You’re probably searching for some right now and getting pretty frustrated. And here you are, still looking.
I know how you feel. How is it that we are living in the 21st century and there are no commercial computer-themed party supplies available? With kids now growing up in front of the computer, one would think it would be as easy as heading over to your friendly neighborhood party supply store and picking up some computer-themed paper plates, cups, napkins and a tablecloth, right?
I’m not talking about “geek-themed”. I’m talking about a more sophisticated theme centered strictly around computers. Sleek. High-tech. Professional.
The solution to this conundrum? Do it yourself.
I recently threw a computer-themed birthday BBQ for my software-developer husband. Our guests included his fellow programmer friends and colleagues. I am pleased to report that it was a big hit. Even the guys appreciated the little details. Hopefully you will, too.
To make the “tablecloth”, I did a Google search of a printed circuit board layout. A black and white layout seemed to work best as it is a nice contrast, the colors (non-colors?) scream “high tech”, and black and white are very easy to work with when color-coordinating with basic supplies.
After capturing the desired image on Photoshop, I sized it accordingly and sent it off to an online printing service to have it made into banners (a small, medium and large). This can get expensive, so I made sure to experiment with coupon codes at RetailMeNot to save money at checkout.
Since the banners did not completely cover the surface, I purchased disposable tablecloths in solid colors from a party supply store to use underneath them. I used gray for the indoor bar (our largest serving area) and white for the outside tables. HELPFUL HINT: If you get banners made, particularly by mail-order, unroll the banners several days before the party and flatten the ends with heavy books. I failed to do this, and had to attempt to keep the ends from curling up on the table surfaces by taping the ends to the plastic tablecloth – with limited success. BONUS: Vinyl banners are not flimsy and are easy to clean with a damp cloth. And you can reuse them!
I wanted a playful computer-screen feel for the outdoor round table, so I used a plain white disposable tablecloth and sprinkled it with black binary code confetti (“1″s and “0″s). Of course, I was able to find no such thing on the market (unless I wanted to buy a bunch of bags of number confetti and pick out the “1″s and “0″s), so I had Pam at Pink Pups Designs on Etsy make some for me. It was breezy outside so after sprinkling the confetti on the table, I actually applied a dot of Elmer’s glue to the back of each piece onto the tablecloth wherever and however it landed. This task sounds more horrendous than it actually was.
The centerpieces were the most fun to create and turned out much nicer than I had imagined. Plus, they were ridiculously easy to assemble, and I completed all three of them in about 45 minutes.
I bought a few silver foil starburst decorations from the party supply store and gray computer keyboard keys from Uncommon Recyclables on Etsy. I rolled pieces of adhesive putty (found at office supply stores) into tiny balls, inserted it into the back of each key, and attached the keys to each tip of the starburst decoration. The weight of the keys on the tips helped make the starburst spread out uniformly. Finally, I randomly super-glued some binary number confetti to some of the larger dangling silver stars. At the base sits a computer-shaped “stress ball”, purchased from ebay.
I started off with the black/white/gray/silver color scheme, so naturally I had to have plenty of latex balloons in these shades. The silver ones were “pearlized”. But I wanted to do something special, something personalized. I bought a “blank” silver mylar (uninflated) star balloon from the party supply store. Using 2″ vinyl numbers found at most office supply stores, I spelled out ‘Happy Birth Day Bill’ (not ‘birthday’ due to space constraints) in computer code (hexadecimal ASCII). However, I encountered a problem: When I inflated the balloon with my helium tank on the day of the party, the vinyl numbers weighed it down so much it wouldn’t float! So I had to get creative: I taped it to the ribbon of another balloon.
The night before the big day, I drove to the party supply store for one last time to pick up a balloon bouquet. My intention was to get a giant “4″ and “0″, the birthday boy’s age. They were out of “4″s. The solution? More binary. Turns out “011″ stands for “3″. Incidentally, “101000″ stands for “40″, but at $9.99 per balloon – not to mention the limited space in my Wrangler – it simply wasn’t going to happen.
As I said before, black and white are really easy to work with as far as color-coordination goes. I had black plastic dinner plates and black plastic cutlery to start.
I tend to brighten things up with matching napkins and appetizer/dessert plates when party planning. I can’t tell you how much time I spent looking for some decent personalized napkins for this party. My original plan was to upload the printed circuit board design I used for the tablecloths and just get a bunch of those printed up. It was a good thing I couldn’t get the online file uploader to work on one particular site because it was going to set me back a fortune anyway, and I was only half-heartedly into it. I wasn’t gonna let it get me down, though. And I most certainly wasn’t going to be using just plain black and white napkins. Boring! So the search continued.
Imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon a company that actually offered a design of a computer among the sea of wedding bells and Christmas trees!
Now the search was on for dessert plates. Plain black was out of the question. At one online paper products store I came across some cool paper black and white square ones that had a unique grid pattern in the black area. To my amusement they were called ‘black velvet texture’; but alas, they were merely paper as expected and they worked just fine.
I went back to the subject of napkins. I wasn’t sure I wanted to use plain black ones to go with the personalized ones. At least silver/gray would be different from the black and white in the personalized napkins. I ordered silver napkins and cutlery from an online party supply store. Before checking out, I stumbled upon the coolest black napkins that had an interesting white design, resembling square “0″s in various shapes. They were perfect. When they arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find the stripes in the pattern were silver.
I’m no cook, but I can whip up some jello shots. In keeping with my theme, I purchased an 8-digit number stamper and black ink pad (non-toxic, natch) and stamped binary code on each jello shot cup. The ink did not smudge at all, even when wet. It was difficult to maneuver the stamper, however, so it was inevitable that there would be “missed” numbers in “101000″ (aka “40″) and some stamps would end up crooked. I would have loved to have gone further with the food, say, baking some cleverly decorated cupcakes, but this was not that kind of crowd. It was all about burgers and beer, basically.
Need I mention these were quite popular? The green ones were tequila & lime jello; the red ones, vodka & raspberry jello.
Well, we ordered an ice cream pie, actually. I requested it be topped with black and white icing. Can’t divert from the color scheme now!
I used a computer-shaped “stress ball” for the topper. I printed out the message on an adhesive label and cut it to fit the screen.
I super-glued more of the paper binary number confetti onto 8.5″ thin white candles. The bond wasn’t very strong, even after the glue dried thoroughly. I had to reapply glue to a couple of the confetti numbers a few times. I made sure to avoid touching the glued-on confetti while sticking the candles into the pie.
I also used 6.5″ skinny black candles, the kind that supposedly give off a little sparkle at the ends, but they didn’t, really. Not like real sparklers, but I wasn’t too keen on using them for this particular cake/pie.
Nevertheless, it was a success overall…as was the entire event!