A Grandfather's 90th Birthday Party is "Aged to Perfection"
Man of the Happy Hour
When Chick Coyne reached his 90th birthday, his granddaughter knew it was a milestone cause for a grand celebration.
"My grandfather is not a typical 90-year-old either," Tara Berger of One Stylish Party says. "He is a second generation immigrant from Ireland, a devout Catholic, and adores his King Charles Cavalier Spaniel Bella, and still very much enjoys the occasional glass of Irish whiskey."
Hence, the party's theme: "aged to perfection." It seemed only fitting to tailor the day to his taste (literally, in some ways). The event was designed with a well-aged whiskey theme in mind: oak barrels, self-serve drinks and snacks, and a lifetime of photographs on display. For the decorations, they relied on masculine details with vintage charm and familial warmth. "From the food to the florals, and the decorations to the cocktails, nearly every element of this party was homemade," Tara continues. Without a doubt, they set the bar at an all-time high and for good reason: this day had been nearly a century in the making.
The invitations by PrintsbyMAdesign were printed on black and white stationery with a bold vintage typeface, reminiscent of the iconic Jack Daniels. The old-world charm that would appear throughout the celebration was first introduced here, on the card. Chick, the man himself, earns a mention on the paper suite: born in 1928 and "only getting better with age."
A Special Spread
Numbers lend themselves naturally to a birthday theme. And Chick's year of birth was used to customize everything from the cocktail napkins to the candles on the cake. Here, a wood framed blackboard showcases it boldly above a veritable smorgasbord of hors d'oeuvre. Authentic whiskey barrels served as the base. The late October gathering was hosted at the home of Tara's parents in Cape Coral, Florida (who coincidentally, live across the street from Coyne.)
Charcuterie for Chick
Snacking aside, one of Tara's favorite part of dessert planning was selecting the bites. At this table, there was much to go around: fresh green olives, crackers, pecans, and meats, plus cheese of all choices including a savory blackberry brie. A fresh fruit platter was assembled by her future sister-in-law. This small oak barrel—complete with spigot and bung—was personalized with his name.
A Candid Captured
An undeniable perk of the surprise party? As friends and family gathered together, the best part was undoubtedly the smile that broke across Chick's face at the sight of it all.
As guests strolled into the party, they were encouraged to take a moment, pause, and reflect on happy times. This side table was propped with an invitation to "take a trip down memory lane" by writing down their favorite memory of Chick. The cards would then be collected in a box for him to read fondly.
The cards—and everyone's heartfelt wishes—would then be collected in a box for him to read fondly.
Document a life and make a big, bold visual statement at the same time. To do this, Tara decided to take everyone for a stroll down memory lane with photographs of the guest of honor prominently displayed throughout the party. Including candids from all eras, they were enjoyed by friends and family. For a fresh touch, Tara displayed simple floral arrangements of eucalyptus and white garden roses.
Many of the photographs were alongside real-life props from his childhood into manhood. Here, a young boyish Chick rides his toy tricycle. So fittingly, it was paired with this antiquated tricycle.
Record in Time
Guests enjoyed the sounds of a bygone era. Pictured here: a crackling vinyl record plays standup comic Shelley Berman and his improvisational telephone routine style.
His Signature Sip
In one corner, guests could line up and serve themselves at this whiskey sour bar. "To tie in the whiskey theme, my cousin, who happens to be a spectacular bartender, made my grandfather's favorite cocktail: a whiskey sour," Tara explains. "We served this in a drink dispenser that was displayed on a whiskey barrel with a sign that read "Coyne's Whiskey Sour Bar."
Cheers All Around
Cocktail napkins, in the same style as the other printed goods, were neatly stacked on the barrel. And with a few little factoids about whiskey—for one, it's "filtered through sugar-maple charcoal in Tennessee, of course"—in the fine print, one might argue that they served as clever conversation starters too.
In another corner, a bar cart rolled in with barware, stainless steel mint julep cups, and an array of bottled spirits. If any guests were feeling particularly ambitious in their bartending, they needed only open a midcentury tome left for reference: "Mixing and Serving Drinks: A Complete Guide" by Dennis Collins, originally published in 1963.
The Mixologist Himself
The vintage bar kit is the same one Chick once used in the early '50s after serving in the United States Army. Another photograph of Chick in his younger days is clipped to a standing panel. The black and white portrait pairs well with the weathered gray finish of the wood.
In a resplendent match to the shiny barware being used throughout, silver tableware presented more treats for indulging. This tiered silver tray, for instance, was brimming with a collection of frosted cupcakes.
A Slice of Cake
The scene and the mood was set with supreme ease. Friends and family of all generations gathered for hors d'oeuvre and dinner—even including his best friend of 70 years. The furniture was covered in svelte black tablecloths and guests settled into mahogany chairs for seating. A garland of balloons—black, white, and a marbleized swirl of both—floated above the patio.
The Pipes Were Calling
And then, a surprise guest: "The very best moment of the party was seeing my grandfather overcome with joy and emotion when we surprised him with an Irish bagpiper during the party," Tara says. Donning traditional garb, bagpiper James Freeman approached the outside patio where Chick was seated, and began to play "Happy Birthday" as a nod to his Irish heritage.
A Moment to Remember
As a special request, the bagpiper played a rendition of "Danny Boy." Tara says that this historic ballad set to an ancient Irish melody "was my grandmother's favorite song, and let me just say, there was not a dry eye in the house!"