Feel Like Party Planning?

I received the following very sweet inquiry this week, and thought maybe you'd have some good ideas to help Val out. Val wants to throw a surprise party for her mother in law, and center the party on a romance-novel theme. Here's her message: 

I have no idea how to give my Mother-in-law a surprise 80th birthday party
in April with a romance novel theme.

This has been her quiet hobby for at least the last 4 decades that I have
known her.

She's a widow with eight grown (obviously) children, as well as
grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and almost all of us have given her
romance novels for all occasions, or when she's not feeling well.

I realize this isn't your usual, but would appreciate any input you

I think that is such a nice idea, and so generous! Off the top of my head, if Val could find out what her favorite romances are, each table or different parts of the room could be dedicated to those books, or the settings of those books, especially if they have a setting or theme in common.  

But I also know that y'all are some seriously creative people, and if you have any ideas for Val, I'd love to hear them! 


Random Musings

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  1. 1
    PhyllisLaatsch says:

    Fabio! Or at least a huge poster of him. That’d scare the men of the family away (and most of the women, too. And probably small children and pets).

    Is she more into historical or contemporary? Paranormal or inspirational?

    Oh, oh, a friend of mine gave me a magnetic poetry set with romance novel phrases. ..

  2. 2
    Yulie29 says:

    I agree that finding out what her favorites are would be good.

    Val might want to see if there’s any interesting food and drinks mentioned in the books she likes, or memorable meals – then you can use those for the party (here’s one example of romance-related cooking and baking: http://everyneelsthing.blogspo….

    At the book club I go to, we’ve performed short scenes from the books, and played games based on them. I guess you could do trivia, too.

    And if she’s into historicals, maybe people could dress the part, or at least accessorize accordingly?

  3. 3
    sweeks1980 says:

    I love the idea of themed tables (and a romance novel theme for a party in general)!

    Depending on what type of books she likes, I would suggest hitting up BookMooch, library book sales, used book stores, etc. to get lots of copies of Harlequin Presents (or other romances) to give out as party favors/ice breakers. Harlequin Presents and most mass markets are usually pretty cheap if you buy them second-hand, and you can get them free through a site like BookMooch (if you have points and an account).

  4. 4
    Teshara says:

    I’m voting for a cake in the shape of Fabio.

  5. 5
    worthafortune says:

    I want my wedding to be romance novel and comic book themed so I am totally going to be monitoring this thread!

    A photo booth is a perfect opportunity for this! You could thrift some amazing costume-y outfits, (I have been saving an 80’s Dior nightgown for years for this!) some crazy long mullety wigs and a fan and a backdrop of some kind and do a romance novel cover photo booth. If you have someone who is computer savvy, they could green screen the back of the photo booth and put funny and exotic locales as the background.

  6. 6
    Elise Logan says:

    I love the idea of the themes, Sarah. You can expand that to music of the period and/or food. The Supersizers videos are super for that. Here’s a link for the first installment of the Regency one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

    Otherwise, I’d say hitting up the second hand bookstore for piles and scads of romances to use as props – centerpieces, side tables, anything you can think of that can be built of books. Guests can choose a title to take as a party favor and your MIL can keep the rest if she likes.

    Also – does she have a preferred author or genre? If she has a favorite author, see if that author has promo materials you might get – most authors are super-approachable about stuff like that.

  7. 7
    worthafortune says:

    They also sell whole boxes of assorted romances, with AMAZING covers for like 20 bucks with free shipping. (http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html… I think they could be deconstructed for invites to the party.

  8. 8
    SB Sarah says:

    Y’all have the best ideas. I hope Val invites all of us!!

  9. 9
    sweeks1980 says:

    Going along with worthafortune’s idea, there’s a book of romance novel cover postcards out now called “Unbridled Passion” – http://www.chroniclebooks.com/

    Also, I know that one of our independent bookstores has notepads that feature vintage romance novel covers as the notepad cover. You might be able to find some for prizes/decor.

