Two of my friends are doing Willy Wonka themed birthday parties this coming weekend, so I thought it would be appropriate to kick off my “Awesome Birthday Parties” series featuring this fun and deliciously imaginative theme. If you know me, you know I LOVE chocolate. Plain and simple. It’s one of my favorite “food groups.” So naturally…my son, Mason, has a sweet tooth like his mama. For his 2nd birthday (in 2006) we decided on a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory party. I remember how much I enjoyed reading Roald Dahl books as a child and watching the movie starring Gene Wilder. The Johnny Depp version had just come out on DVD and Mason enjoyed watching both (he sure does love “socklit” which is how he pronounced “chocolate”…we even called him “Augustus Gloop”), so we thought it would be fun theme to explore.
INVITATIONS: For Aiden and Alexi’s invitations I designed customized candy bar wrappers with their picture, nutritional information replaced with “party facts”, ingredients list replaced with the birthday boy or girl’s description, using a colorful polka dots pattern and Wonka font. Real chocolate bars were wrapped with foil and a customized “Golden Ticket” reiterating the party information was tucked inside.
For Mason’s invitations, I went a little more elaborate with a staggered booklet that showed pictures of the birthday boy and a little rhyme about him and the birthday party theme. The booklet was enclosed in a 4″ x 9″ Envelopments duplex (aqua/lime) pocketfold. In the pocket was the wrapped chocolate bar with the Golden Ticket. At the time of Mason’s party, actual Wonka chocolate bars were readily available and in stock at the candy bar aisle of my local grocery store. I think I purchased them on sale at Albertson’s for under $1 each. Nowadays, they’re harder to find. The last place that had them was Toys R Us. According to one candy retailer, they’re no longer being made and newer flavors of Wonka bars have taken the place of the original. You can still order the original Wonka bars online, but they’re not cheap..I think it ends up being about $2 -$3 each once you factor in shipping. So for Aiden’s we used Cadbury bars, for Alexi’s, Hershey’s. They both worked just fine and I’m sure were devoured just as easily.
DECORATIONS: Standard decorations were colorful streamers, balloons and plastic tablecloths in the color scheme of the party. We used aqua blue, lime green, orange and purple. I found polka dot napkins at IKEA that happened to have the same color scheme and solid colored paper plates, cups and plastic utensils to match. Blue mylar streamers served as doorway decor for the “Wonka Wash.” Original book cover art from different years of publication (found online) were printed out to stick on the walls. I also printed out scenes from both movies and pictures of my birthday boy. Everything was mounted onto coordinating colored cardstock backings. All signage was printed with the polka dot pattern and Wonka font to match the invitations.
We had guests enter through the back gate, so they could walk through the backyard that was set up to look like the edible garden. For yard decorations, I got a bunch of those large, marbled-looking bouncy balls from the 99 Cent Store. They look like Everlasting Gobstoppers and the kids could play with them too. Some of the balls were wrapped with tissue to look like candy. And I wrapped large foam discs (from Michael’s or a floral supply store) with colorful paper and used large dowels/sticks to line the Chocolate Factory entry with oversized “lollipops.” Bubble machines pumped out hundreds of bubbles a minute (like the burping scene in the movie).
FOOD/CAKE: We had standard party food: chips/dips, nachos, assorted candies (Wonka brand, of course), fruits, veggies, make your own mini sandwiches, sodas, juices, waters, etc. I always have fun making little theme-oriented food indicator signs….just to add a little decoration to the table and tie in some fun phrases and play on words. Sometimes, the name determines the food. For instance, we HAD to have “Oompa Lumpia”….lumpia (kinda like eggrolls), were the only food item I could think of that worked with “Oompa Loompa.” Some of the food signs were: “Violet’s Roast Beef Sandwiches” (because one of the courses in the gum she was chewing was roast beef), “Violet, you’re turning Violet, Violet” blueberry and assorted fruit salad (we also had a “Snazzberries taste like Snazzberries” version), “Mike Teavee Cheesee Nachos” and “Fizzy Lifting Drinks” for soda pop (and beer for the grown ups).
