Thank you so much for all your enthusiasm and best wishes and interest in Archie’s 21st. I’ve been bursting to share this with you and would have done it sooner if there hadn’t been so much cleaning up. Right now I’m still in a daze; it was a very special and wonderful evening that I would love to re-live. Here’s how it all came together…
It started with a theme.. Archie chose ‘The Titanic’ which turned out to be such a great idea and gave us a lot of hours of fun; doing research, revisiting the movie and pondering the types of food eaten one hundred and one years ago.
Having decided on the theme, we next needed to find a venue. It’s not as easy as you would think as so many places no longer allow 21st birthday parties and others make you use their caterers and purchase their wines which is not what we wanted either. Things started to become a little desperate but then right under our noses, Carl remembered The Mosman Art Gallery, a building originally built as a church.
The function room is the original church hall with stained glass windows, wood panelled walls, polished timber floors and a grand piano. With its bygone-era look, it totally suited our theme. And another bonus, run by Mosman Council, the Gallery allows you to self-cater and bring in your own alcohol.
We locked in the date for the party and by coincidence, we were holding it 101 years to the date of the second-last night of the Titanic’s fateful voyage.
With the venue and date locked in, we started designing the invitations. There’s a lot you can find on google images! We were able to download a picture of the grand staircase from James Cameron’s movie and then we super-imposed a photo of Archie dressed as Jack into the image. He had speech-bubbles coming out of his mouth that said those words Jack speaks to Rose, ‘So…you wanna go to a real party?’ At the bottom of the invitation we put the handwritten note Jack slips to Rose that says, ‘Make it count; meet me at the clock’. We crossed out the word clock and wrote ‘gallery’.
Inside, the invitation gave them all the details of the party including the dress code that said, ‘First Class, Second Class or Steerage; Life Jackets not Essential’.
They were also given a boarding pass that was styled on the original boarding passes White Star Line gave to the Titanic passengers. The invitations were placed in brown envelopes and sealed with a wax seal.
Once the invitations were posted it was on with working out how to style the room. The gallery hall is a massive space and I didn’t want it to feel like a big void. This is where you can sink a lot of time, with being on the internet and running around here, there and everywhere looking for things that may or may not be suitable as well as finding things that fit in with your budget.
I drove to one party-hire place only to be told they had nothing for me. Every time I suggested they probably did, the woman kept saying, ‘No, we’ve got nothing for you’. You wouldn’t want that woman running your business. She told me to go to Ace Props and I’m very glad she did. I phoned Ace Props and asked if they had anything, anything at all that would vaguely suit a Titanic-themed party. He couldn’t believe it. Just two-weeks earlier he had styled a venue for the top executives of a bank for a Titanic party. For that party he made a gangway and to enter the room you had to walk across it. It really gave you the feeling of walking onto a ship. I knew I wanted it.
Ant from Ace Props sent me a photo of it and I went out to see it. Ant normally wouldn’t hire it out as a ‘dry installation’ but when I told him my budget he allowed me to take it and handed me the 60 screws in two different sizes that were needed to put it together. It was strapped onto the roof and some red and white striped deck chairs were put into the back of the car.
Do you know how difficult it is to source deck chairs? They were so common when I was growing up but they have all but disappeared. Very few places sell them and if they do, they’re very expensive.
Our party was going to be cocktail but at a five-hour party, people are going to want to sit at some stage. One party-hire business told me that at cocktail functions you need to allow for seating for a third of your guests. The venue had two church pews along the longest walls but we’d need more seating than that.
Looking at images of the Titanic (none are in colour as colour photography hadn’t been invented back then), I saw that there were cane lounges on the Promenade Decks. I had my cane lounges recovered and, along with a couple of our coffee tables, and a lot of other essentials, Archie and a few of his mates from the country drove everything to the venue in utes. I hired cafe tables with padded bar stools from Oliver Hire. These were scattered around the room and I covered the tables with black tablecloths. I bought some coloured-glass candelabras to put on the centre of each table with a white candle.
