Martina Stritesky from White Bow Events is a bi-city party planner with a running list of impressive fetes in Toronto and L.A. A recent gig includes an egg hunt for AKID Brand children’s shoes (that grown-ups would want to wear) in Hollywood-land (celebrity guests included Selma Blair and Ellen Pompeo). We’re thrilled this new mom (her babe’s only 3-months old) took time out to lend advice about how to plan a shower in our own backyards—and on a budget. Best of all, she gives a new world spin on an old school tradition that makes me wish I knew someone who’s expecting or engaged. Anyone? Anyone?
Q: What’s a shower theme that breaks the ice fast?
Doing a co-ed shower is super hot right now! Couples want to celebrate together, be it for marriage or bébé. This means now you don’t have to default to a high tea. Co-ed parties call for something a little more relaxed and lighthearted. Think a chilled-out summer fete with a relaxed boho vibe complete with Moroccan rugs and pillows scattered throughout the yard for lounging. If you have a pool, pick up giant inflatable pool toys for a good laugh (get a flamingo this year as opposed to last year’s Taylor Swift-type Swan. Or even a rubber ducky for a baby shower). It’s easy to rent rugs and poufs from your local party furniture company or stock up for inexpensive options at places like Ikea.
I also love the idea of doing a backyard movie theatre under the stars. Throw up a big white screen, hang a canopy of pretty white lights, pitch some canvas teepees and create soft lounging spaces for guests to get comfy. Serve dinner in drive-in style boxes and take in summer’s after dusk glow. Who wouldn’t love that?
Q. How do I decorate like a pro on the cheap or on the fly?
The trick to making a theme look seamless is sticking to one shade and then using varying shades for a tone-on-tone effect. For example, if you are going with white, choose varying complementary shades like cream, ivory or gold. Prefer green? Choose varying shades in between mint to dark leafy green. The same goes for flowers. Choose a solid colour and get different flowers in the same shade for texture and variance, which always looks more luxe than a mixed and multi-coloured bouquet.
If you have a pool, use it to your advantage. Scatter floating flowers, or for a night time affair, add floating candles. Both serve up a dreamy backdrop without the big spend.
Q. What’s on the menu?
I love having passed items as well as something stationary so guests who are super hungry can immediately have a bite. Choose food that goes with the weather (don’t put a cheese plate in the hot sun). In the summer time, the menu can be a bit more relaxed. Especially for dessert! I love the idea of a make your own ice cream sandwich bar instead of cupcakes. Serve Belgian waffles, funnel cakes or different flavoured cookies for the base, a variety of ice creams from mint chip to peanut butter to black cherry and of course a plethora of toppings to pile in between the layers. Make tags to list all the ingredients clearly and display on varying bases for height.
Q. What’s at the bar?
You don’t have to have a full bar. Just make sure you have something for everyone and don’t run out! Chose one beer, one red, one white and do a signature cocktail. I love using a seasonal fruit or vegetable like cucumber with a little heat. Think a spicy gin cucumber lemonade. Or a pineapple jalapeno margarita. And don’t forget about those who don’t want to drink. A sparkly non-alcoholic pink lemonade or punch served in a pretty glass is a must.
Q: Do we have to play games?(Groan)
Games don’t have to be the typical adding paper to pen. Be rowdy and fun! Get a piñata and get guests to take a good swing at it.
Q: How do I work the room like a pro?
Walk around and introduce people. A simple introduction goes a long way. If you see someone standing on their own, bring them into a conversation that they may otherwise be too shy to join. Know your guest list well in advance (and some key tidbits on each guest) so you can properly introduce everyone.
Q: Parting gifts—yay or nay?
I’m not a big fan of take home gifties. I think the idea of the ‘loot bag’ is passé. Treat your guests well with plenty of food and drink while they are in your company. And follow-up with a simple photo taken at your party in the weeks that follow. That’s much more personal than another trinket that will quickly be forgotten.
Q. I have extra budget. What do I do with it?
A treat is always bubbly! The real stuff. If you want to feel extra fancy, have wait staff (or you can easily do it yourself) build a champagne tower using old fashioned coupes glasses (never flutes). Simply place each layer on top of the lower diamond-shaped spaces. Each layer is consecutive smaller squares. For example the bottom layer is 12 glasses by 12. The next layer 11 glasses by 11 and so on. Until you have one final coupe glass on top!. Pour champagne from the top glass……slowly….until it fills the very bottom. It’s so pretty and fun!
Q: What else am I forgetting?
- Do as much prep work ahead! Chill your bottles—both water and wine, set up the glasses and clean all the dishes and get the ice the night before. Make your flower arrangements (or pick them up from the florist) the day before so they open up. Don’t leave everything until the day of.
- Overstock. Nothing spoils a party like running out of something to drink. You can always return the unopened bottles the next day.
- Don’t overspend. If your budget is tight, stock up on things like dollar store blow-up balls for the pool and forgo the flowers. Or buy tons of candles if your party is at night. Nothing is prettier than soft and simple lighting.
- Set aside some ‘you’ time. Book your blowout or braids or plan to allocate enough time to get ready at home. Even 10 extra minutes to chill out with a bath will help you relax. You don’t want to be scrambling and sweaty until the last minute before your guests arrive.
- Enjoy the vibe! A happy host sets the mood for the party. A guest follows your lead. It’s the first couple minutes of how a guest is greeted that sets the tone for the rest of the party. Make sure they are comfortable (with drink in tow) and their smile is all the thanks you’ll need.