Grab a drink and get comfy, I have a nice long post for you all about decorating for Hooper’s Jaws-themed birthday! The party was held on a pleasantly warm Saturday afternoon in our “sunroom”, which is a covered deck at the back of our house. It is a large (uninsulated and very leaky, lest you be envious!) space that is primarily used as James’ gym, a place to dry our clothes and unceremoniously dump stuff. I am grateful we could have the party at home as it meant I could design for and decorate it bit by bit when time allowed – a luxury that we would not have had at another venue.
For big design or decorating projects I start with a colour palette that I can refer to, to make sure everything is cohesive, even when I can’t see it all. A useful jumping off point is to look at the art in the space for colour inspiration.
For this party we used our Jaws movie poster – light blue, navy, red, white – and also the Amity Island banner we had printed which featured a sunny yellow frame. I also layered lots of natural elements where possible – bamboo reed, jute, wicker, netting and wood – to add texture and give the eye a place to rest every now and again.
The ridiculous length of my To Do list was a running joke in the lead up to the party but I am pretty proud to say I completed it all, apart from one project that, in hindsight, didn’t really need to be done. But you better believe had we started the party an hour later I would have crossed that off my list too!
Here’s a breakdown of the major projects on the list:
- The refreshments buffet table
- A place for the birthday cake (and a cake topper)
- The bar table, and decor for the wall above the bar
- Decoration for the freezer (which was to remain in the sunroom)
- A photo board of Hooper’s first year
- Entertainment/games for the little ones
- Jaws-inspired Yellow Barrels
- Decor for the roof
- Party bags/gifts for the guests to take with them
The Buffet Table
We always have a lot of fun planning food and drinks for parties. Hooper’s friends and family range in age from 11-and-a-half months to in their 70s, and we wanted to have something on offer for everyone. We also have friends with special dietary requirements – vegetarians, coeliac disease, those following the low FODMAP diet and those who don’t eat sugar, so we put a lot of thought into providing something for everyone. This is not to say we didn’t have plenty of sweet treats with basically no nutritional value – it’s hard to resist at a kids party!
To make the buffet table visually peaceful as well as functional, I set it up in a symmetrical layout with a Jaws-inspired vignette in the middle. Our lovely friend Emma let us borrow her lobster cage, and I purchased the lantern and polystyrene ball (which I made into a buoy with red paint and some dowel) from Anaconda. The wooden marker buoy was made out of an old veranda post by my dad and I painted it red and white stripe. The “Beach Closed” sign is by HelloMySweet, printed and mounted on foamcore from Officeworks. The fishing nets are available from Big W and the crab friend was from eBay. The Jaws novel is James’ and suitably worn, and the playing cards are a reference to my friend Sharon’s favourite Jaws scene. We also used one roll of reed fencing behind the table for a touch of Martha’s Vineyard-y texture.
I purchased two cheap fishing tackle boxes from Kmart and removed the inside trays – these became perfect vessels for cheese (shark teeth!), crackers and dip. One helpful suggestion I can make is to put something frozen underneath your cheese/dip if you are hosting in warm weather. I used cool/heat packs from the chemist as we already had them in the freezer.
My mum Karyn tirelessly shopped for and then prepared the majority of the food on the buffet table, in addition to making finger sandwiches and serving party pies, sausage rolls and pasties, donuts and baking the brownies for the cake. She also baked “H”, shark-shaped, and life preserver-shaped cookies from the best butter cut-out cookie recipe ever. Our friend Jenny helped us decorate the cookies and made some brilliant blue shark cupcakes which I didn’t get a chance to photograph, but were as delicious as they were beautiful.
If you didn’t hang bunting, did you even kids party? I put my new Cricut to work making little flags I attached to red twine on the front of the buffet table. I dressed up several cheap plastic tablecloths from Spotlight by cutting and taping them into a skirted tablecloth. My original plan was to paste a blue paper ribbon around the bottom of each skirt however the 43°C days prior to the party had other ideas. I also made one for the bar table and a red version to go over our dryer.
