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Sweet 16 Party

In Wonderland 16yr - Tea Party Treasure Hunt




Kelly in Langhorne, PA USA


September 2008


Sept. 2003 Winner

In February 2008, I threw my sister a sweet sixteen at our home.  The party was on a Saturday night from 6pm until 11 pm.  The guest of honor arrived at 6:30 to be welcomed by all her guests.  The idea for the Alice in Wonderland theme came from our shared love for the Lewis Carroll books, and both the 1951 Disney adaptation, and 1999 live action movie.  The party took two and a half months of planning, done by me and two friends, and cost roughly 400 dollars including groceries.  The key to this party's success was DETAILS.  Seven months later we are still seeing remnants from that night  

Invitation: The invitations were handmade using two jumbo sized playing cards which were lined up back to back, hole-punched at two points, fastened with pastel colored paper fasteners to create a spine, and folded at the spine to resemble a book.  The cover of the book was glued a paper detailed with a fancy boarder and watermark of a classic Alice illustration, read Shannon's Adventure In Wonderland. On the inside of the book was glued the party details: A Sweet Sixteen by Order of the Queen!" The date time and location were provided in a Victorian font using a black red and pink overall color scheme paying special attention to avoid abbreviations and informal wording. 

Decorations: Our house was TRANSFORMED into Lewis Carroll's fairytale land.  Upon entrance to our home guests walked up our concrete walkway between a garden of colored helium latex balloons which floated below at and above eye level anchored down by metal stakes disguised in the grass.  Over the front door hung a handmade letter cut-out sign that read "Wonderland" in misshaped letters strung together with fishing line.    Guests entered the house and to the right the living room was themed with the Queen of Hearts d├ęcor.  Red hearts and playing cards decorated the entire room in the form of cut-outs 3d lanterns mobiles homemade garland etc.  This room was solely used during game play.  All furniture was removed from the rooms used during the party and stored in the dining room.   The main hallway from the front door entrance was themed as the rabbit hole.  The normally beige walls had silver and reflective paper hung all around in crazy patterns.  Many different sized square mirrors were temporarily hung with 3m command strips.  The doorway at the end of the hall was draped ceiling to floor with a silver reflective paper which was cut into thin vertical slits in order for people to get through while concealing the next room's theme.  

The main area of the party was in our connected kitchen and family room.  Two twelve foot long plastic folding tables were lined up to form a 24 foot long tea party table fitting 18 mismatched chairs exactly enough for each guest to have a seat. A colorful balloon was tied to the back of each chair. The room was decorated as a garden out door tea party and with a classic birthday celebration feel.  Paper streamers of every color and every hue of every color hung twisted above the guests.  Cut-outs of flowers and butterflies strung together on fishing line hung from the 12 foot ceilings to about three feet above the ground.  Extra large cut-outs hung on the walls of flowers and butterflies covering every inch.  Handmade painted cardboard signs giving crazy directions such as this way that way hung around the room at door entrances.  Strung colored lights were hung around the room in between and all around the overwhelming amount of paper streamers as well as colored light bulbs in the overhead lights creating a sky of color and illumination above the seated guests.     The tables were covered with bright purple tablecloths.  Over 20 mismatched tea cups of different funky colors shapes and sizes some with saucers some without were placed at the table.  Also on the table were different styled teapots salt and pepper shakers small dishes and bowls candles shaped like rabbits plastic hearts that lit up small clocks and a random assortment of other wonderland novelties. 

Activities:  When the guest entered the house they were given a balloon.  They were then told to pop the balloon and inside was a message from the queen which told them they had a certain special task to perform in front of the guest of honor.  Some tasks were in response to certain phrases or words the guest of honor might say. Ex: "Each time the guest of honor speaks the word 'birthday' you must bless her as if she had sneezed."  Other messages told the guest to respond with their task at a certain time during the party such as "while singing happy birthday" or "after the first game is played."  The guest enjoyed having something to do as an individual.  It made each person stand out for a second and broke the ice between a lot of strangers at the party.   Another activity was a place for guest to write their birthday wishes to the guest.  Instead of signing in a book and leaving a message I constructed a smoking caterpillar out of construction paper.  Green circles were cut out and arranged to create a long caterpillar body.  Each guest could pick a circle and write a special message to the birthday girl.  After the party we deconstructed the caterpillar and added the circles to a scrapbook of memories from the party. 

Games:  Two games were played during the party.  The first game was probably the most elaborate indoor treasure hunt ever created.  We called it 'The Caucus Race' after the confusing game of nonsense in the book. Of the guest five teams were formed.  Numbers were drawn from a hat modeled after the mad hatter's hat and matching numbers were placed on a team together.  When all five teams were composed they were simultaneously handed their first clue. Clues were typed and laminated to index cards. All clues were written as four-line rhymes except for the first clue.  The first clue was a 10 line rhyme and was issued to identify their team color (Ex: To complete this caucus race you must work at a fast pace collectively search with loyalty for portions the color of royalty. To complete the game and achieve the fame execute the tasks at hand while searching our Wonderland first to collect all the parts will be rewarded by the Queen of Hearts.)  The team then would figure they were the purple team and grabbed the purple index card waiting on the table and then read their next clue. 

