Your 25th wedding anniversary approaches! Any couple that’s managed to stay married for 25 years definitely deserves a party. To throw a fete worthy of the feat demands careful, thoughtful planning. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a billionaire to plan a sterling silver celebration, but you do have to be organized. This helpful step-by-step guide is filled with ideas. Here's how to plan a 25th anniversary party.
The first order of business is deciding what kind of party best suits the occasion and your guests of honor. You can always run a few ideas by them and see what they would prefer. A silver anniversary bash can be a blow out black tie affair at some posh hotel ballroom. Some people recreate the original wedding reception, complete with the color scheme, bridesmaids and groomsmen, music, guests—the whole shebang. But an intimate cocktail party at home, brunch at a favorite restaurant, a casual backyard BBQ or a potluck at the church hall can be just as memorable.
Theme parties are okay too, but how do you choose themes for a 25th anniversary party? “There’s no standard anymore,” says party consultant Wendi Hroncich, who owns Ethereal Events in Seattle, WA. She claims, “All traditions have been thrown out the window.” So what’s the bottom line? The kind of party you host really depends on the wishes of the couple and the size of your wallet. Whatever you decide, though, make sure you start planning early. Halls, caterers, even guests get booked well in advance these days, especially during primo party months. “[Planning] can be done in three months, but you may not get your first choice of venue, band or night,” says Hroncich. “If you want the best of the best, the more time the better.” In Seattle, for example, May through October is the busy wedding season. If you are planning a party for a Saturday night in September at some swank downtown hotel, you need to make reservations a year ahead to be safe.
The guest list should include the honored couple’s close friends and family. You may also want to expand the circle to include co-workers, spiritual advisors or members of the couple’s original wedding party. The final headcount will likely influence the location for the party. Most homes work well for smaller, more intimate affairs. But if the guest list starts ballooning, you may need a restaurant or banquet hall—the kind of facility that offers enough space, bathrooms and parking to accommodate a crowd. If you’re not planning a surprise party, the guest list is easy; just sit down with the couple and hammer it out. If it is a surprise, you can discreetly quiz the couple, then consult their closest confidantes to get a sense of who’s in and who’s out. Once you’ve created your guest list, “save the date” e-mails or phone calls are a good idea, especially for out-of-town guests who may have to make travel arrangements.
If you’re working with a tight budget, don’t despair. There are ways to scale any event up or down depending on how much you have to spend. The cost of a traditional hotel event, for example, can be shrunk considerably by holding it on a weeknight rather than a weekend, opting for a cash bar or serving a selection of appetizers instead of a full dinner. You can also edit down the guest list. A budget of, say, $1,000 will go a lot farther for a party of 20 than one of 200.
Once you settle on the type of party, guest list and budget, it’s time to dive into the details of the event itself. Location is one of the most important things. The venue sets the tone for the evening. Once again, think of the couple. Did they get married on a beach? If so, consider holding it on a boat, or at a waterfront venue. Do they love wine? Art? Golf? Wineries, museums and country clubs offer event spaces. There are also all manner of lofts, private restaurant dining rooms, banquet and church halls, community centers and outdoor gardens available for rent. Just remember that not every space comes fully equipped with everything you’ll need. Many community centers, for instance, lack kitchens. Depending on your choice of venue, you may have to hire a vendor or two to provide food, tables and chairs, glassware, linens, etc. Likewise, if you decide to host it at home, you may want to supplement with extra tables, chairs, silverware, glassware, etc. Depending on the season and size of the crowd, you may also consider renting a tent and a port o potty or two.
Once again, the amount and kinds of food and drink you provide depend on the style of party, the couple’s preferences and your budget. Food and beverages are usually the biggest line item when it comes to a party. Will it be finger food or a full dinner? Will you serve wine and beer or have a full bar? Having it at a restaurant, hotel or country club simplifies the food and beverage process. If you’re using a hall or community center, be sure to take stock of what they do and don’t provide and plan the party accordingly. You might, for instance, want to hire a full-service caterer who can supply not only the food and drink, but all the other accoutrements as well (silverware, tables, etc.).