The best result you can get from a buffet table is little to no leftovers, and I am so pleased to say this was the case – although luckily there were a few shark gummies left to munch on!
The Amity Island Billboard Banner
This was such a cool feature of the room – the banner is available through Etsy seller HelloMySweet who have put together heaps of cool Jaws-themed digital elements for download (we also used their “No Swimming” sign and the Jaws bottle wraps for our water bottles). We took the file to Officeworks and had it printed on tear-proof paper for around $30 – it was two metres wide and almost a metre high. You can choose a graffiti or no graffiti version to print, but as you can see, ours was graffiti-ed before the party was over!
The Cake Stand
My Dad made me a set of five wooden crates a few years ago for a market stand, and I have kept them knowing they would come in handy for many more events to come. They fit in beautifully with the theme and were also a great place to display the ocean-themed props I borrowed from friends and family. It pleases me to no end that the yellow in the fishing reel matches the Amity banner frame perfectly.
This corner of the room between the buffet table and the bar table would have been wasted space otherwise so I am glad we went to the effort to decorate this spot. I made the boat rental sign using my Cricut (white vinyl on a blank hanging wooden sign I painted in Taubmans “Norweigian Blue”. The esky (or cooler) was from Kmart and was also in a very pleasingly complimentary colour!
I had as much fun with the bar as with the buffet, with it’s Coca-Cola in glass bottles (the only way to drink Coke), gin and tonics, beers, wine and three different pre-mixed drinks in dispensers. I was also excited to get creative with my Cricut and make something special for the wall above the bar.
In the film, Quint’s residence near the water is decorated with shark jaws and netting on the walls. My kid-friendly interpretation of this was colourful plaques upon which I tied paper jaws I had designed and cut with my Cricut. I kind of made these up as I went along (and finished them in the early hours of the morning before the party!). I also made a sign, “ORCA”, where I recreated the same typeface used on the back of the boat in the film – it’s backed in foamcore and has two layers of different shades of red cardstock.
Can you blame the shark in the pretzel bowl for getting a little snacky? Nom nom nom! He was a lucky Reject Shop find.
Hooper’s Photo Wall
To come to grips with the lightning fast passing of time that has been the past year (is that even possible?), I tasked my husband with selecting a photo from each month of Hooper’s life to display. This was probably the hardest of our tasks because a) we think every photo is pretty special and b) we take A LOT of photos, so narrowing it down to twelve was a lengthy process!
I wanted to make this part of the room look like a community noticeboard. The plan was to design some business cards and flyers to be scattered around the photos too, but I ran out of time unfortunately, and maybe that was for the best because it made for a cleaner look.
I created the yellow numbered cards with my Cricut (sorry this is becoming repetitive but I really love my Cricut!) by layering yellow cardstock over black cardstock, and the little eyelets are cut from a manilla folder. Twelve masonite clipboards made easy work of displaying the photos in chronological order and I used a vintage signwriter-inspired typeface for the “Amity means Friendship”, and good old Helvetica for the “Noticeboard”.
Freezer Vinyl Signage
We couldn’t really move the freezer for the party so I decided to dress it up with some faux signage (made using my Cricut). I think it is going to stay like this!
Free Download: I’ve made this signage available as a .SVG file if you have a Cricut or Silhouette and want to make your own freezer decal. Please let me know if you end up using it, I would love to see!
The Fishing Game
To keep Hooper’s younger guests entertained, we utilised this perfect Christmas gift from his Uncle Ben and made a sandpit and a fishing game. The sandpit was pretty straight forward – a couple of bags of washed sand from Bunnings, and some spades/buckets/etc from Kmart. The fishing game however, I spent hours on this, and I am delighted at how thoroughly it was used at the party.
The fishing “rods” are sections of 7mm dowel from Bunnings, to which we attached small cup hooks, wooden beads and venetian blind string to make the “line”. I painted the ends of the dowel with yellow and white stripes to resemble a fishing rod handle. Each line was a different length – it is easier to “catch” a fish with a shorter length of string, so there were various levels of difficulty!