A friend of mine owns a boat accessories shop and she loaned me some things including some life buoys, a small rowing boat, a glass life buoy and a little lighthouse. These were put on display along with some old luggage and a hat box to add to the collection. I also took down my antique sea chest and I had quite a fight with Archie about this. He said it was of the wrong era and that no one would have boarded the Titanic with one but as the Event Co-ordinator I insisted on bringing it and it proved very useful on the night as the perfect place to store his presents.
The room also has a stage that was looking quite bare and a friend told me I absolutely had to get an ice berg into the room and that I could make one out of milk crates put together with cable ties and then cover the ‘sculpture’ in a white sheet. So I went around the neighbourhood sourcing milk crates and these are surprisingly easy to find. We arranged them into a kind of an iceberg shape then draped a sheet over it and put some blue chiffon fabric around the bottom to look like water lapping around the edges. Now I know it’s not the greatest work of art you’ve ever seen but people were saying, ‘Iceberg! Right ahead’.
To fill the middle of the room I joined two trestle tables end to end and covered them with white tablecloths. The cake was put in the middle of the table. I thought the room needed some flowers and my mother agreed to do them for me. She asked me if I had a colour scheme and I didn’t but I said the vases would be on either side of the cake and the cake has a bit of orange on it.
The other consideration is that the room has extremely high ceilings so any little posy would just look dwarfed. My mother decided to make a big statement and bought bright orange gladioli that looked amazing in their tall, glass vases.
Room styled, it was now a question of how to add some other Titanic touches. We needed waitresses; four of them. Arabella asked her friends if they would like to waitress and they were only too keen – until I showed them what they had to wear! I went to The Wardrobe and hired black and white waitressing/maid outfits for them complete with little head-pieces. With their hair up in buns, black stockings and shoes and lots of red lipstick, they looked fantastic.
As all the guests arrived, the girls stood at one end of the gangway holding trays of champagne. Once over the gangway and with a champagne in hand, the guests were taken back to the Titanic era with music played by a string quartet. These talented musicians were friends of Archie’s and all attend the Conservatorium of Music. They played all those songs that are rumoured to have been played as the ship went down like Nearer My God to Thee. People found it very moving and said it really made you feel that you were being transported back in time.
As for the drinks, I was able to source unlabelled wine (quite the challenge) and we had our own adhesive labels made that are covered in vinyl so they can sit in ice buckets without getting ruined. Finding a company to print wine labels isn’t easy as most companies want you to also order your wine through them. But through google I found The Label Factory over in Perth and they did an excellent job with a prompt turnaround. Our guests sipped on ‘Maiden Voyage Champagne’, ‘First Class Red’ and ‘Iceberg White’.
Speaking of drinks, the one thing I did ask of Archie was that he organise two barmen for the night. ‘Yes, mum; it’s all sorted’, is what he confidently kept telling me. True to form, the night before the event, all his barmen had pulled out. That’s how it is with Gen Y; they always get a better offer. So, to the rescue came Rob, a friend of ours of over 20 years. He’s been well featured on this blog before and he added an interesting slant to our evening. I’m sure the reason we have so much leftover grog is because he took the Titanic theme to a heightened level and was a menace! Anyone under 40 was asked for ID; any male asking for a champagne was questioned of being poofter; anyone not dressed in first class attire who asked for a champagne was told, ‘Piss off mate, you’re in steerage’. You had to be very brave to approach the bar.
The string quartet played for an hour and then a friend of ours, Lionel, took over the music and played the piano. Later came the speeches and there were a few of them! Three of Archie’s friends spoke and then I tried to redeem the family name with my own speech. Then Carl said a few words and afterwards Archie’s grandfather read out some heartfelt words from two of my sisters who were so sad not to be able to attend the event (and their absence was palpable), and then he proposed a toast.
Archie’s speech was brief but from the heart and he thanked all those who had put in such an effort to be there including all those wo’d traveled from all corners of Australia. We then had the cutting of the cake and if ever there was a cake where it was almost like a knife to the chest to see it being cut, it was this one. But I’ve put you through enough already and I’ll tell you all about how I made a Titanic cake in my next post.
If you liked this post, you’re welcome to share it!