We decided to throw a party this year for our 5-year anniversary. It was really special to celebrate with friends here and share a special part of our journey with them. It also made them feel included in the celebration before we headed out of town for a few days just-the-two-of-us-style.
We were inviting about 25 friends over to our somewhat tiny apartment for dinner, so we wanted to keep it simple and decided on a picnic theme and some simple but fun entertainment.
Setup & Links:
I found some really good deals on red and white fabric on Taobao, burlap, and some wicker baskets. I also bought glass jars from a local vendor and filled them with various snacks.
Here are some of the links I used… Links don’t last forever but maybe they’ll be around for a while.
- Big wicker basket for bread, etc.
- Smaller baskets
- Other straw baskets
- We lined mini straw baskets (which look pretty small but ended up being a great size for our guests) with half sheets of this baking paper for a fun picnic-y feel and easy cleanup. We had extra half-sheets in piles around so people could change them out between dinner and desserts.
- Red and white checkered fabric
- Burlap fabric
- Burlap ribbons
- Hemp string
- Red paper napkins
- Multi-colored pasta for pasta salad
- Big marshmallows for s’mores marshmallows on sticks
- Set of 5 games for guests to play at the game table
- Paper cups for holding veggie sticks, putting fruit salad, etc. You can run a Taobao search for “蛋糕纸杯” and get tons of options. Here are a few links to check out: 1, 2, and 3.
In case you’re throwing an anniversary party, here are a few of the activities we did that people loved… they’re adaptable for so many different groups:
- We played a video from the past. Ours was one Austin’s mom made for us and played to surprise us at our rehearsal dinner 5 years ago. People loved watching this at our party and seeing all kinds of old pictures. Any kind of wedding video, home videos, etc. would be a hit as well.
- We gave each other updated versions of our marriage vows and asked one of our friends to help us translate them at the party so we could just focus on saying them in English.
- A “How Well Do You Know Austin and Bethany Joy?” quiz where we had a series of questions in Chinese and people had to guess whether the answer was Austin, Bethany, both, or neither. We had a prize too, which always adds to the fun!
- A fun game of “Pin the Beard on Austin.” We chose Austin’s beard because it’s kind of like a tourist attraction around here, but this is obviously a really adaptable game. We had a picture of Austin’s beardless college face blown up at a local print shop and then I made a fuzzy beard and friends had to try to place the beard correctly. The winner got the huge picture of Austin’s face to take home, which, of course, he came out and autographed in true foreign celebrity form. haha!
- I made a photo board/ bulletin board by hot gluing some burlap to a double layer of foam board. We put out several pens and postcards along with instructions for students and friends to write us some kind of a note… a memory, a wish for happiness, etc. This was a good way to get people involved, and it was fun to read their notes afterwards.
- We also set up a game table in our spare room and ordered a set of games from Taobao for guests to play.
Food: I usually try to make a bunch of dishes so there’s a variety since everyone has different tastes… at least this way everyone can find something tolerable. Here are some menu ideas with printable label tags to follow.
- Corn on the Cob: I cut the corn cobs in half and skewered them on mini barbecue skewers. Students loved them—food on sticks is a “win” here.
- Fruit and Veggie Cups: The veggie cups had a vegetable dip in the bottom of them under the vegetables for easy dipping. Party guests had mixed reactions to raw vegetables, but mostly positive. Lots of our friends have discovered that they actually like carrot and celery sticks! The boys took the leftover veggie cups and used them for playing games—the people who lost had to eat veggies as their punishment. Also, a note: several friends wanted to come early and help with set-up. Chopping veggies and putting them into cups was a great job to delegate!
- Drinks: We got individual cans of drinks here and piled them into a huge metal bowl.
- S’mores Marshmallows: chocolate-dipped marshmallows rolled in crushed crackers, or roll them in peanuts for something different. Also served on sticks. We taped pictures of ourselves that we’d included on our invitation to the end of the sticks, and several guests wanted to keep them as souvenirs.
- Peanuts in Jars: We put whole peanuts in jars and tied hemp string around them. We had some Oreos in jars too… they looked cute and guests loved them!
- Pasta Salad: I usually just wing a pasta salad, chopping up some cucumbers and tomatoes to toss in, and pouring over some Italian seasoning.
- Potato Salad
- Deviled Eggs
- Cole Slaws, like this Asian Cole Slaw
- Barbecue Pork Sandwiches
- Baked Beans
- Chocolate Cake
I made several labels to put out on the tables and help with some of the inevitable questions about what this or that food is. The labels have both the English name and some version of a Chinese translation for a similar food product. To download those labels, you can click here: Food Labels
Here’s a preview of what they look like: