Three Tips Thursday, Vol. 10: Ale Aguilar on Planning a DIY Birthday Party

For this month’s #ThreeTipsThursday, I am building off last December’s #3Tips newsletter where I interviewed a couple planning its wedding (who also happens to be an event vendor), but this time I am focusing on a birthday party – it’s not just all weddings at The GoWM!

A couple of weeks ago, we helped our dear friend, Ale Aguilar, host her birthday party in the venue, and it was a smashing success. (As I love to share about the various reasons why we love having a venue, this is one of those reasons: being able to provide a space for our friends and family to host their most special celebrations!)

I wanted to interview Ale for a few reasons:

1. I knew her tips for planning a party – which applies to birthdays and other types of events – would be very helpful because she is incredibly organized and a total bada$$ (she is the founder and CEO of an IT service provider, helps her mom with a décor and party business, and serves on the board of several prominent community organizations). She’s no stranger to planning events for the organizations she’s involved with, but I thought her perspective on planning a personal party would be interesting (spoiler: it was!).

2. Because she is so organized and is able to juggle the various pushes and pulls in her day-to-day, I knew her tips would resonate with both the DIY crowd as well as the very busy party hosts. I’m here to tell you that even when you have a full plate, you can still make time to celebrate your milestones!

3. And selfishly, I’ll take any excuse to chat with my good friend. 😉

For her birthday, Ale used the Old Roman Square, our newest hosting space with the arches, for her dinner. We set up farm tables with a rustic-elegant burlap runner, burlap charger plates, and colorful floral centerpieces. Ale ordered catering from Sergio’s, which is always a crowd favorite.

For the entertainment, Ale’s husband and friends put a DJ booth in our newly expanded Weber’s Clearing, where we have the artificial turf, just on the other side of the bar. And she used the turf to set up a variety of lawn games to include cornhole, beer pong, Jenga, dominoes, and hookah. 

We also were able to utilize the firepit for a s’mores bar, which, if you’ve ever taken a tour with us, is something we always love to highlight.

One of the reasons Ale’s birthday was such an enjoyable event is because of her friends and family members. What largely contributes to a party being fun is when guests mingle with each other rather than strictly staying within their familiar groups (“no new friends” can be a total buzzkill). Ale did an excellent job of introducing the members of her various groups of friends, family, and colleagues to each other, so it was seamless for guests to socialize with other attendees they didn’t previously know.

I could keep rambling, but I’m sure you’re most interested in the tips that she had to share.

Photo Credit: Gardens of Weber Manor.

Three Tips

Below are Ale’s three tips for planning a birthday party, most of which can be applied to other events, as well.

1.     Narrow down your guest list.

If you have ever planned any type of event before, you have probably experienced the painstaking process of deciding who to invite. Unless you have an unlimited budget and unlimited space, narrowing down the guest list is key to sticking to a budget, managing expectations, and actually getting to enjoy the party.

Ale: “The hardest thing is selecting who to invite. I think that’s the biggest challenge. And it’s like a wedding. I think they have the same issue. Like, who am I going to invite?

“So, what made it easy for me was making a very detailed list [in Excel] and separating it into my different groups of people, because I have work people, college people, my family, my main squad…Having a detailed list is key for me. And then when you have couples, make sure you count them as a separate person. Because sometimes you’re counting just one person, and then, you know, they have a significant other, but you forget to count them in as an extra person. If you put each person individually, you really get a better number for your guest list. And then of course, from there, you can start eliminating or prioritizing.”

Ale added the excellent tip that follow-up with guests is essential – and keep following up since people will forget to respond, especially for an event that’s often more casual than a wedding.

2.     Plan activities for the duration of the event.

Now that the initial guest list is narrowed down (and this can continue to be tweaked), a following step is to determine the timeline of the event. Should the birthday party, in this case, be a couple of hours long, or is it an all-day affair? No matter the length, it’s a good idea to have set activities or at least some structure to the flow of the event.

Ale: “Once I had a timeframe, I tried to think of what people will do from hour to hour. Having an hour-to-hour plan of the timeframe that you have set allows you to not only plan for the event but also what you’re going to do in terms of activities or entertainment.  

