In mid-November, Ella made up her mind: she wanted a Harry Potter birthday party (obvs). Because she had her heart set on a handful of friends attending, she sent an email to the invitees offering up several possibilities, hoping that most could make it on at least one of the offerings. Miraculously, everyone was available on exactly one of the possible dates…
… which, of course, happened to be six days from when she sent the email.
So we had six days to prepare for Ella’s Harry Potter birthday party – her ELEVENTH birthday, no less (the age when Hogwarts letters arrive). Six days to leave our Muggle lives behind and create something magical.
Given that this was November and not summer break (when we have usually held birthday parties), those six days were already jam-packed with Regular Life. Still, I was not about to let Life get in the way of giving Ella the Harry Potter birthday party
that I she had always dreamed of.
It was crazy, but I won’t even pretend to complain. ‘Cause, let’s be real: I loved it.
The very afternoon Ella received the go ahead on her party date, she set to work designing the invitations.
Using her quill pen and ink (duh), she dutifully wrote out Hogwarts letters for each friend.
These took FOREVER, but she was determined…
Official Hogwarts wax seal!
Next, the invitations had to be delivered… But Muggle mail would not do. They would arrive by owl.
Ella convinced her sister and next door BFF to create owl balloons for her — which we then dropped off at the invitees’ houses.
For the next six days, we gathered supplies, scoured the internet, decided on menus and games and activities and take-home goodies, made decorations, created spell-books, designed an “order” of events, and got very little sleep. It was kind of incredible.
After strategizing how the Quidditch match should go, Ella was in charge of spraypainting the hoops.
In addition to Ella, I had the invaluable assistance of my BFF, Sarah, who – last minute – was bringing her family (including her sons, J and Z — some of my girls’ best buds) to visit for the weekend, meaning they’d be here for the party. Sarah listened patiently to my incessant rambling about activities, decorations, and food. She found butterbeer at a local grocery store and had her husband, Chris, drive it up from Westchester. She insisted that, not only would she help get everything set up on Saturday morning – she was excited about helping set everything up.
Sarah gets me and my craziness and joins me in the crazy.
She also made me promise her I wouldn’t get too carried away.
Sarah knows me very, very well.
The morning of the party, we sent the kids off with Nick and Chris so we could prepare. Sarah instinctively knew where things should go and how they should look; I just had to tell her what was next. She’d arrange an activity, text me a photo (so I wouldn’t have to stop what I was doing to check things out… but also because she knew that I’d eventually want photos of everything. THIS IS A GOOD FRIEND), and then move onto the next thing. She talked me down from the ledge at least twice and convinced me that it was okay to let go of certain expectations (the candles hanging from the Great Hall ceiling were just not happening; I saved them for Ella’s actual birthday). She even frosted Ella’s birthday cake – a task I would have entrusted to approximately two other people in the universe (and one of them is not Nick).
In short, the party could not have happened without Sarah. (Nick and Chris, were tremendous helpers, too… but it was Sarah who really made it work.) When it was all said and done, Sarah was also the one who made me promise that I would blog about it. It’s taken me 3.5 months, but I’m finally keeping my promise.
NOW PRESENTING: Ella’s Harry Potter Party (part one)!
Naturally, when the guests arrived, they had to go through Platform 9 3/4 to get to Diagon Alley.
I researched pre-made faux brick “walls” – like theater sets – but they wound up being so expensive, I decided to “just” sponge-paint an old curtain.
Turns out you don’t “just” sponge-paint an old curtain, but whatever. It worked… eventually.
As the guests came in, they were invited to drop off donations for our local Humane Society at Eeylops Owl Emporium.
They could also flush their way to the Ministry of Magic, should they choose…
Other Diagon Alley decorations included some recognizable Harry Potter posters – with the kids’ photos replacing Harry and Sirius Black.
Designing these cracked me up maybe a little too much…
I hadn’t been sure where I wanted the posters; Sarah quickly hung them above the fireplace, which was where we’d planned on taking photos, which turned out to be perfect. (Notice also the three extra Quidditch rings for dramatic effect.)
Traveling by fireplace? You’ll need floo powder, obviously…
Ella wanted to start out with the standard Diagon Alley activities: wand-getting, wizard robe-trying-on, and procuring school supplies at Flouish and Blotts. After asking for her guests’ wand color preferences at school in the days preceding the party, Ella dutifully cut, sanded, and painted wands for everyone – and then attached labels with their lengths. Nick dramatically doled out the wands, making sure they “chose” correctly, and then the kids finished them off with hot glue and paint.You can vaguely see the descriptions attached to each wand…
In the end, the Ollivander’s decorating table was more detailed than this, but we were so busy helping the kids navigate Diagon Alley, no one got a photo…
While some students visited Ollivander’s, others stopped by Flourish and Blotts to grab their spell-books. (These were more than just decorations; we used them throughout the party.)
The cover of the book, as it looked on the computer…
Z and Annie showing off their wands and spell-books. And their semi-evil looks.
We didn’t have enough time (or resources) to procure everyone a robe, so we set up a try-on station at Madame Malkin’s and invited kiddos to take photos with their costumes.
They took posing – individually, in pairs, groups, you name it.
Annie, in her Gryffindor robes, looking appropriately brave and clever…
Z, in his Slytherin robes, looking appropriately naughty and bold.
Ella and her buddies were in on the action, too.
Once everyone was sufficiently outfitted for Hogwarts, they took their places in the Great Hall (no Hogwarts Express, pity) for the Sorting ceremony.
I’m not sure that Hogwarts used plastic, gold Dollar Store tablecloths, but at least our scuffed wooden benches are authentic…
The best part of Sorting was that the hat actually talked. Well, to be more precise, Chris talked… into a cell phone (from a different part of the house)… that was dialed into a cell phone we’d placed in the tip of the hat. I’d theatrically announce each kid as loudly as possible (so Chris would hear me) as s/he put on the hat.”AND NOW, WE WILL FIND OUT WHICH HOUSE MISS ELEANOR WILL BE IN!” Chris would then – using a British accent and rhyming couplets (no joke) – “sort” the kids, which we would hear coming from the hat… as though it were talking.
It was kind of insane. And also kind of epic.
Fingers crossed for Gryffindor (she was a Hufflepuff instead)…
Once everyone was sorted, the activities could officially begin! First up: attending a History of Magic review/study session, which took place in the Gryffindor common room. Naturally, they had to give the portrait of the Fat Lady the password to enter…
Ella designed the study/review game herself. Step one: close your eyes and reach into a bowl containing strips of paper, on which were the names of different Harry Potter characters. Step two: lick (!) and adhere the paper to your forehead. Step three: face the other kiddos and, based on their clues, guess the character attached to your forehead.
I created the paper strips so Ella could play, too.
The game itself? Pretty freakin’ hilarious.
Trying to get J to guess that he was the Fat Lady had everyone in hysterics.
No term at Hogwarts would be complete without a Quidditch match! After much consideration on how to tackle this imaginary sport, we went for simple: if the Snitch (aka gold-painted golfball) made it through all three hoops and landed in a cup without knocking it over, your team got a point.
Turns out, landing a (heavy) golfball into a (light) Solo cup is actually kind of challenging, which made it more fun. The kids played House against House, round robin-style, until we had a winner.
By this point, the party was only halfway over.
There was still Potions…
… Defense Against the Dark Arts…
… the end-of-term feast…
… and a trip to Honeydukes…
… but that will have to wait until the next chapter.
(CLIFFHANGER, I know.)
We saw the Quidditch idea here.