A Titanic 21st

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…

A ship of beauty

A ship of beauty

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.

Setting up the room

Setting up the room

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.

Setting the scene with a few props

Setting the scene with a few props

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.

At the hairdressers - turning back the clock, one hundred and one years

At the hairdressers – turning back the clock, one hundred and one years

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.

The gangway

The gangway

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’.

The invitation

The invitation

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.

Boarding pass

Boarding pass

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.

A ship of Titanic proportions

A cake of Titanic proportions

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.

Arabella and the waitresses

Arabella and the waitresses

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.

Arabella reshuffling the deck chairs

Arabella reshuffling the deck chairs

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.

This poor chap didn't make it to a lifeboat

This poor chap didn’t make it to a lifeboat

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.

'Meet me at the clock'

‘Meet me at the clock’

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.

Party time

Party time

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.

My mother's flowers

My mother’s flowers

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’.

Don't laugh - it's an iceberg

Don’t laugh – it’s an iceberg

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.

Archie with his grandfather

Archie with his grandfather

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.

'The band continued to play'

‘The band continued to play’

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.

Archie with his 'maids of honour'

Archie with his ‘maids of honour’

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.

The invitation did say, 'Life jackets not essential' but some people are very good at craft

The invitation did say, ‘Life jackets not essential’ but some people are very good at craft


Carl and Lionel

Carl and Lionel

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’.

Maiden Voyage Champagne, Iceberg White, and First Class Red - please ignore the words on the bottom of the label that say, 'Enjoy Irresponsibly'

Maiden Voyage Champagne, Iceberg White, and First Class Red – please ignore the words on the bottom of the label that say, ‘Enjoy Irresponsibly’

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.

Rob - our overly zealous barman

Rob – our overly zealous barman

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.  


Steerage and First Class mingling together

Steerage and First Class mingling together


A family photo

A family photo


My sister and Archie

My sister and Archie


The barman who took his job very seriously

The barman who took his job very seriously


A maid/waitress

A maid/waitress


Archie and one of his acting teachers

Archie and one of his acting teachers


The Captain and his off-sider delivering their speech

The Captain and his off-sider delivering their speech

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. 

My speech

My speech


My father's speech

My father’s speech


Archie's speech

Archie’s speech


'Eagle Rock' - apparently it's a tradition that all blokes drop their daks - time to leave!

‘Eagle Rock’ – apparently it’s a tradition that all blokes drop their daks – time to leave!


Cutting the cake

Cutting the cake


Archie and this beautiful girl first met at Mothers' Group when they were four months old!

Archie and this beautiful girl.  They first met at Mothers’ Group when they were four months old!


Archie with is grandparents

Archie with is grandparents


Archie with one of my sisters

Archie with one of my sisters

 A ship of Titanic proportions

A cake of Titanic proportions

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  1. Wow – what a sterling effort. No wonder you are knackered. It would take me weeks to get over that much work. Archie is one lucky young man!

  2. Oh wow, you certainly know how to pull out all the stops Charlie, what an amazing looking party and such a great theme. I love the gangplank, it was well worth the trek to Ace Props for that alone! I’m so glad you all had a wonderful time. Now you deserve a hugely well-earned rest…before you have to start thinking about Arabella’s 21st party!!

  3. Happy Birthday Archie! I can tell from his ear to ear smile he was so happy. He is so blessed to have a super mom like you. Your family is beautiful and you clean up pretty good Miss Charlie! Take a good rest. BAM

  4. Love, love, love!!!! What a fantastic night it must have been!!!! You must be exhausted!!! Well done! 🙂

  5. What a beautiful night!! Every little detail just perfect!

  6. Well done, Charlie! I am exhausted reading about your efforts, can’t imagine how you feel!! Absolutely wonderful! Everybody looks great and looks like they had an incredible time. Happy birthday to Archie. Now, we’ll see how you top this for Arabella 🙂

  7. Waw, well done Charlie! What a beautiful 21st Birthday event! It all looks amazing & just wonderful, all the atmosphere & ambiance you all created here! Lucky Archie! xxx