Since I didn’t have a fountain or river to turn into chocolate, our friend Jeff of Rhino Cake Company (who does all our cakes/catering), turned our kitchen island into an edible garden, complete with rice krispie treat “brick” lined path, marshmallow and strawberry topiaries, graham cracker pavers, bananas, pound cake, pretzel sticks….all leading to the chocolate fountain “waterfall” for dipping. He even used a grass-print plastic table cloth for added effect. “Auntie” Allison (our dear friend, “fourth sister,” and Jeff’s girlfriend), set everything up beautifully.
Because of all the sugar overload, we decided to forego a traditional cake and had Jeff make cupcakes for the kids. Mason blew out his 2 candles on a large individual cupcake with a motorcycle topper (nothing to do with the theme, only because he loved motorcycles).
ACTIVITIES/GAMES: Since the party was for a 2 year old, I didn’t really plan too many games. It was more about socializing, playing and eating all those yummy treats! In the backyard we had a kiddie pool filled with bubble solution and assorted bubble wands for the kids to make their own giant bubbles, in addition to the bouncy balls and bubble machine. Inside, I had a table set up for kids to make edible necklaces out of Froot Loops, and the Candyland game for them to play. Both movies were playing on different television sets in each room. Some kids had never seen the movie and were glued to the set like Mike Teavee! I filled a jar with candies and let the guest take turns guessing how many candies are in the jar…the winner got to take home the sweets-filled jar. We also had a “Golden Eggs” hunt with two age divisions (to be fair to the littler kids).
FAVORS, GOODIE BAGS, THANK YOUS:
Jeff custom-made “Mason Bars” – real chocolate bars with “MASON” spelled out in colorful letters on each bar (made out of white chocolate). I designed a candy bar wrapper with Mason’s picture and “Thank you for coming to my 2nd Birthday Party!” We displayed the stacks of custom candy bars in a cardboard box that was cut-out to look like a white television set (in the story, Television Chocolate was intended to send Wonka Bar samples through television sets around the world). Guests could reach in a grab a bar or two to take home.
Goodie bags are one of my favorite things to plan for parties. I have so much fun trying to figure out ways to incorporate the theme and give the kids more than just candy and junk. Although, with this theme…candy and junk was pretty much a given! I found inexpensive polka dot patterned lunch sacks, bubbles, tiny bouncy balls and stickers online at Oriental Trading Company. Large quantities of Wonka brand candies were available at Smart & Final. And I found awesome “Firefly” light up toothbrushes at the 99 cent store. The toothbrushes light up and flash for a minute so that kids know to keep brushing! Kids got an assortment of all the goodies and a flashing toothbrush in their goodie bag, finished off with a custom labeled swirly lollipop. Some of the guests were toddlers/babies, so I always do an age-appropriate version for the little ones. Instead of candy, gobstoppers, stickers, bouncy balls (and other choking hazards), they received packages of organic graham crackers, teething rings, dessert flavored baby food, baby toys, etc.
As one of the decorations/activities, I had painted a board to look like two Oompa Loompas. I’m usually painting these things at the last minute (like, the night before the party) and in this case, I was also 8 months pregnant and HUGE…which explains why the painting is so bad! I can’t believe I was able to get anything accomplished with my big belly in the way. My husband cut out the faces and we set it up so that guests could get their picture taken as an Oompa Loompa. The thank you card design matched the invitation and included a picture of Mason from the party. Each guest also received a print of their Oompa Loompa picture with their thank you message.
I had a lot of fun with this theme, and the party was a blast thanks to the help of my family and friends. Both of my friends who are having Wonka themed parties this weekend are super creative and throw amazing parties, so I’m sure the ideas I came up with are nothing new to them. I’m looking forward to seeing their takes on this theme. I hear an Oompa Loompa may be paying a visit at one of the parties!
“In your wildest dreams you can not imagine the marvelous SURPRISES that await you!