  10. 10
    Susan says:

    Go to Etsy and search under All Items for “romance novel.”  They have a variety of different stuff:  drink coasters, jewelry, cards, journal notebooks, bookmarks, magnets,

    They even have a lot of actual old romance novels.


    Also, Janet Hill is a wonderful artist on Etsy and she has a variety of prints of ladies reading books, including romance/saucy books (Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Peyton Place, Wuthering Heights, etc.)  In addition to the stuff currently in her shop, you can check the sold items for others and she might custom make you a small giclee print or mini canvas print (that can fit on an easel).


    I LOVE Etsy!

    Good luck w/ the party.  (Let us know how it goes if you have time.)

  11. 11
    Susan says:

    Also on Etsy—a Fabio switchplate.  Hilarious.


  12. 12
    Bclotildes says:

    There are all sorts of crafts you can do with books…purses, lamps, tables.  One made out of Romance Novels would be cool.

  13. 13

    This is free…have you ever used Face in Hole website? You just put a picture of your MIL in the photograph and it is super easy to do.
    In this case, you would slide her picture in behind this heroine for Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels.
    It would make for some funny party favours. Just complete and print on a colour printer.

  14. 14
    PamG says:

    Wow! This request is generating some very cool ideas.  I was wondering if games or ice-breakers would be appropriate.  If so perhaps a game for pairs or small groups could be modeled on “Caption that Cover.”  Just speculating here, but if you did find a cache of secondhand romance novels, the cherce covers could trigger some righteous giggling.  Also, if Val or someone of her acquaintance is a romance reading wordsmith, how about a romance trope mad-lib-like game?

  15. 15
    Lovecow2000 says:

    What about hosting the party along the same lines as those “murder mystery” dinners. Depending upon the numbers of guests, you could have quite a cast of characters.  You MIL could be the heroine of course. :)

  16. 16
    Emily A. says:

    Congratulations to Val’s mother in law who obviously is Violet Bridgerton! Does she like Julia Quinn/Bridgertons? If she does, then you definitely need to play this up. I recommend tying in the Bridgertons. One game you could play is to have people make up teasing things about others and try to guess which Lady Whistledown said it. Other options include playing croquet, taking tea, etc.
    Another idea is a what we did at my cousin’s wedding shower. We played a first game in which they put name tags on peoples backs with the name of one half a famous couple on the name tag. You then walked around and had people read your back and give you clues about who were. So I had Miss Elizabeth Bennet on my back, another person had Donald Duck on hers, etc. We both guessed them pretty fast. Then you had to find the person who had the other person in the couple on their back. So as Miss Elizabeth Bennet I tracked one of my cousins who was Mr. Darcy and Donald Duck found Daisy Duck.
    Once we were paired off as partners we answered questions about the couple. You could have your guests do something else in pairs or even answer trivia about your mom-in-law.
    Hope that helps! Sounds like fun! Good Luck!

  17. 17
    Taylor Reynolds says:

    BWAHAHAHHAHA! That switchplate is hilarious!!!!

  18. 18
    Lily says:

    Hallmark lets you custom order party plates with pictures on them.  I’d have some made with her favorite book covers on them, or if you’re feeling campy, why not have relatives pose in cliched romance cover poses and have plates made from those pictures?  http://www.hallmark.com/produc…

  19. 19
    Alexia says:

    I was thinking trimming them down and making them bookmarks! Punch a hole, add a tassel…this is the best thread ever.

  20. 20
    Alexia says:

    I absolutely agree. Some friends of mine used piles of books as centerpieces at their wedding, it was so cool.

  21. 21

    If you don’t want to get a fabio cake, what if you got someone to design a photo that looked like a romance novel but the center circle pic (ala harlequin or Silhouette) was a photo of her and her husband (assuming married) or her as a mom holding your husband as baby. Could put a cute title on it “Together they loved” or something goofy like that.

    If you can find out who her favorite author is, you might contact them to see about a signed copy or birthday card? 