    A great & fun stylish party! x

  8. What an amazing party Charlie, I’d definitely hire you for my special event The success is in all the details and you really NAILED them! The cake is gorgeous too; will you be sharing the food items (which I suspect you made)?
    Those deck chairs are also gorgeous! My dear Dad made me one of those (with blue fabric) many, many moons ago, seeing them brought back some lovely memories. Did you get them at Ikea? Were you able to return them after or are you keeping them? We have all sorts of party rental places in Toronto but I’ve only ever rented dishes and glasses (so easy because at the end of the night they are go back into the crate, no ringing or washing required.
    I’ve catered parties at home before (a few for slightly more than 50) but my favourite has to be my Mother’s second wedding (my dear Dad passed away in 1981) we had about 40 people at our home. It was making decorations for a month prior, it was a resounding success. It looks like your party was also a fantastic success, congratulations to Archie for this milestone, he’s a very lucky guy to have a mom like you.

  9. I am in awe of this party. I had a few tears knowing the sheer joy you felt that night and how proud you both were of the fine young man you raised.

    I’m dying to know how you made that cake!

  10. That has to have been the best party ever! Well done! Looks like you thought of every detail. I’m so impressed.

  11. that looks like one epic party! happy birthday to archie!

  12. What a fabulous party, Charlie! A night to remember for sure! That cake is just amazing! You are an amazing party planner, it’s too bad you’re all the way over in Oz…. I could’ve used you a few months back for my vow renewal. It turned out OK, though…. 🙂 xo

  13. Congratulations on your 21st, Archie!

    What an amazing evening, Charlie. All the elements came together marvellously and from the smiles on everyone’s faces, a great time was had by all. Only two more to go. 🙂

  14. My gosh, Charlie! Such a lovely party! Everything came together perfectly. You seriouly need to be an event specialist…on your spare time 🙂 Happy Birthday your handsome son. I’m sure ths was such a special celebration for him!

  15. Oh, my gosh, you are the ultimate party planner!!! Every detail is perfect…what a fabulous event!!!
    PS…Nick turns 21 in a couple weeks? Are you available???? 😉

  16. I can hardly find words to express how impressed I am with every aspect of this event. You nailed it. I can only imagine the thought, time and effort you invested in pulling off this celebration of, indeed, Titanic proportions.

    Congratulations on creating this memorable evening for Archie and guests. Your attention to details truly are remarkable.

    I would have loved to have been there.

  17. Charlie, you are amazing. Your whole family is. This warms the cockles of my heart. And yep, I bet, like most of your readers, I now want to rewatch Titanic… AND have you create my next major birthday party. You have three years and one month to plan my 30th 😉

    Happy birthday to Archie!

  18. Wow this is a really impressive party! Looks like a blast!

  19. You should consider event Planning as a career, with 21st Borthday parties being a speciality. This is the most fascinating 21st that I have read about. Even reading through it was exhausting, I can’t imagine how you pulled it all off. Congratulations Charlie, your kids are very lucky to have you 🙂

  20. I meant to say this in my earlier comment, but forgot! You looked stunning in that dress! Your whole family is just gorgeous!!! xo

  21. Wow Charlie just wow! What an amazing party and so authentic! The family photo is beautiful. Little Alfie looks so handsome in his suit. It’s so great that everyone went to so much trouble with their costumes too. Can’t wait to see how you made the magnificent cake!

  22. What an amazing looking, and sounding, party. Totally wish that I could have been there! You are the mom of the year!

  23. Wow!! What an amazing night to remember for all of you! Your whole family looked beautiful!

  24. Amazing party and that cake!! How fantastic to all the family together in photos too. Well done Charlie.

  25. Fabulous! What a great night! Congratulations on a job well done, Charlie! x

  26. Kudos to the barman – he obviously was the real star of the night. Great to see a real man – Man – Up!

  27. How fun! What a great theme for a party. Looks like everyone had a great time. I love the idea of making your own wine labels!

  28. What a wonderful party, one that will be talked about and remembered forever, I am sure. You did a wonderful job, no mean feat! And you don’t need to tell me about the cleaning up I am still doing mine after the 60th more than a week ago!! The costumes were fabulous and I can’t wait for the break down on the cake.