The ten fish were constructed by cutting out three different colours of cardstock (this was the bread of a sandwich, if that makes sense), as well as six layers of kraft stock (the filling of the sandwich) for each fish. I glued them together, layer by layer, until they had the thickness and sturdiness of a piece of ply or MDF. I then superglued small wooden blocks to each fish and screwed in another cup hook.
You can make a variation of this game with magnets, but I liked the appearance of the hooks and it was so cute watching the little kids catch a fish. One little boy even “casted” the rod out from over his shoulder (his Dad is a fisherman) – so of course, he won the day.
We put up a wall of paper streamers in different shades of blue and silver behind the pond, I think the project cost less than $10 but it was such a pretty backdrop and tied in with the colours in our vintage Jaws poster perfectly!
We also put a waterslide and water balloons in the backyard, along with shade tents, so both kids and adults alike could cool down outside.
The Buoy Chandelier
This was purely aesthetic (as in, not a functioning chandelier) but it was a super-easy DIY and added some grandeur to the space above the buffet table. Paper lanterns, painted with red paint and tied together with fishing line, to resemble buoys. They moved gently in the breeze and were quite lovely to look at from any angle.
So this was a project I had a hard time explaining before it was done, but I am so excited with how beautiful it looked on the day with the sun shining through!
I purchased meterage of poplin in a lovely light aqua, enough to span the rafters of the sunroom from end to end. We threaded long lengths of dowel through loops at each end and attached them to the walls, and then adjusted each drop (with a broom handle, would you believe?) so they were relatively even. I cut out various sea creature shapes – fish, porpoise, sea turtle, manta ray – out of black cardstock, and they were placed on top of the fabric so that when the sun hit them, their silhouettes would look like they were floating above us. It is so cool, I think we will leave it there until we move out.
I feel like party bags are an essential part of my childhood party-going experience. It does however make me sad they are called “loot bags” now – that doesn’t sound nearly as fun (and more like you have just raided someone’s house and made off with their valuables).
Hooper’s party bags were a little bit classic party bag: lollies, a wooden game, bubbles, an eraser set, a balloon to blow up, sea-themed sticker sheets – and a little bit specifically Jaws: a wooden police car and instructions on how to tie the same knot that Quint orders Hooper to tie to prove his use on the Orca. Good for keeping those city hands busy!
I sewed the yellow bags and cut the anchors out of felt with my Cricut. We tied each bag closed with a ribbon (navy for some, white for others) and a cute swing tag that said “Thanks Chum!” They looked so sweet in their basket!
We didn’t forget the young-at-heart – these little bags of popcorn for the journey home were a hit! The tag says “Take a Bite!” (and thus concludes the Jaws puns for this blog post).
My Favourite Bits & Pieces
From left to right: 1. The fishing rod my Dad let us borrow for the party, and how it looked next to stills from the movie. 2. The yellow barrels that were previously oil containers, spray-painted yellow (this is the first time a patchy spray finish was actually the aim of the game!) and tied with rope just like in the film. 3. The pretzel bowl delights me! 4. The gingham cushions I made out of napkins from William Sonoma when I decided the room needed some pattern (about five hours before the party, whoops!)
My absolute favourite: my son in the backyard on the waterslide splashing water absolutely everywhere with his mate from swimming class, and giggling with glee – too cute!
This party was a labour of love in every sense of the word – love for my son, love for my husband and his favourite film, a love of spending time with our friends and family and a love of entertaining in general. And I sincerely loved every minute of “making” this party. Even in the early hours of the morning when I should have been sleeping, I was still having a ball… Rest is temporary, memories of a party well done are forever. And like all good parties, it was over far too quickly!
I hope you have enjoyed this post. If you have any questions about any of the projects or where I sourced any of the items in the photos, please let me know in the comments, I would be happy to help if I can!