  22. 22
    Emily A. says:

    There are lots of games people play where they talk about what record was number one for the important events in their lives or every year of their life. You could find out what the best-selling books were when she was born, when she got married, etc. or for every year of her life and either have people guess or see how many they have read.
    Two a lot people seem to think Fabio is a good idea. So you could hire a Fabio impersonator like Rod Blagojevich did when he sang Elvis’s Treat Me Nice. ( I am not very good at linking things, but you can look it up on youtube.) You could try getting an author or someone to attend. (As a gift you could get a writer to write the story of your mother-in-law and her late spouse.)
    Three have a dramatic re-enactment of one her favorite scenes from one her favorite books at the party. (A very Julia Quinn idea see my first post) I would let her grandchildren do most of the staging unless your mom-in-law wishes to take part. Otherwise let her sit on like a decked out throne. (not a toliet) Or let your mother-in-law write a romance for others to act in.

  23. 23
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    Hahaha! I have that set too! It distracts me (and everyone who wanders into my kitchen) all the time. We have the most random and disturbing sentences all over our refrigerator.

  24. 24
    Asia M says:

    I like the idea of games related to romance novels! How about a pantomime guessing game with cliche romance plots/situations?

    If you know some of her favourite romances, you could also go for a themed decoration evocative of one of the books’ scenes/settings. Just to make it more obvious, you can have some sort of banner that mixes the idea of a happy birthday with the words in the title…

    Good luck, and I hope you have fun! :)

  25. 25
    Guest says:

    With Valentine’s Day coming up, there will be lots of pink/red/silver/gold/heart decorations and paper goods on sale on February 15th. A more general association with romance, but there might be things you could use to fill in around some of these wonderful, crafty ideas…

  26. 26
    Bev (QB) says:

    In fact, if she likes historical romance but doesn’t know the Bridgertons, buying her the entire set would be an awesome gift idea because of the parallels to her own family.

    Are the men in the family all game for anything? That would be something to keep in mind when planning group games and activities.

    Another odd question, but you mentioned that she is a widow- Assuming she hasn’t been keeping company with male friends (how’s that for old-fashioned phrasing?), I would suggest that, along with any other romance stories or themes, you create something as a sentimental memento of her own romance story.

  27. 27
    Jen B says:

    Themed table variant – if her favorite books are similar enough that non-readers might not understand the differences or, if she’s like my grandmother who loves them all… What about themes involving types? The pirate romance table, regency, Scottish highlands, western, Sheikhs, time travel, mystery/suspense, etc.

    If you do a contemporary or category table, you could have a toy plane or sportscar and a keyboard to indicate billionaire and secretary with a picture taped underneath the keyboard of a baby. It’s a ‘The Billionaire’s Secretary’s Secret Baby’ table!

    I liked it. :(

  28. 28
    Elizabeth says:

    Mad Libs would be a fun party activity, either based on actual passages from her favorite books or some you’ve made up. “Amelia’s heart [verb, past tense] at the sight of Adrian’s [adjective] [body part], but she couldn’t imagine how it was going to fit into her [noun].” Etc.

    For treats (or just for decoration) you could stock up on conversation hearts at Valentine’s Day. And if she feels weird about eating Fabio (or isn’t a Fabio fan), maybe a cake in the shape of a stack of books where each of the books is one of her favorites?

  29. 29

    What about a more personal message? Find out who her favorite authors are, and, if they’re living/still writing, try contacting them to see if they’d send you a personal birthday message to her? Or if you have the $$$, get a book from each author signed with the birthday message?

  30. 30
    Merrian says:

    I think you have to begin with understanding what her favourite books and stories are and go from there. Also have a look at ‘offbeat bride’ blog http://offbeatbride.com/  search ‘books’ and see how people have followed through on ideas and their shared love of reading and genre fiction and there are DIY tips too:
    e.g. http://www.flickr.com/photos/k… books and cake decor
    e.g. http://offbeatbride.com/2011/0…
    e.g.http://offbeatbride.com/2011/04/monda… round up of book themed weddings
    e.g. http://offbeatbride.com/2011/0… DIY anyone can do e.g. you could colour photocopy romance book covers for this
    e.g. http://www.flickr.com/photos/c… paper flower bouquets made with book pages

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