A birthday dinner can be as elaborate or as laid-back as the host desires. It can be comprised of 1,000 of one’s closest friends being served lobster-custard stuffed truffle eggs, or it can be just five family members in the backyard swilling iced cold beer and munching buffalo chicken wings. Somewhere between those two extremes lies the perfect dinner party.
The 50th birthday is one of the big ones, so extra effort is called for. Once all the decisions have been made — where and when it will be held, how many guests will be invited, if it will be catered or home cooked — and the invitations have been mailed, the fun part of party planning begins. Now, food, drink, entertainment and decorations get to be chosen.
People are at the top of their game at 50. They are generally successful in their career and are still active enough to have a full family, social and work life. Decorations (and there should be decorations) should run more to satin ribbon than crepe paper.
This is a party honoring a person’s 50th birthday; the room should reflect that. When a theme has been decided on, decoration, table setting and even food decisions are easier.
A Good Hint: When guests are in their 50’s, there are usually college aged offspring available. Some of them may be decorating whizzes. They should be utilized. If given a budget, an idea of what the room should look like, and sent off for supplies, they will probably amaze with their talents.
Another Hint: Hire one or two of any available college aged kids as a server and cleanup crew for the night of the party. Having help takes a load of stress off the party-giver’s shoulders, and most of the students will work for whatever is offered them.
Choose a Theme
Possibly, the 50 year old honoree remembers the disco era with fondness. If so, decoration can follow that theme. Mirror balls hanging from the ceiling and reflecting revolving colored lights immediately let everyone know what time period they have just stepped into.
A music system playing disco music when the guests first arrive, puts people in the party mood. A server offering hors d’oeuvres or drinks popular in the 1970s helps cement the feel.
Disco era appetizers include dates stuffed with cream cheese and a pecan half, bacon wrapped water chestnuts, and the ubiquitous crudite platter with french onion vegetable dip.
Sangria was a popular wine drink of that time and can be made ahead of time and offered to guests with the appetizers. Cocktail time should not be longer than an hour before guests are taken in to dinner.
Pick the Food and Drink That Will Be Offered
The dinner menu items can be straight out of the 1970s, too: shad roe en brochette, a rack of lamb with mint jelly, browned new potatoes, mushrooms stuffed with seasoned bread crumbs, and bib lettuce with oil and vinegar dressing.
White wine accompanies the fish course, a Cabernet or a burgundy works well with the lamb. Coffee should be offered with the birthday cake for the desert course.
Of course, the cake should be presented, candles aflame, in a darkened dining room while everyone sings; it is a birthday tradition after all. Cutting and serving can take place at the table, or the cake can be removed and cut and plated out of sight.
Hosting a memorable birthday party is much simpler when there is a theme. All the menus, drinks and styles that were popular in a particular time are easily found on the internet. Returning to an era important to the honoree shows thought went into the decision. The guest of honor will remember a party like this for years to come.