  29. Oh Charlie I almost have no words. You are so completely wonderful to have organised such a terrific party for your boy. If you ever need a waitress or bar person at short notice I’m your girl. I think I would pay you to be at one of your parties. It looks so fabulous. Perhaps you should do this for a living. You are amazing.

  30. Well done!! looks like you had a fantastic night and what an effort you put in to make it so!!! That barman sure looks dodgy!!! hahahaha

  31. My goodness I am in awe of your party organisation skills – right now my idea of party is to give kids a packet of balloons – I don’t think I will ever be that organised -sounds like a magnificent party – so many details attended to and such a splendid venue – Archie is a lucky boy – no wonder he had a great big grin on his face in the photos – and glad you all had fun after all your work

  32. Happy 21st Archie!
    Congratulations to you Charlie for putting together a very successful party. Evident that everyone had a grand time. You have a beautiful family.

  33. What a fabulous party. Such creativity and dedication. Archie will remember this all his life. You could definitely have a career as an event organiser. Congratulations. Oh, and what a handsome family you are.

  34. Congrats on such a wonderful party! Everything looked great, even the iceberg!

  35. I’m totally gobsmacked. Such attention to detail and Archie’s smile in all the photos is just magic. The family photos are just wonderful too. I’m wondering how long it took to make the cake though? Will have to wait and see!

  36. Amazing job Charlie! I love how you totally committed to the theme. The outfits are fabulous and that cake is incredible! 😀 Happy 21st to Archie!!

  37. What an amazing party, and reading it, I felt like I was there. I wish I had a fraction of your talent, what an amazing family and an amazing night, one that I am sure that will be remembered by all… providing the drink didn’t get to them ;). And here in NZ it is the same in trying to find a 21st venue, most places will no longer do them – shame really how a few bad ones ruin it for all – but your venue looked fantastic 🙂

  38. Charlie, have you ever thought of becoming an Event Planner? This party was incredible and I’m in absolute awe of the detail you have gone to! Well done and Happy Birthday to Archie.

  39. Elegance, style, family and fun ~ what else could there be 🙂 ? Glad it all went as well and better than you had hoped and all the best to Archie for all the days to come . . .

  40. Now that is how you celebrate your 21st birthday! I’m sure everyone had a wonderful time and Archie, judging by that smile, was happiest of them all. I know it was an awful lot of work for you — that cake was a masterpiece — and the party was a success because of it. Very well done, Charlie.

  41. I cannot get over how incredibly well you did this party, the invites, the dresses and even the ice berg 😀
    I LOVE your hair Charlie, it is stunning – how is your whole family model like by the way?! 😛
    Thanks so much for sharing – my favourite though was the CAKE! It is incredible 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  42. BOOM!!! Nailed it. What a magical event, it is absolutely perfect. Archie defo has a Leonardo DiCaprio look going on, ladies lad in the making there. LOL! 🙂 I absolutely love the maids, what a lovely addition to bring the theme to life. I know who to call now for my next themed event. Beaut job. 🙂

  43. Oh my goodness Charlie – this really was a party of mammoth proportions! Well done!! I have been so looking forward to your recap and it didn’t disappoint. It sounds like a wonderful night, and what amazing props, decorations, CAKE, and outfits. I am sure you will all remember it fondly over the next few years. You have also set the bar high for Arabella and Alfie!

  44. What a remarkable and unforgettable evening Charlie. Well done!
    Have a beautiful day.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  45. OMG, this is fabulous! A 21st to remember even if you were too drunk to remember it (which I am sure was NOT the case!). Brilliant job. x

  46. What a terrific party! This is beyond first class — you really know how to throw a shindig. Great pictures, and it sounds like a wonderful evening. Thoroughly enjoyed reading about it — thanks so much.

  47. Oh my!! This is the most incredible party I have ever seen! Thanks for sharing the photos, so beautiful!! A night to remember forever 🙂

  48. I’m just stunned at the amount of effort, detail and just plain fun you put into this evening Charlie. I know that Archie will remember this for the rest of his life! What a GREAT party! All of you look fantastic, and the decor, food, theme, venue and the CAKE look perfect. Just amazing. Bravo to you and a very Happy Birthday and 21st to Archie.

