My 30th Birthday Winter Luau Cooking Party

Shaina30thBday-9389_web.jpgAt the end of March, I turned 30 and I threw a party that was perfect for me.

I love cooking and dinner parties, so I put together the best cooking class-plus-dinner party I could imagine. I invited all of my favorite (Boston-area) people and we cooked a huge meal of fun new recipes and ate and drank together at a long table, brimming with good conversation and the best energy.

I decided that I wanted it to be both laid back and classy, so I found an awesome local florist and hand wrote place cards (with some quick tips from my favorite hand letterer). B helped me make a Pinterest-worthy balloon arch draped with vines and flowers and we used fake monstera leaves as chargers.

Shaina30thBday-9365_web.jpgYou see, I had chosen a Hawaiian-themed menu, complete with Huli Huli chicken and Manapua steamed pork buns. That’s why I was thrilled when it started snowing lightly as we began to set up. It wasn’t enough to stick or shovel, but it was just enough to make the party feel like even more of a warm, tropical escape from the long winter.

I wore a floppy straw hat and a sundress over jeans (It was still winter!), and a pineapple necklace on a long gold chain. I was ready. B handed out cheesy leis and poured Painkillers into plastic tiki cups with umbrella straws, while Hawaiian music played softly in the background.

Shaina30thBday-9343_web.jpgBefore the party, I thought, “This is something beautiful. I want to capture it.” I had big plans to set up my new flashes and capture the gorgeous flowers and details, just like I would when shooting a wedding. A huge piece of my planning was anticipating the perfect pictures.

But then, just as I got my camera out, my guests started arriving. My new flashes needed setting adjustments, but I hadn’t read the manuals yet, and the buttons were all different, and suddenly I felt stressed about how I wasn’t going to be able to capture all this hard work.

Shaina30thBday-9394_web.jpgSo I gave in.

I put the camera down. I put my phone away. I shifted my mindset to, “This is something beautiful. I want to experience it.”

And it was the best possible decision.

Shaina30thBday-9374_web.jpgYou see, in my 20s, I would have been frantically hostessing – making small talk and pouring drinks and straightening napkins and reassuring myself that everything was fine, and maybe even obsessively trying to capture it on my camera.

But I’m 30 now. And my friends are all awesome and can handle their own drinks and conversations.

Instead, I got to let go, and trust, and just feel everything coming together. And that feeling was something I would never-in-a-million-years want to trade for better-lit pictures. (Although, I’m obviously not opposed to hiring a professional for the same effect, when the occasion calls for it.)

Shaina30thBday-9400_web.jpgWhen we finally sat down to dinner, I stood up and thanked everyone for being a part of my life. I cried a little, because I was just so grateful and happy.

And then we all ate and sang along to the Moana soundtrack and I blew out the candles on my coconut tart and wished that I could always have the wisdom and presence to appreciate all the beauty as it happens in my life.

I don’t think I was supposed to tell you my wish, but… I’m still optimistic that it will come true!

Scroll down for more of the photos I did manage to take (quickly and casually) below!

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Shaina30thBday-9461_web.jpgVenue: Cambridge School of Culinary Arts | Florist: Garden & Roads | Photographer: Golden Door Photography