I have always found that you get the most cohesive look for a party if you chose a limited colour scheme, so we went with J’s favourite colours: pink and purple. I ordered parasols, hand fans, and lanterns from Luna Bazaar in Bellflower, Lilac, Cassis Pink, and Bambina Pink. Remember: Go Big or Go Home. When it comes to party decorations on a budget, you want to focus your efforts. I decided on one large cluster of paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling, rather than many individual lanterns scattered around. I also wanted a variety of sizes in my lantern cluster for visual interest, so I ordered one 18″ pink lantern, two 14″ pink lanterns, two 12″ dark purple lanterns, two 12″ light purple lanterns, two 12″ dark pink lanterns, two 10″ pink lanterns, three 8″ dark purple lanterns, three 8″ light purple lanterns, three 8″ dark pink lanterns, and I already had eight 8″ medium pink lanterns in a tasseled accordion style from the dollar store. You’ll notice that the quantities increase as the lanterns get smaller. That’s because you need more small things to make the same impact as one big thing. It’s also because I knew that I would put the biggest lantern in the middle and then surround it with the smaller ones.
I didn’t have a set plan when I started hanging the lanterns. Once I had hung the biggest one in the middle, I started building the cluster outward, working from the largest lanterns to the smallest. I used to use fishing line to hang things from my ceiling, but it is very slippery and difficult to work with. This time, I discovered hemp cord! It’s not too expensive, very strong, very easy to tie, and the natural hemp colour is very unobtrusive. I would tie the end of the cord onto the lantern, and then stand on a chair to hold the lantern up to the height I wanted it at. This allowed me to determine the exact length of cord that I would need. I’d tie a loop, cut the whole thing free from the ball of cord, and then staple it to my ceiling. (For those of you with normal drywall ceilings, this really isn’t a good solution. You could probably try masking tape, since lanterns aren’t very heavy at all.) Each time I hung a new lantern, I would check the length of the cord, trying different heights to see what looked best, and also checking the overall look of the cluster. I tried to balance the colours and sizes, always making sure that the same colour wasn’t right next to itself. It wasn’t easy. It involved a lot of climbing up and down chairs, standing back and walking around the whole thing to view it from all angles (and it took up the better part of the morning), but I’m quite happy with how it turned out. Never underestimate how much time it takes to decorate well! It is important to note that the hemp cords are not at right angles to the ceiling. That is, I did not hang the lanterns vertically, with the exception of the big pink one in the middle. I didn’t realize this until I started hanging them, but in order to cluster the lanterns together tightly, their attachment points on the ceiling had to be fairly close to the first one. Just something to keep in mind if you are hanging lanterns and can’t figure out why they don’t look like a nice grouping.
The light pink lanterns are from the No Frills line that Luna Bazaar carries, and the others are from their Premium line. I would have ordered them all from the No Frills line to save money, but they just didn’t have the colours I wanted. And as it turns out, I’m glad that most of them were Premium. The paper quality is at least twice as good on the Premium lanterns, and if you’ve ever set up paper lanterns, you know how important that is! It can really feel like you are going to rip the lantern when you insert that metal thingy down the middle, and I found the Premium ones much easier to work with. I debated a bit between the parallel ribbing and the freestyle ribbing, or a mix of both styles, but in the end I went with all parallel.
The dollar store lanterns were accordion style, and boy were THEY a nightmare! They seem to be simple to set up, but mine stuck together, didn’t want to wrap around, and three of them completely ripped and had to be tossed. I don’t know if the accordion lanterns that Luna Bazaar sells are better, but I’m pretty wary of that style now!
Another tip: order more than you think you will need. Unless you are an experienced event planner or decorator (which I am not), you probably don’t really know how many lanterns are required to make a grouping of a certain size. You could do some math, based on the diameters of the lanterns, but that would only give you a general guideline. You want to pack them together quite closely, and at varying heights, which takes away some of the accuracy of your calculation. I decorated the day before the party, and was pleasantly surprised to have four extra lanterns, which I used to make a little hanging cluster over the area where the girls would be eating and crafting. But what if I had been short? It took two weeks for my Luna Bazaar order to arrive, so a re-order for extra supplies the day before was out of the question. Furthermore, I am in Canada, so I had to pay duty. I’ve ordered from LB before, and I’ve found that duty is not a set percentage of your order. I have paid $13 in duty on a $50 order, and $16 in duty on a $120 order! Let’s not even mention the shipping costs (lucky Americans get FREE shipping). All things considered, you will actually save money by buying some extra supplies the first time, instead of placing multiple orders. And no wants wants the hassle and stress of running out.
I had to learn this the hard way. Notice how I filled in the gaps between the hanging lanterns with stems of faux wisteria (top photo)? Notice how there are only five? I had bought some wisteria bushes at Michaels a few months before the party. They came in purple and white. At the time, I figured that since the party colours were pink and purple, I should stick to the colour scheme. I bought three purple bushes and one in white just in case, thinking that I could use it as a separate decoration of some kind, or maybe for some kanzashi (hair ornaments worn by Geisha). When I hung the lanterns (the day before the party, remember), I realized that the shade of purple on the wisteria was NOT working with the purples in the lanterns. The white, of course, looked great, but I should have had at least twice as many! Even though I had hardly any time, I drove to two different Michaels stores looking for more white wisteria, but to no avail. It was the end of season clearance by then, and while they had lots of purple left, the whites were completely sold out. Major bummer for a perfectionist like me!
If I could have afforded it, I would also have had garlands of cherry blossoms radiating out from the centre of the main lantern cluster like streamers, but those puppies are at least $12 each even when they’re on sale for half price, and I would have needed at least six. That’s some serious cash for kid’s party decorations, so I didn’t do it. I did, however, decorate the rest of my living room to go with the Japanese theme. Being a serious Asiophile, I already had plenty of material to work with.
This is what I did for the nesting tables beside my couch: I had already bought heaps of cherry blossom bushes from Michaels months earlier as spring decor. I arranged them here with my white parasol from our 10th Anniversary Party, the extra purple wisteria bushes, and my favourite spring green teapot.
On my coffee table, I set up the other Asian teapots in my collection, a sakura (cherry blossom) furoshiki (cloth), and a sushi set that my husband got me as a gift from an Etsy seller.
Lastly, I set up this little calligraphy vignette on the bookshelf. I kind of didn’t like how the red clashed with the pink and purple colour scheme, but the girls were just fascinated with it, and I got to teach them about Chinese and Japanese writing and painting! Pretty cool when you can have fun and learn at the same time.
To complete the Asian ambience, I had traditional Chinese music playing in the background. When we had our 10th Anniversary Party, I looked far and wide, and finally found some good CDs through the local library. My favourite albums were “Chinese Traditional Erhu Music 1” by Lei Qiang, “The Very Best of Chinese Music” by various artists, and the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” soundtrack that I already owned. We played those same CDs for J’s Geisha party. Why didn’t I have Japanese music playing at a Geisha party? To be honest, I’m not a huge fan. Japanese music sounds somewhat discordant and irregular to my western ears, and I find most of it jarring. If you want to try some for yourself, I recommend “The Very Best of Japanese Music” by various artists, and “The Art of the Japanese Koto, Shakuhachi, and Shamisen” by the Yamato Ensemble. FYI: “The Very Best of Japanese Music” has a lot of Taiko drumming in it, which, although cool-sounding, isn’t exactly nice and feminine for a Geisha party.
Please read the other Geisha Theme Kid’s Party posts for more!