedding reception when I took in all that was happening—the life and love being expressed through dancing, eating, and celebrating with so many special people—and I wanted to savor it forever. This left me thinking, “when can I do this again?” It was shortly following our wedding that my 27-year-old self determined my 30th birthday would be the perfect occasion. Thirty is a milestone birthday, and with about three years between our wedding and my entry into this new decade, it seemed just the right amount of time to be ready for another special celebration!
With our wedding as inspiration, my birthday party ideas started rolling. Initially, I had the genius thought, “could this be my chance to wear my wedding dress again?!” This sent me into further theme development as I determined I could ask girlfriends to wear old bridesmaid dresses still believing the myth that they can have a “second life.” (Let’s face it, after you wear a dress that matches eight other people at the same event, it just loses it’s appeal.) The guys could wear suits and the invitation would read, “Mattye says ‘I Do’ to 30!” I held onto this idea for quite a while until my dad, who is usually on board for extravagant party ideas, told me it was the most ridiculous idea he’d ever heard. "Nonsense," I thought. But, ok, maybe he was right.
As I moved beyond the wedding theme for my birthday (in mature I’m-soon-to-be 30 fashion, might I add), I began to accept that the party wouldn’t be exactly like our wedding reception. It wasn't that I was trying to recreate the importance and significance of our wedding day—that day stands alone as sacred and special. I simply adored the joy and sweet spirit of celebration the day carried, and I wanted bring that to life again.
Not wanting to get my hopes up, I tried to let myself down easily that it just wasn’t realistic to think I could recapture the magic I felt that night. So, I decided to go in a different direction altogether. I had read in magazines and blogs about small weddings that are intimate and personal because of their size. Our wedding was quite the opposite of this, so my birthday seemed like the prime opportunity to give this kind of party a try.
Always true to a theme, I based the guest list on the party’s simple focus: 30! I invited thirty people (give or take a few)— 10 family, 10 in-town friends, and 10 out-of-town friends. I sent out a save the date in May hoping everyone would mark their calendar to be there. I knew this small number meant I couldn’t invite all the special people in my life, but I was putting all my eggs in the basket of believing that keeping it small would bring a special kind of spark, and it did.
I mentioned earlier that I wasn't trying to recreate the significance of our wedding, but simply bring back the spirit of joy and celebration the day carried. While our wedding reception and my birthday party were very different in significance and party style, what unites them is the love and joy experienced when we are gathered to celebrate with the important people in our lives.
The night of my birthday, the gift of community and intentionality swept through the evening in the most natural and special way. Woody and I were surrounded by people we love so dearly at an event we had intentionally planned for everyone in attendance to feel honored and special. And as the birthday girl, much like when I was a bride, I felt simply magnificent. Decked out in a petal-pink skirt any five to eighty year old would feel party-perfect in, I was elated to experience the simple yet meaningful evening with our guests. The love I received as everyone gathered to celebrate was unexplainable. I felt beautiful and special and had the fullest heart. Still, when I look at photos of that evening, I am beaming with gratitude and happiness.
I learned a very important lesson that night. It turns out it’s not necessarily the type of event or even a grand white dress that makes a celebration special; it’s the people.
I planned my birthday party with a spirit of excitement and intention, much like how we planned our wedding, and that paved the way for the sweetest moments to emerge. Weddings are incredibly special and important. So are birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and everyday moments in between. We simply choose to give some events and moments more focus than others. We have the choice to celebrate what matters most. In turning thirty, I realized life is full of moments, milestones, and people worth celebrating and enjoying, if only we will stop to appreciate and savor them to the fullest.
A big thank you to all the people who helped me plan this special day! The people of Birmingham are truly magnificent, and this party reminded me of that in the richest of ways.
- Venue: The Nest
- Dinner: El Barrio
- Dessert: Trattoria Centrale
- Photography: Mary Margaret Smith
- Hair and Makeup: Lucy LaSuer
- Favors: Baking Bandits
- Invitation: Collaboration with Empress Stationery
- Flowers: Whole Foods, Sprouts (arrangements by yours truly)
- Birthday skirt: Anthropologie
- Jewelry: Stella & Dot
- '30' Balloons: Party City