June 23, 2013

Karen's 55th Birthday Surprise

Although, for years I helped plan Halloween parties with my friend, which took many days to set up with nearly 100 guests and over 1000 trick or treaters, throwing her a surprise birthday party was my first attempt at planning a party and hosting the event.

Karen’s birthday is in June. She loves to celebrate it with friends. For her 50th she threw her own soiree in a loft in downtown Los Angeles. For her 55th she wanted to do something really special. Since Halloween is her favorite holiday, I thought “wouldn’t it be cool to have a Halloween party for her?” because it would be unexpected.  Then I though “it would also be unexpected if we can pull this off without telling her!”

I began researching haunted houses in the area. I found one in a warehouse in our area and contacted them. The owner of Sinister Pointe responded telling me that he is a special effects artist year-round but keeps the warehouse for the month of October, and keeps it set up! Score! We met and he gave me the tour. The haunt was set up like a house. Guests enter through the front door on the porch and travel though all the rooms of the house including the garage and exit from the back yard. All of this is inside an empty warehouse. There was room to set up tables, a buffet and a stage. He had all the video and audio we needed including a large theater screen. I envisioned the party here, but…

The cost of renting the space and having the haunt fully staffed for scaring was $2800. That didn’t include any rentals, food, beverages, photographer or décor. So I got creative. I asked her best boyfriend, her boss, and her best friends to help me cover the cost of the venue and rentals. Then, as I tallied the guest list of 150 people, I decided to charge $15 a person. This covered the food and drinks and hiring a bartender. I set up the invitation and payment system easily through EventBrite. No one seemed to mind and I had a group of people that wanted to make the table décor for the party. I jumped at that offer!

We set a trap for Karen inviting her to a “game night” at a friend’s house. Once there, we surprised her with tickets to a play and we all left the game boards and headed out. She didn’t catch on even in the lobby because we made up fake tickets and the gal at the ticket booth out front knew to tear our tickets and tell us the show was getting ready to start so we headed right inside.

“SURPRISE!” All of Karen’s guests shouted as she walked in the door expecting to see a stage set up for a play. Then we let the fun and haunting begin.

The Halloween before this I went to the Everyone Dies at the End horror film fest. One movie that stood out was a horror movie parody short film by Ben Lupinetti called Danny Caldwell Goes To Hell. At just under 14 minutes long, I thought this could be a fun addition to the event and we’d put that movie screen to good use. I reached out to the filmmaker and he was happy to have his movie seen by this many people so he sent me a copy for free! The guests enjoyed the humorous twist.

Zone 9 Exposure came out to take green screen party pictures. Their print-on-the-spot technology meant guests got to take home souvenirs from the event!

The haunt was fully staffed with costumed actors to scare us all as we traversed the maze of rooms inside.

Everyone really enjoyed the activities, the food and reconnecting with friends they hadn’t seen in a long while. Karen was the center of the attention and had the best birthday ever!

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