Emma’s 7th Birthday Party

If you had asked me a few weeks ago what my plan for Emma’s party was this year, I would not have been able to tell you. The one thing I did know was that we were going to keep it as a small family gathering. My sister and her fiancee were coming into town for the first time in 8 months and my aunt and uncle who Emma had never met and I haven’t seen in over a decade were also coming to visit. So keeping it as an intimate gathering seemed like the best fit for the occasion. Emma has also been wanting to have a calm couple weeks before school starts back up again.

So with the guest list narrowed down to just family, that left me to just worry about the food and decor – my favorite part anyway! Even though it was going to be a small event, I wanted it to feel big and magical for Emma – giving her something that felt like a full scale party, just without a ton of guests!

My mentality for parties is to go with low cost, high impact decor so balloon garlands are my go-to. They are pretty inexpensive and if you have a pump to fill them, you can build the garlands pretty quick. They can also be HUGE, so you can really transform the space you are working with. Add some foliage or faux florals and you have a stunning backdrop for your event.

All the food we offered was either homemade, or purchased with our food sensitivities in mind. John made the cake and cupcakes from scratch the night before, and even though it was his first time doing a 3 tier cake AND first time doing ombre icing, it came out perfect!! Some of the photos have the cake without the candles and puppies and others are after they were added…there’s a reason! The cake was made with whip cream frosting which is our fave, BUT we learned that you want to use buttercream between the cake layers for structural integrity. When we woke up in the morning and looked in the fridge we noticed the cake was beginning to kind of squish under its own weight because the whip cream layers were smushing down. So when it came time to take photos I was worried if I tried to put anything on it, there would be a catastrophic collapse! Luckily, it held up great, but I wanted to get photos before trying just to be safe!

Read on for a breakdown of the various design elements and how they were created. Here’s a few quick links in case you want to get right to the items I used!

Balloon Garlands

My color plan for the party was muted pinks and warm orange coral tones so I set out to find balloons online. Garland kits have become a super hot item since the last time I threw a party – there are now lots of Etsy shops and Amazon sellers offering kits that include the balloons in various sizes and colors, the garland building tape, and glue dots to help with assembly (last time I bought all these separately). I took a risk and bought 3 kits from Amazon (you always want to order more than you think you need because you will be surprised how many balloons it takes). The reviews on all the Amazon kits I found were really hit or miss – and a lot of the listings had almost no reviews, so I picked the one that looked the most promising and hoped for the best. Well, in retrospect if I had wanted to get exactly what the listing showed, I should have spent a little more and bought the kits from an Etsy seller.

The balloons I received looked NOTHING like the ones in the photos on Amazon. Luckily, I was able to make it work and just adjusted the colors for the day, but if you have your heart set on a color palette, please save your sanity and either buy the balloons in person or from a well established online seller. Here is the photo from the listing next to the colors I actually received – there were also medium/dark brown balloons in the pack that I wasn’t able to use (see below for how I made them work).

Amazon Listing Photo – balloons were supposed to be muted pink and warm tones and Matte (not shiny)
Actual balloons were very orange and coral in color, and not matte

I actually am not able to include the exact link to the balloons I ordered because they are no longer available on Amazon, but here are some great alternatives on Etsy that would work, as well as a few from Amazon if you are ok with the bit of color risk!

Amazon Garland Kits:

Etsy Garland Kits:

Tips for building your balloon garland

  • Make sure you have all your supplies before starting! This includes:
  • Invest in an electric pump. This is the one I have and it makes the whole thing very fast.
  • Clump colors together to give the garland an upscale look. If you look at garlands on Pinterest you will likely notice that the balloon colors are not randomly placed, but rather are in layers of color. This helps it look very intentional versus random and polka dot.
  • Blow them up at different sizes! Size variation adds visual interest and makes it look very organic.
  • Create the basic layout by placing a balloon every other hole on your garland tape, then once you hang the tape up where the garland will go, you can fill in the holes with the rest of the balloons.
  • Glue dots are your best friend!! Use them liberally to help your balloons stay exactly where you want them and it will also help make the garland more sturdy.
  • Build it the day before! Since they are filled with air, they will leak very very slowly. So save yourself the stress and build the whole thing the day before. My garlands tend to last about a week.

Foliage / Flowers

I am a huge fan of adding foliage to table decor and the balloon garlands, but the amount you need to buy to make the arrangements look full can add up quickly. So this year, I browsed Facebook Marketplace for anyone selling their used wedding reception decor. I found all the eucalyptus shown in the images for $25 TOTAL! Here is the link to the same exact ones on Amazon. It was such a great find and I am planning to do the same thing for holiday decorating this year – it’s the best place to find 50 candle lanterns for super cheap!

Food Table / Station

We always make sure to purchase food for events that we would eat if it was leftover. I feel super bad buying food that goes to waste, so anything that didn’t get eaten will be used for lunches this week!

I have been collecting charcuterie boards over the past couple months, but had never actually used them until the party! I was surprised how hard it was to get the food to sit nice, but found that it helps to use really solid, stable foods to hold the rest in place. For example the crackers wanted to slide off, so I used the cheese cubes and some dried cranberries to hold them in place.

My first time making a charcuterie board!

For table decor I am a firm believer in working with what we already have rather than buying things for just this one moment in time. So all the cupcake stands, dishes, candle holders and candles, boards, and florals were things I had on hand or repurposed from another room. A great example is the wicker basket holding the utensils – that is the little basket that normally has a lid and lives on the console table in the living room. It was too deep, so I shoved 2 cloth napkins in the bottom to prop all the forks and knives up! And the paper plates and cutlery were leftover from Emma’s 4th birthday (so yes, they are 3 years old – I said I don’t waste things like this!).

The Cake

My husband, John, is an excellent chef and baker, so he made the cake and frosting from scratch. It had 3 layers of chocolate cake with a whip cream frosting. We learned through this experience that you want to use buttercream frosting between the layers to make it structurally stable. Our cake sort of slouched overnight as the whip cream compressed a bit.

The ombre look was created using 3 frosting colors – plain white, light pink, and medium pink. John roughly applied the colors in bands then used a frosting knife to blend the sections together to create the fade look. We left it rough because we liked the brush look, but you can also run a blade around it to make it totally smooth.

I added puppies and thin, gold candles to the top to make it special for Emma. The puppies were a surprise for her and she thought they were super cute – and as a bonus she got to keep them to play with later.


Emma had a blast – so much so that once everyone left 2 hours later she passed out on the couch. It was so wonderful to have our family together for a few hours, especially since we don’t see them often. And it felt super special!

Hey There!

I'm Alexis - the goofy chic behind Curio Press. We just built a house in St Louis, MO and I am juggling being a mom, wife, small biz owner, and trying my best to get this house to look like a home. If that wasn't enough I battle chronic autoimmune issues everyday. I'm so glad to have you along for this crazy journey!

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