To make it even more confusing there were five smaller games within the caucus race.  A paper and pen maze starring the white rabbit a five-word word scramble a miniature game of croquet a scaled down version of pin the tail on the white rabbit using a cotton ball as the tail and a random riddle dealing with time.  The clues each team received would send them to a location in the house.  At that location would be a 'game clue' which then directed them to one of the five mini games.  At completion of the mini game the team was then awarded a puzzle piece.  Once a team had found all ten clues (five locations and five games) and completed all five mini games they then had all five puzzle pieces.  They would then run back to the starting point of the game where 5 homemade puzzle boards were waiting and assembled the puzzle creating a grinning Cheshire cat.  The first team to have a completed puzzle won the game.  The winning team was awarded fast food gift certificates addressed from the queen.  

The second game played was much quicker in time but surprisingly almost as elaborate.  The game was called "Drink Me" and was a weird version of a drinking game for minors. The game was played as follows:  Two even teams were formed and numbers were drawn ranking the team members in numerical order.  The teams lined up standing across from one another along an 8 foot long table so number one was across from the opposite teams number one and an entire team was on one side of the table.  In front of each player was a plastic cup already filled with an amount of soda. Then in front of that cup was another cup filled with roughly 2oz. Of that same soda which we referred to as a soda shot.  The madness to the game was that the higher the number the more soda was in the cup.  If number one had about a gulps worth of soda in their glass number nine had a good five chugs in theirs. 

The rule to the game was that the first person would drink their cup full slam their cup down take their reserved 'shots worth' and pour it into the next persons cup so then that person would then be drinking their portion plus one shots worth more.  The fun of the game came with the fact that each of the people on the team had a different flavor of soda from strawberry to pineapple and ginger ale.  The anchor of each team was forced to drink 16oz. Of nine different flavors of soda in order to win the game!  This game took A LOT of preparation in order for it to go right each glass after the first two had to have a shots worth of the first persons flavor before the number before them.  (So flavor 1 had to be put into 3 through 9's cups before the game even began and so on with every flavor after the number directly after it which was put in during game play.)  As confusing as it sounds it was definitely the hit of the party.  The guests had so much fun that they asked to play again! I hesitated knowing how much strategy it took to set up but then I realized I still had all those wacky flavors of soda left over I would have nothing else to do with after the party so we played again. 

Costumes:  Although my sister had an entire handmade Alice costume (modeled after Disney's character) I had made her for Halloween the year before I did not make her wear it during the party.  It was quite a challenge to do a themed sweet 16 with games and activities without making the guests feel like they were at a kid's party.  We agreed that costumes although not discouraged would be left for Halloween.  But to keep things looking uniform all the party helpers wore bright colors and while not in use during the games the mad hatter's hat was worn by one of them as well.  

Party Snacks:  A snack spread was given at the start of the party.  Guests arrived to find a chocolate fountain with fruit for dipping a popcorn machine popping out colored popcorn and other chips and dips.  A full hot buffet dinner was served later in the night and included miniature Philly cheesesteaks (on special bakery made mini hoagie rolls) miniature buffalo chicken cheesesteaks miniature hamburgers and cheeseburgers (served on hawaiian dinner rolls) and pizza bagels (mini pizza) served on chess boards (on one color to resemble checker pieces).  Since the guest of honor and a few other attendees were vegetarians special mini veggie burgers were also made. 

Cake:  I made the cake from scratch and was more of a centerpiece than the main dessert.  It was a vanilla pound cake in three tiers descending in size and placed off centered to create a staircase effect.  It was mounted atop an inverted cake pan that was decorated with dainty ribbons and lace.  The homemade buttercream icing was a bright fun yellow color.  Green icing was piped along and up each tiers edge to resemble the gardens of wonderland.  Sparkly pink heart ornaments were placed in the cake in a descending order wrapping around the cake following the staircase effect with the last completely in the cake with the pink heart resting right on the cakes surface.  The candles spelled out 'Happy Sweet Sixteen'.  Also as an edible dessert we served both cupcakes decorated in wonderland fashion and cupcake cones (ice cream cones).  An assortment of cookies brownies and chocolate were also part of the spread. 

Favors:  The guests left with their very own 'unbirthday card' which was a simple computer made 3x5 card stock print out that read "A Very Merry Unbirthday to You!"  Attached to the card was an 'eat me' cookie wrapped and tied in a cellophane bag and stapled to the bag was one tea bag. "

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