“And then once I figured out what entertainment I had, then I made another list, where I wrote down every single thing that I needed for each activity…Write down everything you need for the activities, then you’ll make sure that you don’t forget anything. By the way, this is a do-it-yourself kind of tip thing. Because, obviously, if you have help then they’ll be in charge of doing all this. But writing everything down that you need is really helpful, so you’re not missing anything.”

Ale gives the example of hookah, which she had at her birthday party. With hookah, it’s not just the main piece, but it’s also the charcoal, mouthpieces, lighter, and tin foil. If any one of those components is forgotten, the activity likely won’t be used.

“Music, of course, is super important. Even the DJs had a set time because I noticed that they like to know when they’re playing and how long they’re going to play, so that they prepare their music.”

Preparation in the months and weeks leading up to the big celebration is key to having a fun event, and while no party is perfect, staying organized helps to alleviate a lot of stress the day of the event. Ale’s preferred method of organization is a spreadsheet (mine too!).

3. Recruit a separate setup crew and cleanup crew.

One of the key components to a DIY event is to recruit willing friends and family members to help with setup and breakdown, especially if you’re not hiring vendors, like a catering company or event planner, to help with these tasks.

Ale: “Then another tip for planning how you’re gonna go about your day is to recruit a setup crew, and then a cleaning crew. And the hard lesson for me was I should have, number one, had more help. I thought I had enough help, but I didn’t have enough help. And then I would have liked to have a set of help for one thing, and then another set of help for another thing, because I feel like I exhausted my beautiful friends having to do everything…So, if you’re relying on your family and friends to help you that day, have a setup crew, and then a crew that’s going help you pick everything up.

“And obviously, have all the tools and instructions ready for them, so that they can work independently. Because I found myself having to tell people what to do so many times. Like, this goes here, that goes there. But it was my fault, because I just gave them things and didn’t tell them what to do with them or where they were going. You need to give them not just the instructions of what you want, but also the tools so that they can work independently. And then you can be on your own, too, because everybody’s busy doing something. You want people to know what to do on their own.”

Ale gives an example of how she had faux flowers in vases as part of her dinner reception pieces at her birthday. She had delegated two friends to put together the arrangements, and she gave them the flowers and the vases. However, she forgot to include scissors (luckily, we have 4 extra pairs!).

Ale’s birthday was indeed an evening filled with love and laughter.

Thanks for tuning in!

-Emily, Co-Founder, The Gardens of Weber Manor

Blog News: We love to connect with our clients and friends, and we publish a special newsletter every 1st Thursday of the month. We also provide a lot of wedding tips from our preferred vendors.

“You will find that most times you have a vision of what it is that you want to accomplish and that’s most important. It allows you to work backwards and make cuts and changes that will still reflect the overall outcome you wish to achieve. What good is splurging on one particular item if it doesn’t result in the overall outcome you were trying to create?

-Emily, Co-Founder, The Gardens of Weber Manor

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When I say that pictures and videos do not do this space justice, that is an understatement!! The Gardens of Weber Manor, in all of its whimsy and magic, is truly a perfect little nook in the heart of the Redlands. No matter what the vision or mood board, this venue and its versatility will allow you to transform it to match your wildest dreams. Add to that the fact that Mike & Emily are the absolute sweetest owners & venue managers, and there should be NOTHING holding you back from booking a tour and picking your wedding date that same day. It is clear that they have put their heart and souls into building up The Gardens from the ground up. So whether you’re planning a wedding, anniversary, birthday or corporate event, you need not look further. 

– Alianne Valladares-Prieto

The Gardens of Weber Manor is a hidden gem. This venue is magical. I can’t express how amazing it was working with Emily and Mike. They answered every question I had and made me feel that they had everything under control at all times. The staff was awesome!!! The rooms looked beautiful!!! I want to give a special thanks to Emily it was an absolute pleasure working with you. Everything went smoothly, easily and successfully thanks to Emily and Mike and the rest of the team. We felt like family from the time we started to plan the wedding and especially on our wedding day. Thanks to the Gardens of Weber Manor for the wedding of our dreams!

– Fernanda Rodriguez

We cannot say enough good things about this venue and the owners, Emily & Mike! It is truly a hidden gem. The garden is absolutely gorgeous – you really don’t even need to decorate because the scenery has so much beauty all itself. There are so many spots throughout the venue that could be used for different parts of an event, and no matter where you turned it was a perfect photo backdrop. Our friends and family kept telling us how beautiful the venue was and wondering how we found it.

– Kyla Hill