white and green outdoor dinner party

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On the last Friday in September, Mom retired. And we threw her a SURPRISE PARTY in my back yard!


This post is going to have tons of pictures, but it’s hard to know where to start breaking things down. The idea first began because we were trying to surprise Mom by having her twin sister & her husband come down from Wisconsin (those of you already know them after some of the projects they’ve helped me with a few years ago when they visited). We wanted to have a nice dinner by renting out a private room at a restaurant and decorating it, but our party was so small that it was hard to find a suitable place (most had room for a far larger group, so we thought the room would seem sparse with just us). That, and the minimum cost was really high (around $500 was the average, plus we wanted to get a cake and decor). So, after searching for a few days and not finding what we were hoping for, I offered up my house instead.

“Why don’t we set up an outdoor table, with hanging lights and lots of greenery? Really Pinterest the crap out of it.”

(direct quote ?)

white tapered candles in gold candle holders and pink roses

So, that’s what we did! My sister and her fiancé came over the prior weekend to help get everything cleaned up while I finalized a bunch of extra landscaping around the deck. And let me tell you: my sister was a CHAMP. She went crazy on weeding, planting flowers, and using all my new tools from STIHL to work some real magic. She also made the acrylic sign and had a coworker make the beautiful champagne cake!

champagne retirement cake with rosemary accent

(P.S. fresh greenery hides flaws if you accidentally coughcoughEmcough stick your thumb in the icing)

Meanwhile, I worked on lots and lots of finishing touches that turned the new deck into more of a finished space. I finished painting the outdoor chairs, painted the shed, and created a small pathway from the deck stairs over to the fire pit.

stone pathway from deck stairs to fire pit

Did you miss any parts of my floating deck series? Catch every detail here:

Part 1: Planning & Layout
Part 2: Frame & Waterproofing
Part 3: Decking
Part 4: Trimming Deck Boards
Part 5: Landscaping
Part 6: Light Pole Planters
Part 7: Reveal – Mom’s Surprise Party (that’s here)

backyard light poles with black chairs around fire pit

I also added the new light pole planters and strung up lights (that tutorial including plans and video should come later this week). I was pretty impressed with how big of a difference the path addition in particular made; it created instant flow to join the two areas together.

tan floating deck with landscaping white table white balloons hanging lights

Planning a surprise party like this took some scheming because Mom was counting down the days to her retirement and wanted us all to go out for dinner together. She was trying to make reservations and kept telling my aunt how she was going to book tickets to fly up to Wisconsin. It was funny — but also stressful — since she was frustrated at the number of conflicts we kept coming up with (she traveled a lot for work, so she was plenty familiar of when to book her flight, and she was worried costs were going up).

indoor buffet table setup in kitchen

But finally, the day arrived and set up a food area inside with two long tables outdoors. The original plan was to put the tables in the grassy area between the deck and the tree (so the lights above would drape over the table), but the week prior had been really rainy and soggy, so we scrapped it in favor of an easier setup on the deck.

white table with black chairs on floating deck and dog
lighting candles with white hydrangea bouquets on long white table

Green and White Outdoor Dinner Party

My aunt and uncle arrived about an hour early (they drove down from Wisconsin!) and the four of us (me/K, my sister/her fiancé) coordinated balloons, food, flower arrangements, a few DIYs (Em and a friend did the design on the sign — I spray painted a bunch of candle holders from Goodwill and painted chargers with chalkboard paint — the napkin holders were made with washi tape, ribbon, and greenery). Then, we waited for Mom and Dad to arrive. This whole time, Mom thought she was coming over to have some champagne and dinner with K and I as a mini-celebration since all of our retirement party plans kept having conflicts (hehe).

white green and teal outdoor dinner party
white and green outdoor dinner party
white hydrangea bouquet easy diy outdoor tablescape and green glasses

Video: Mom’s big retirement party surprise

I’m pretty glad that I’ve started taking more video this year. It’s not just because it’s making my tutorials better and keeping things interesting with more of a challenge (learning to both take photos AND record is still difficult for me; I usually remember to do one or the other!). But I’ve realized that we’ve been missing home movies. So there will be more small clips like this, including videos of the dogs on the next pupdate (right after the party, I did a really informal house tour of the lower floor to share as well in the next post; it’s not pristine, but it’s real life). Keep in mind that this is very much a home movie and not something where I put a lot of production energy into it, but I hope you enjoy. Mom’s reaction is priceless. ❤️

The whole thing was so fun! And I can’t even begin to tell you: this was the kind of stuff I’ve always wanted to do in my home. This is one of those times when I get warm fuzzies at how worth it the effort I’ve put into this house really is. Even though I still have more I want to do, it feels like a huge accomplishment to be able to stop and enjoy it every now and then. And to share it.

backyard dinner party with white tablecloths

It’s been several years since my aunt and uncle have seen the house, so it was fun to show off all the things that have changed since they were last here. As usual, my uncle helped with a new project — only this time, it was in Em’s house and not mine. More on that, plus the plans for the DIY light poles with hanging lights, are coming your way very soon!

Want even more pics because I couldn’t decide on which I liked most? Here ya go. ? Do me a favor and pin your favorites so that others can discover this post!

retirement celebration acrylic sign with gold writing
outdoor dining table setup on floating deck with black light poles and hanging outdoor lights
buffet setup on table with blue kitchen walls and dining room

(And since these are the nicest the pantry area has looked in a long time, they’re already up on the House Tour page, too!)

easy diy napkin rings from washi tape ribbon and rosemary sprig
black light pole planters with outdoor hanging lights on floating deck

DIY Floating Deck Series

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  1. Definitely a PRICELESS video! What a great job you did….way better than a rented space!!! Hugs

  2. Wow! Your back yard is looking great! Looks like a really nice party you put together. Congratulations to your mom!

    1. Thanks Jennifer! More still left to do back there, but I think it’s some great progress for the summer!