Girlfriend Celebrations - Because Girlfriends Make Life Better

This is How You Do It!

We just had to share the email we received from reader Diane Butera. She exemplifies the spirit of She understands the true value of her girlfriends, and she knows how to throw a great party! We hope you’ll be inspired by her to host a special celebration for your friends, and glean some great party planning tips from our reply.

Diane wrote:

"Hi! I just found your website as I was searching for inspiration as I plan my 50th birthday celebration. It took me quite awhile to finally settle on the theme of "Celebrating Friendships" So rather than the focus being me, I want the focus to be on the richness my friends have brought to my life over the years. I have emailed all my friends that this will be a "Friendship Potlatch". This means that I give the gifts, instead of receiving them. I have rented a house in the small Oregon coastal town of Yachats. Friends will be flying in from all over the country. I have been tickled to see that almost all of the 21 invitees (ages range from 25- 60) are going to make it. I have a rough outline of the agenda for the weekend. I have a "giving tree" with lots of unique gifts that I have selected to give to my friends. We will have some ice breaker activities so the ladies get to know each other. The first activity will be to describe how we met. I would like to get more ideas to make this a nurturing, fun, memorable celebration. My friends deserve it, they are an amazing group of women. Could you help me out with more ideas for menus, games, themes, ice breakers, gifts, and activities? Again, my focus is to make sure my guests feel special, because they are! Thank you, Diane"

In subsequent emails, we also learned that Diane plans to hire a professional photographer and a massage therapist for her party weekend. Here’s our reply:

Diane, your plan to hire a photographer is smart–you’ll have high-quality photos and you won’t "forget" to take them while you’re having fun. After the event you can assemble photos into a mini softcover or spiral-bound photo book and send them to all the attendees as a thank- you. Available from online photo sites such as or, they are approximately $5 each and easy to make online. Oh, and having disposable or polaroid cameras available for your guests to snap pictures can add to the fun. Other party favors could include a framed group photo (sent after the event), a personalized pillowcase (it’s a sleepover, after all), or a personalized t-shirt, mug, etc. you make at I’m not sure of your budget, but flowers or, a beautiful potted plant will help the memory of the event live on. There are many other friendship-themed gift ideas, too many to list here, on our website. Just look under the "Festive Features" category. Many of the items we’ve recommended as holiday gifts are appropriate for any occasion. Also, The Art of Friendship is a wonderful book that would make a meaningful gift and quite apropos of your theme "celebrating friendship."

Speaking of photos, you mentioned that you asked your friends to each bring a photo of the two of you together–do you have plans for those photos? You might consider asking your guests to send the photos ahead of time, along with a short bio or the answer to a provocative question–e.g. what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done? or what is your proudest accomplishment? Then use the answers to either play a getting-to-know-you game (see below), or assemble them all on a poster with the pics so attendees can browse them and learn about each other. Or, it would be a nice gesture for YOU to write the descriptions of each friend, which would let each one know exactly how much you value her!

For an ice-breaker game, we like variations on the "Who Am I" game. This is often played with names of cartoon characters or historical figures–everyone has a name taped to their back (without knowing what it says). Then they have to go around and ask other people questions in order to figure out who they are. Instead of famous people, use names of people, places and things that are significant in your (Diane’s) life. For example, the name of your college, a yoga mat, white zinfandel, your pet’s name. The more specific, the better. For another variation on the getting-to-know-you game, hand everyone a sheet of paper with clues, using the bios your attendees sent ahead of time. The clues would read, "Find the person who dated Bill Clinton." or "Find the person who won a blue ribbon for her blueberry muffins." You can do one clue per person, or give everyone all the clues and the first person to complete her sheet correctly wins. Another fun variation is "spot the lie"–each person supplies 4 statements about themselves, but one of them isn’t true. The other participants have to guess which one is a lie.

Having people DO something together is one of the best ways to get them to relax and open up. For example:

  • Invite your friends to collaborate on a piece of art–e.g. a blank canvas they can sign or decorate throughout the weekend.
  • Have everyone make a square for a quilt you can keep.
  • Put them in teams to make sculptures out of play-dough or plastic cups. Award a prize to the winner.
  • Decorate clay pots and plant some flowers to deliver to a local retirement community. Wouldn’t it be great to create something positive together?
  • A scavenger hunt–either on the property or around town–is another fun activity to do in teams.

Will your weekend include any spa treatments? You are already hiring a massage therapist (great idea!) You may simply want to provide a few different jars of facial masks, nail polish and trashy magazines for a do-it-yourself spa evening. It’s a slumber-party standby and enjoyed by women of all ages.

Although food is, of course, important, people will be paying more attention to the conversation, so don’t stress about it too much. Keep it seasonal and not too fussy. What about a tasting of Oregon wines, either before dinner, or as a stand-alone activity? You can easily pull this together with help from a local wine shop. See our article What’s a Little Wine Among Friends? (August 2006) for planning tips. A chocolate-tasting party or chocolate-themed dessert table is another crowd pleaser. Just for fun, you might consider making your catered dinner "themed" in dress–e.g. black-and-white, bridesmaid dresses, tiaras, wear something pink, etc.

We hope your birthday potlatch is a huge success! Let us know if any of these ideas helped. Thanks again for your interest, and Happy 50th Birthday,
Dawn and Tina


  1. [...] immediately thought of another reader, Diane, who had a 50th Birthday “potlatch” for her friends, in which she showered her friends [...]

    Pingback by Reader Request: 50th Birthday Thoughts! | Girlfriend Celebrations — November 20, 2008 @ 10:25 pm

  2. Great topic. It may just be a “Dallas thing” but we all love a “make your own cupcake” dessert table. Start with assorted “naked” cupcakes and then offer various frostings, decorator tubes, chocolate chips, sprinkles…you get my idea. Top it off with a prize for best decorated cupcake in honor of the birthday girl and of course everyone gets to eat their own yummy designs.

    Comment by Karen Marie Shelton — November 23, 2008 @ 9:44 am

  3. [...] This is How You Do It! | Girlfriend Celebrations [...]

    Pingback by Baby name meaning and origin for Yachats — August 12, 2009 @ 9:59 pm

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