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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Sweatshop Gives a "Friends" Themed Party

My sister-in-law was turning 40, and my mother-in-law and brother-in-law (her husband) asked me to throw a surprise birthday party for her.

Normally, I adore throwing parties, especially for big milestones, however, I wasn't expecting to be tasked with this so I hadn't budgeted for a big bash. However, determined to live up to my party-planning reputation, I dug deep within myself to come up with a way to throw a shindig on a shoestring budget.

While thinking about my sister in law's interests to get ideas for a "theme", I recalled that she is a *huge* fan of the old 90's show "Friends". In that single moment, everything clicked into place.

As the show has been off the air for quite a while, I knew that I would have a tough time finding "Friends" themed party gear (plates, cups, etc). Besides, I generally dislike (read: desperately hate) preprinted licensed stuff. It makes a gathering feel so commercial and less organic and thoughtful. I knew I would have to rely upon my creativity to set the tone.

You know you won't be able to get the theme song out of your head now...

Taking inspiration from one of my favorite episodes, the one where Monica dismissively assigned Phoebe the job of "cups and ice" and Phoebe vows that "Monica is gonna rue the day that she put me in charge of cups and ice", I bought a stack of the ubiquitous red plastic cups (which I needed for the party anyway), and embellished them with left over trim from the Sweatshop. I also found an old floral leis that I kept because I liked the colors, and tore up for this project. Using simple thin elastic strings (can be found in any craft or fabric store), I punched a hole in the sides of the cups and tied off the elastic string to create the straps to hold them on people's heads. (Cost: cups: $5.99 for 100; elastic string $2.99 per 3 yards, I needed around 9 yards, so $9.97; trims, flowers and glue: free)

Every good party needs party hats
Because my husband was such a good sport about how this "hat" making project had taken over our living room (random flowers and trim were oddly attracted to his socks), I made a special one, just for him.

Made the fez tassel by rolling together left over fringe
Funny husband!

Since food featured heavily on the show (between Joey's mania for sandwiches and Monica being a chef), I started off by listing foods that I remember seeing on the show. Like the aforementioned sandwiches. But then I started to remember more of the show, such as the (in)famous birthday flan! And Phoebe's grandmother's famous "Toulouse" cookies. And Rachel's "English Trifle" that was half trifle and half shepherd's pie. As I laughingly jotted these ideas down, my husband also started to remember things from the show (the episode where Monica bakes a dozen lasagnas...the "Joey Special" which is two pizzas, etc). By the time we were done, we had a menu that was several pages long, but incredibly simple (and inexpensive) to pull together! To make the theme of the menu easier to understand (there was a weird mix of foods), with the help of the interwebz, I made little tent cards with lines from the show about that dish. Then, to keep the "ice and cups" inspiration running, I cut little slits at the top of a few red plastic cups (I had a ton after all!) to create card holders for the tent cards. (Cost: around $175 for all the various dishes).

3 foot long sub - it would make Joey proud!
Look honey, I baked!

Made a quick trifle using whipped cream, strawberries, pudding and Nilla wafers.  No meat!

As my sister-in-law is a huge scrapbooker, I wanted a few mementos that she could use to create a scrapbook of her party. Taking a piece of black foam board and colored pencils, I created an inexpensive replica of the "Central Perk" daily specials for guests to "sign in" as a guest book. Although I thought this was a little corny (even for me), it turned out to be wildly popular! (Cost: $4.99 for the foam board; the colored pencils were free).
The colored pencils gave a "chalk" feel to the logo

 As I didn't have DVDs of the show, and I couldn't seem to find it on Netflix (yet, I can find weird screwball bad 80's movies like "Apple"...I love Netflix!), I took to the interwebz and was able to find mp3 and wav files of Phoebe's singing (including 5 different renditions of "Smelly Cat"). Embarrassingly, I also had a copy of the "Friends" album on CD...which was so old that it took iTunes nearly 45 minutes to read the disk. I put all of this on my iPod and plugged it to our stereo as music for the party. (Cost: free...unless you count the embarrassment of realizing that I had once bought the "Friends" album).

Final review - the party was hugely successful. My mother-in-law and brother-in-law were happy with the party (or at least, that's what they told me...haha), and my sister-in-law and all the guests had a great time. Although I was pretty stressed out trying to deal with all the last minute details by myself, I had a ton of fun making the hats if nothing else. Best part? I was able to throw a party for 30, for a little under $200 total!

And that is how the Sweatshop throws a party!


  1. פיטנס דיפו חנות ספורט המובילה בישראל לציוד כושר, משקולות תוספי תזונה ועוד באתר תמצאו תוכנית אימונים מותאמת אישית כל המוצרים
    נמהיבואן לצרכן
    חנות ספורט

  2. פיטנס דיפו חנות ספורט המובילה בישראל לציוד כושר, משקולות תוספי תזונה ועוד באתר תמצאו תוכנית אימונים מותאמת אישית כל המוצרים
    נמהיבואן לצרכן
    חנות ספורט

  3. did u use a simple hole punch to put holes in the cups? what kind of glue did u use?

  4. Oh! I love this show. I don’t know why I never thought about this theme. God! It’s amazing. Thanks a lot for sharing this idea here. I have shortlisted some of the Chicago venues for my birthday and now I can finalize the one that looks somewhat like ‘central perk’.