Wow, it’s hard to believe that summer is nearly over. We’re already knee deep in preparations for our fall events, but we wanted to take a few moments to share our excitement over how one very special event turned out. A surprise 50th birthday celebration for the wife of one of our clients, this event was a stunner.

Taking our cues from the family’s Caribbean sailing adventures and the recently remodeled interiors of the family home, we decided on an upscale tropical theme. We were beyond fortunate to have as our backdrop for the event the client’s stunning Northern Virginia property (not to mention extraordinary early summer weather). A fabulous group of vendors helped us create the elegant tropical aesthetic we imagined, with the result being a sophisticated envelope for a warm, intimate gathering of family and close friends. Take a look below and see how it all came together! 

To create a bit of understated drama at the start, we had our catering team greet arriving guests with classic mojitos served on contemporary white trays. A live steel drum band played poolside, lending authenticity to the upscale tropical vibe and adding a bit of unexpected fun.

The menu for the evening envisioned sophisticated takes on tropical cuisine, punctuated by unexpected twists on the familiar. Classic AND contemporary. Elegant AND fun. Perfectly suited to the setting, the occasion, and the client. 

Along with the mojitos, passed hors d’oeuvres included cucumber with lump crab and yuzo cream, grilled oysters, pork pernil skewers, cumin fire shimp, endive with mascarpone and grapefruit, and yellow gazpacho soup shooters. Guests loved the raw oyster bar station with live shucker. On the beverage side, we staged two separate bar concepts – watermelon, peach, and pineapple margaritas to order, and a separate, finely curated wine, spirits, and craft beer bar.

For the cocktail tables around the pool we used natural linen. Then topped each with thematically appropriate “messages in a bottle.” Bit of a surprise though – the slips of paper inside the bottles were actually birthday wishes collected from each of the guests in advance by a dear family friend. Design reimagined! Thematic accent + treasured keepsake all wrapped in one. 

To accentuate the pool and cast a warm glow over the pool terrace, we used  floating candles atop monstera leaves, accented by white orchid blossoms. Understated tropical elegance to a T.  

Following cocktails, guests were escorted to an adjacent grassy area, where beautifully dressed communal tables were set for dinner. Edge Floral captured our vision for the tablescape florals spectacularly. And the setting sun cast the most beautiful natural light over the whole tableaux.

The dinner menu reflected the upscale tropical theme as well, with adobo grilled tenderloin; red snapper steamed in banana leaves; mango, jicama and cucumber salad; and red chili corn cakes, all served family style to loosen things up a bit and encourage relaxed conversation. 

After dinner, we moved the crowd back over to the pool terrace where a large screen had been raised behind the pool for the showing of a tribute montage. And then came the toasts and tender stories.

Capped by a sparkler lit cake created by none other than DC standout Buttercream Bakeshop. (Note the real shells decorating the cake – these weren’t just any shells. Rather, they had been collected by the children of family friends and loaned for this special occasion. A subtle, but very personalized touch and one of our favorite details!)

Beyond the cake, we turned the oyster bar over to a bananas foster station. A fun, unexpected twist on tropical plantains.

And then a final treat before the evening ended – tropical fruit (guava) paletas (popsicles) made in house by the Occasions team, presented poolside as the night came to a close.

(Ah-h-h, can’t forget this one. Details DO matter. Lightweight but warm summer wraps in case anyone started to feel a bit chilly!)

What an honor to help craft this very special celebration. Thank you to our client for the opportunity to take a vision and run with it, and to our incredible team of vendors for helping us deliver a stunner!


design & planning | Atelier Events, LLC

catering | Occasions

floral design & installation | Edge Floral Designers

rentals | Party Rental, Ltd.

music | Caribbean Authentics

photography/videography | In Depth Photo & Video

custom cake | Buttercream Bakeshop

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