As a November baby I’ve always been a little envious of people born in the summer, with their outdoor birthday celebrations – BBQs, marquees, pool parties and so on (the pool parties were in shows like The OC, not IRL when I was growing up in Yorkshire, obvs). So when Sadaf’s 30th birthday party dropped into my inbox, well, you can imagine. Her epic celebration included a BBQ, a Free People dress, an outdoor picnic setting and Pimm’s. There even had to be a last minute location change because it was TOO HOT! #summerbirthdayproblems I’ll let the birthday girl tell you all about it…
“Hi! I’m Sadaf Mirzaei, I’m a communications designer and I just moved to London from Germany. As a designer you have to be a detail-lover, a perfectionist and very visual, even more when it comes to your personal life – you want things to be beyond perfect. After compiling a very long pros and cons list I decided to celebrate my birthday in my new home in London, with 40 friends and family, travelling from as far away as Germany, Denmark and Sweden. Decision made things got real fast and at times I felt like I was organising a wedding!”
The Theme & Invitations
“People had warned me about the English summer so I decided I would need some colour for my celebration. I started with the invitations. Flicking through my Pantone colour books I chose pastel colours for the invitations which I sent out using MailChimp. I’m a paper lover, but when you’re inviting people from abroad it can be safer to send invitations this way (it didn’t help that the German Post Office was on strike!).
With the pastel theme set, my creative head started spinning with decoration ideas and of couse there was the little matter of THE BIRTHDAY DRESS! Haha, told you it was like a wedding ? .”
“I had a vision of the dress in my head: I wanted it to be classy but casual, chic but comfortable, long and flowing, lace with an open back, and in a dreamy pastel colour. With these ideas floating around my head I looked everywhere, ordering dresses online from various stores, with no success.
In the end I ordered two dresses from Free People. They have these wonderfully dreamy and slightly bohemian dresses that were exactly what I had in mind. When my hair and make-up artist Kylie McMichael arrived on the day to do my hair and make-up I still hadn’t decided.
Hair and make-up done, together we decided on the Ethereal Whispers Dress, with ten minutes to go!”
“In the days leading up to the party I was a very stressed birthday-girl-zilla. It was one of those weeks in London in July where it got so hot you could barely breathe. There’s no shade on the rooftop terrace and temperatures were above 34°C. With the party due to start at 3pm I knew my guests/snacks/cake wouldn’t survive the heat without shade but I knew no marquee would stand up to the wind up on the seventh floor.
I thought about giving everyone white umbrellas but figured they would be annoying after a while. Luckily we had a Plan B. My boyfriend’s dad and stepmum live down the road, they have a huge garden and were hosting a BBQ there the following day and had already put up a giant marquee. We’d talked about holding my party there if it started raining, but now it was too hot! Always have a Plan B!”
A New Plan
“There was nothing in the marquee, no tables, chairs, nothing. I had to come up with something quickly. I panicked and was close to cancelling, then the organised designer in me took control. I went to the location and sat down to envision the day, adapting my original vision to the new location. I needed a setting where everyone could sit around and gather together. And then it came to me – a picnic would be perfect.
We needed a table. My boyfriend (who was my hero all weekend) and I jumped in the car, bought some empty wooden wine boxes from the local wine store to use as a table and then went to buy blankets and table cloths, and ordered more flowers.”
“I’d made giant balloon arches in pastel colours, but for the larger space I needed more. I’d also made huge paper flowers, pastel windmills and a silk ribbon wall, and bought white hanging lanterns, pastel pom poms and standing white lanterns – all of which had to be doubled. After we’d made more of everything I knew it was going to work out. On the day itself I went to the location, wrote down what needed to do and left my boyfriend, his sister Julie, and a lot of helpers to make my vision come true.
When I came back everything was beyond perfect. Everyone had made a huge effort to make my dream come true and they’d surprised me by hanging pictures of me in my youngers years and with friends and family all over the place. My parents and sister made a photo album with all my 30 birthdays – that’s when I started crying!
All the little details made it a special day for me and my loved ones. As a party gift I gave each one of my guests succulent plants along with a little note saying Let Love Grow. My guests loved them and keep sending me pictures of where they’ve put the plants in their homes.”
Food & Drink
“I’m lucky to have my birthday in the summer, you (mostly) have good weather and people are in a celebrating mood BUT there are certain things about food and drink that you have to consider when it’s hot. Drinks are only nice if served cold and cake could melt if not handled properly.
We had two very traditional welcome drinks, Pimm’s and a lovely German summer drink called Hugo [champagne, soda, elderflower, lime and mint]. All our overseas guests loved the Pimm’s and plenty of bottles were bought at duty free to take back to Germany.
My caterer for the day was Paco of Standbychef. We had canapés and a buffet BBQ. OMG I can’t begin to describe how amazing his food was and it was served so prettily. There were edible flowers everywhere – on the canapés, in the salad, and in the ice cubes for the drinks.
I had three small cakes in pastel colours, made by the amazing Reshmi of Anges De Sucre – I just loved them. They were picked up on the morning of my birthday and stored in the kitchen the whole day. They looked and tasted WONDERFUL!”
Party On & On…
“After a fabulous afternoon and evening we continued the party at the original location on our rooftop. We grabbed the blankets and cushions and moved up the road to our rooftop where we chatted, drank and giggled till the early hours. There was even a naughty late night pizza delivery. It was perfect.”
Sadaf creates digital and printed invitations and stationery for weddings, birthdays or any other celebration. You can see examples of her work and contact her via her website. She also blogs at Pishinotes and you can follow her on Instagram here.