Surprise 60th birthday party for mama at Acacia Hotel

Happy mama ❤️

After planning it since last year and booking places and suppliers since January, we succeeded in surprising our mother with an advanced 60th birthday party last August. It made me teary-eyed seeing the love from the guests who made it despite the rain and the distance. This was especially touching because it was mom’s first ever birthday party, and she just got out of the hospital the day before from an emergency appendectomy three days prior. It was good timing too, because she said she forgot about the pain of her stitches during the party, and she healed quickly afterwards. 🙂

Planning this small surprise party taught me so much. There were times I felt like I was planning a small wedding. If you’re DYI-ing a party, here are some tips.

1) Set a budget – and stick to it!

Find suppliers who will help keep your costs low. I actually didn’t negotiate the rates they set, I was just more aggressive for the inclusions. Thankfully, DJ Wenno and Diamante Baking Co gave us a good deal for the sounds and cake, respectively. And Chichi Tullao of Happy Tummy Travels, who is like part of our family, gave her time and creativity as her gift to my mom. ❤️

Since majority of our guests were coming from the south, I contacted many hotels in Alabang and Manila, looking for the most cost-effective package in terms of price, look of the actual venue, and party inclusions.

Tip: Email the hotels directly and ask what they can offer you, given the nature of your event, the date, your budget, and number of guests. The price they quote in their websites are usually set to a number of people, and they may offer you a better (read: lower) cost or alternative packages not included in their website. I found out hotels are very willing to work with your budget!
Two-layer naked cake from Diamante Baking Co, cloth from Acacia, cake topper by Zoe Paperie Designs, table styling by Happy Tummy Travels.
The roses were a rush buy from our neighbor who sells flowers at Church every Sunday. Chichi wrapped it in paper and put twine around it.
DJ Wenno kept it popping throughout the night!

I settled on Acacia Hotels Manila, which turned out to be an excellent choice! The staff who handled my event inquiry right from the start is Francess, and she was so nice and efficient. We did several oculars and a LOT of e-mail exchanges, and she was always polite and friendly. She even visited our event to check how things were going, and asked about my mother’s health. The captain in charge of our banquet was also the best. He gave me additional free parking tickets for our guests (enough to cover everyone who needed it) when he heard a guest ask me about it. And he made sure everything was running smoothly from start to finish.

It really makes a lot of difference when you receive excellent customer service, don’t you agree?

2) Don’t settle for a cheaper venue if a slightly more expensive venue will give you a better room/location/save you money in set styling

We could have chosen a cheaper venue, but if we did, we would have spent more for the set design. Set styling can be very expensive, and in the end the “cheaper” venue would have cost us more. I didn’t realize until that day how important set styling was. Even though our design was very simple, the added little touches from Chichi made the room look good to elegantly fab.

We were assigned the Guajes Function Room, which comfortably fit our 40 guests, the buffet, the DJ, our short AVP presentation by ate Mako, the stage, and the dance floor. The huge windows afforded  a wonderful night view of Alabang whenever the guests wanted to open the windows. Since the walls had beautiful panelling, we didn’t even need much styling to the venue.

Acacia provided a panel, the stage, and a dance floor. We designed the panel with black cloth (also provided by Acacia) with a lot of Christmas lights and huge balloons
The floral centerpiece is part of our package, but we added a vase filled with rocks and floating teacup candles to each table. Each vase was of varying height.

3) Consider which areas you can save on money.

Contact Live Photography gave us a promo package for their strip magnets. We also got a huge discount for the party package of Acacia through Dealgrocer. We got a whopping discount on hotel rooms via Traveloka.

We contracted Contact Live Photography for their magnet strip services. Since it was so fancy and memorable, it served as both a fun way for our guests to have their pictures taken AND as a souvenir. Every staff I interacted with from CLP was friendly and they made sure to adhere to Acacia’s and Filinvest’s rules. I booked a separate dinner for the two staff on the day in Acacia’s cafeteria, but we also let them eat from the buffet when they’re free since we had plenty of food. We had the booth right by the entrance since it didn’t fit inside the venue.

I worked closely with CLP for our chosen design. We chose the green screen option and went for a bokeh effect.
Our package included thank you magnets as well

We also didn’t spend on print invitations anymore. Instead, I made a website thru Wix, which contained all the details. While Facebook would have been an easier program to use, the updates might also have shown up in my mom’s timeline even if I set it to private. I just wanted to make sure. I then contacted every guest with the link and a brief explanation to the event.

4) If it’s a surprise event, don’t forget the little details!

We asked guests to arrive 30 minutes prior (part of our ingress) so that we’ll all be assembled in the venue once mama arrives at 6pm.

We also asked Acacia to write the party in their events announcement under “Heart’s Sweet Sixteen”. Heart because that’s what my mom’s name means, and Sixteen because it’s the closest to Sixty. We also included this detail in our invite so guests will know which event to mention in case they ask for directions in the hotel.

Acacia came through for us!

5) List down/record everything

You will forget so write it down. Figure out which way works best for you. My sisters and I used OneNote because we use it extensively.

I had copies of my email discussions with all my suppliers. I had lists of pre-event and on the day tasks, as well as things to bring.

I also made sure that the contracts suppliers sent me to sign included all the concessions they had given me during our email discussions.

6) Confirm your guestlist before the event.

We did this in case there was room for more people we can invite. We also had to adjust the seating arrangement so that all our guests will have someone to talk to in their table.

7) Allow room for errors

No matter how much you plan, there are things you cannot control. Guests may bring kids even though it’s a no-kids event. I forgot the bottles of wine at home so ate Mako had to rush to the supermarket across Acacia (which resulted in us buying rosé wine, which everyone loved!). Guests who were part of the Six Wishes backed out on the day without any notice.

My solution was to have extra money on the day (which was part of the budget) for emergencies, wear comfy shoes that wouldn’t kill me if I had to keep roaming around (painful feet wouldn’t help me keep my cool), and have back-up plans. My sisters and I also quickly adjusted our tasks and took over for each other when needed. I was lucky I had my sisters and friends to help, so make sure you have help on the day.

Just breathe. Let it go. What matters is everyone enjoyed the party even if things don’t go smoothly — and people will enjoy if you keep your cool and party on 🙂

2 Replies to “Surprise 60th birthday party for mama at Acacia Hotel”

  1. Ang pretty ng sisters mo 😉

  2. secretlifeoffatbacks says: Reply

    Thanks! And thanks for sharing your great posts every week!

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