    • I just had to circle back and add a thank you for taking us along to this party. I had a lot of fun reading the post and seeing the pictures….the next best thing to being there! 🙂

  49. I’ve had a nice time just by reading your post, imagine going to it !!!! Such a beautiful party Charlie , you really know how to throw an amazing party. Happy birthday to your son, he is lucky having such a sweet mom.

  50. It was a wonderful event that kept evolving thru the evening . I attended with a curly Kate hairstyle and so enjoyed the effort others had gone to to be Titanic !! Charlie and family gave a wonderful first class party that had a happy ending . I must say eagle rock will always have special memories for me now !

    • And the party was all the better for having you there, Deborah. It was so lovely to sit on the bar stools and have a drink with you and your handsome fiance. It was a great night and I’m so glad it all went so well and yes, Eagle Rock…what can I say! Archie says it’s been a tradition for a long time. I must have been living under a rock!

  51. Wow!
    The cake, and all the details are totally amazing…
    What a party to remember –
    and how will he top it for his 50th!!
    Emma 🙂

  52. Okay this is just amazing!!! You really outdid yourself!!

  53. My god Charlie , how totally amazing. How did you do it all ?. I love the wine labels thats an inspiration and that you found somewhere in your own suburb no less to hold the party. Whats next, what did they eat??

  54. Woah, this is awesome! I love a good theme like this. Titanic was the theme of my 8th grade prom but it wasn’t close to being as great as this!

  55. Happy Birthday Archie!!! WOW! I don’t know what to say! I’ve never seen so much work and fun and effort go into a birthday party. For my 21st we just had some friends over and got drunk. 🙂 That cake is absolutely amazing! Looks like a blast of a party!

  56. Happy Birthday Archie – what a cool cake. Now I know what that huge cake board in your kitchen was for! Looks like a wonderful party… must have taken so long to plan and arrange!

  57. Amazing indeed Charlie! The old venue really added to the styling as well and having the waitresses lined up along the gang plank looked lovely. What a great job you did, it looked like a real memory making event- Happy Birthday Archie! Xox

  58. I read this post a week ago and didn’t have time to comment. You threw a fantastic party Charlie! I absolutely love how it all came together and the absolute creativity of it all. This is surely a 21st that Archie will remember for a lifetime. And the cake – you definitely out did yourself on that. Wow!! Not a detail was overlooked and you all look so fantastic and happy. Congrats to a job well done and a very happy 21st (albeit belated) to Archie!

  59. Wow that is one IMPRESSIVE party you’ve held Charlie! It looked like so much fun with all the props, the way the waitresses were dressed and everyone came so glammed up! I particularly like Arabella’s dress so pretty and of course Archie has become one handsome young man! 🙂

  60. What an incredible party. I’m sure everyone will be talking about it for ages. I know Archie must have had a wonderful time.

  61. First of all, HAPPY 21ST TO ARCHIE!!!! What a wonderful party – party of lifetime! I will continue to be impressed by your, Charlie. You’re one amazing mom. To pull of this amazing party, you have special talent! Sounds like ALL of you guys had a fantastic time. And you and everyone looking so gorgeous and happy too. I wish to get Arabella’s dress! So elegant and I always look for a long dress exactly like that. I was speechless when I saw your IG photo! Do you think I can find it in the U.S (brand-wise)? (if so, please let me know!)

  62. What an incredible party! You did an amazing job!

  63. HappyBirthday to Archie!


  1. […] You can read more about the Titanic birthday party here.  […]

  2. […] also had a lot of luggage that I photographed only because when I was organising Archie’s Titanic 21st I was searching for old suitcases as I thought they’d make excellent props.  They’re […]

  3. […] The bride’s two daughters were her bridesmaids and they are stunning girls and were beautifully dressed by Alanna Hill who is a designer I love and where I bought my dress for Archie’s 21st. […]

  4. […] was fine until a few months ago.  We had his 21st, he was working hard at uni, he had a good job and then there were changes.  In his appearance. […]

  5. […] readers would know that very soon Arabella will be celebrating her 21st birthday.  As we did for Archie, we have a party planned, with a theme, and for that theme Arabella has chosen an […]

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