If you decide to host at home, Wendi Hroncich offers these ideas: “Bring in a caterer—even if it’s just one person to help prep and serve so that you can enjoy the party.” Hiring a cleaning person to come in the day before the party and the day after is also money well spent. If you’re watching your budget, a buffet may be the way to go. Buffets are usually cheaper than sit down dinners and the variety is a good hedge against picky eaters. You might consider ordering trays of food from a favorite restaurant. Here’s how to calculate how much food and drink to have on hand for your celebration. (Just remember that it’s always better to err on the side of too much.)
- For beer or wine, figure two glasses per guest.
- For hors d’oeuvres, plan on two of each type per guest, more if it will be a long time between appetizers and dinner.
- If you’re hosting a buffet dinner, prepare enough of each entre to feed 75% of your guests.
- Lastly, no silver wedding anniversary party would be complete without champagne for a toast, and some kind of dessert. There are two things to remember about the toast. First, don’t stock too much champagne; most guests will take only a sip for the toast. Second, the toast is the host’s responsibility, though you might consider soliciting a few words from other special guests, say, the couple’s best man if he’s there.
- The traditional dessert is a cake, often some version of a wedding cake with a 25th anniversary cake topper. But don’t be a slave to tradition. If the couple loves pies, then pies it is!
The silver is a milestone wedding anniversary, so if you are planning a more formal celebration, you could consider getting engraved invitations. A classy touch, engraved invitations also make nice mementos, especially if you incorporate some elements from the couple’s original wedding invitation. Letterpress is the gold standard for engraved invites. Whatever you choose, plan to send invitations 4-6 weeks in advance—sooner for out-of-state guests. Also, make sure the invitation telegraphs the kind of event you’re planning so that guests will know what to expect and what to wear. Is it a surprise party? Is there a theme? You don’t want the ladies showing up in cocktail dresses if you’re hosting a square dance. Likewise, make sure that whatever ruse you employ to get the couple to the party is attire-appropriate. Don’t tell them you’re taking them to a Cowboys’ game if you’re planning a formal sit-down dinner.
Decorating is where you can really let your creative side shine. Think outside the box and have lots of fun planning the decorations. The color scheme for a traditional 25th anniversary is silver. The occasion’s traditional flower is the iris. But sometimes the best ideas are the unconventional ones. Try to add custom flourishes that capture the uniqueness of the couple you’re honoring. “If they have an RV and they’re traveling around the country, name the tables after places they’ve been, or order a cake in the shape of an RV,” suggests Wendi Hroncich. “Celebrate their life together with photos of their family, one on each table.” Hroncich consulted on one formal 25th anniversary party where the couple’s children, who were hosting, prepared a slideshow of their parents’ wedding photos and displayed their mother’s wedding dress. Another group of sibling hosts gave their parents a traditional wedding ceremony, because the original had been a small at-home affair.
Special touches and gifts are another way to make the event memorable for the couple and the guests. If you’re wondering what types of gifts to get, here are some suggestions. After 25 years together, most couples have pretty much everything they need. Some invitations specify “no gifts” or ask that, in lieu of a gift, attendees make a contribution to the couple’s favorite charity. If anniversary gifts are kosher, you could, as host, consider having the couple “register” at their favorite store. A gift register is rare for a 25th anniversary, but not unheard of. You might also ask guests if they’d like to chip in on one big gift, a second honeymoon trip, for example. Small presents are lovely too, especially if thoughtfully chosen. For example, you could give silver photo frames, handmade albums or scrapbooks, or custom bottles of wine blended just for the honorees. It’s customary for the host to give the couple and each guest some memento of the occasion—favors, if you will. “You don’t want something that’s going to end up in the back of the junk drawer,” cautions Hroncich. Engraved place cards, menus or champagne flutes are possibilities. Edible favors are always a good idea—chocolate truffles, cookies with the couple’s monogram, or a jar of homemade jam from the family recipe. Hroncich recalls one wine-loving couple that presented their guests with customized wine stoppers, and another that gave away lottery tickets with a note saying, “We hope you get as lucky as we’ve been these last 25 years.”
If you feel overwhelmed, at a loss for how to plan the party or are simply running out of time, remember you can always hire a professional party planner to help you. They’ll remember everything from flowers and invitations to the themes, catering and even napkins and favors. The party planners will consult with you to execute a celebration tailored to the couple of the hour. Hopefully these ideas help you throw the perfect bash for the married couple. Now you know how to plan a 25th anniversary party!