Here are some of the little party ideas we've been working on during the past several months, to create fun surprises for my Dad and his guests at his 70th birthday party.
ΔΔ I had some simple postcards printed up. On the front was a picture of Dad when he was about two, and a cryptic note at the bottom saying "Guess who's turning 70? Save the date 22 August 2015."
The clue was on the back. There, I wrote their addresses (of course), but those who looked carefully would also have noticed that the 70c stamp was actually a picture of my Dad today. Order personalised stamps from Australia Post here.
ΔΔ I shared some of the mail-art I painted for the invitations that you see here in an earlier post. This is what was inside the boxes I sent.
When Dad's invitees opened their mail, they found a plain, white box. Inside the box was an old View Master. As they held it to their eyes, it took them through a little seven-slide "This is your Life" for my Dad. So, for example, the first slide was a black-and-white photo of my Dad when he was only a few months old, sitting in a bucket on the verandah. I wrote "It was 1945. Baby Paul took a bath in a bucket." Then on the next slide, my pre-teen Dad learned to ride a bike. I showed him meeting my Mum, being a father, building our house, those kinds of things. The final slide gave all the details of the party.
I used Image 3D to create and order my View Masters and slides. I found them very quick and great quality, despite the somewhat dodgy looking website. We ordered one set first, just as a test, before placing the order for 55. They get significantly cheaper per unit the more you order.
ΔΔ Via a series of elaborate lies, I spent months collecting information and resources from Dad and the people close to him so that I could create a secret book for him about his life.
I collected old photos, mementos and newspaper clippings; recollections from Dad about his life and the lessons he had learned during the past 70 years; stories from Mum about their courtship and how Dad proposed (I can't believe I had never heard this story before!); and stories and memories from Dad's sister, my brother, and some of Dad's closest relatives and friends, so the book would be a warm and surprising read, both for Dad and for future generations.
The book is roughly chronological in order, starting with Dad's childhood upbringing, then meeting and marrying Mum, work, being a parent, building his own house, travelling, and becoming a grandfather.
I created this book using Artifact Uprising, since I'd used them before and loved the service and quality. This book was a 100-page hardcover book with linen cover and a dust-jacket, and I also ordered a box made out of reclaimed wood to store the book, with a photo of Dad printed on the top.
Stories and anecdotes
ΔΔ Along with the secret book, I made a second book using Artifact Uprising that was the same size as the other, but in soft cover. I chose a cute photo of my Dad as a toddler to put on the front (how amazing is that technicolour yellow knitted jumpsuit! and those curls!), and then on the first page wrote some words inviting people to jot down their thoughts and memories of my Dad on the blank pages that followed.
We passed this around during the party so that people could fill the pages with messages for Dad. They shared some fantastic stories and moving tributes.
ΔΔ Back in January we wrote letters to a series of international dignitaries, inviting them to come to my Dad's party. Somewhat surprisingly, none of them could make it! I collected all the RSVP notes and put them in a folder to give to my Dad and display at the party.
So when people came to take a look at the folder on the table, they saw a letter from the Queen of England wishing my Dad a very happy birthday, a letter from the President of France expressing his deep regret that he couldn't join us for lunch in Katoomba, the International Olympic Committee President wishing his schedule could have allowed him to make it, and many more. The Mayor of the town in Brittany where my father's family lived for many generations wished him well, and sent me colour photocopies of a page in a Baptism Register from the 1780s, showing the birth of my father's ancestor Jean Louis.
ΔΔ Never underestimate how long it will take to measure, cut, fold, pencil, erase and fill-in 75 place-cards, and don't leave this task until after dinner on the night before the party. That's just a tip from me to you.