How To Plan a Casual 50th Golden Wedding Anniversary Celebration

Not many couples in this day and age can say that they’ve hit the 50 year mark in marriage.  To have parents that model such commitment to each other has been a great resource in my own marriage.

Last week I flew up to Canada to celebrate the auspicious occasion, which actually took place in August, because my siblings and I put together a big shin dig for my parents.

The reality is my parents have touched a lot of lives over the years.  A. Lot.  We knew we couldn’t afford a sit down meal for the number of people that my parents would want at the celebration, so we decided that instead of paring down the guest list we would make it a more casual affair instead.

There are four of us kids altogether.  We all have families.  We’re all busy.  I’m in Texas, they’re all in Canada.  To plan a party of this scope, logistics mattered.

So these are the steps we took to pull off a party that nearly everyone who walked out the door told us was wonderful.

1. Start planning early and decide on individual tasks.

We threw out a few dates in June between us kids and my parents.  Due to Amber starting college at the end of August, it wasn’t feasible to have the party on or around the actual date for me, so we decided to do it a couple of weeks later in mid-September.  So we had a three month lead time.

Once the date was decided, we split up the tasks among us kids.  My sister designed the invitations and took care of ordering the catering and baking.  My oldest brother and his family were charged with curating photos of my parents over their lives.  My other brother and his family were responsible for getting plates, forks and cups and shared in the baking duties.  And I looked after the decorations.  All my parents had to do was provide us with a guest list and we had them reserve the social room for a Sunday afternoon in their apartment building for us to host the three hour open house party in.

We all kept track of our receipts so we could split the costs equally in the end.

2.  Invitations.

It’s a digital world y’all, use it to your advantage.  My sister used a photo program to design the invitations.  Then she e-mailed most of them out with just a few sent via mail for the odd person who doesn’t use e-mail (I think there were only a handful of people and honestly they were probably all over 80).  Cost for us… free!

3.  Food.

Rather than try and do everything on our own, my sister just got sandwich, cheese, fruit & veggie platters from the grocery store.  Because we purchased a large quantity they delivered it free an hour before the event started.  That means we got fresh food and all we had to do was take the lids off the trays.  Less stress for us.

My sister and sister-in-law baked all the sweets.  Cookies, cake loaves and mini muffins were on the menu.  So they weren’t baking for hours on end just days before, they did it over a month and froze the baking.  This also spread their up front cost for ingredients over a larger time period rather than needing to buy all the ingredients at once.

4.  Decorations.

This post is based strictly on my opinion. Others may have a different opinion or experience with the products listed in this post. I was provided the decorations at no cost to myself by Oriental Trading company and I’ve provided my honest opinion. No other type of compensation was received for these products.

I was all over the fact that even though I live 1273.5 miles from everyone else, I could still contribute to the celebration with a personal touch.  Half my suitcase was stuffed with 50th Golden Wedding Anniversary decorations that I got from Oriental Trading Company.

My mom is crazy obsessed with calla lillies.  Like over the top.  You can’t turn around in their home without bumping into some kind of decor item that has calla lillies on it.

In light of that I was so thrilled to find these Metallic Lily Luncheon Napkins that feature Calla Lillies (if they aren’t actually calla lillies work with me here, because I say they are!) – IN GOLD AND WHITE no less!  So I got a package of those and a couple of packages of Metallic Gold Luncheon Napkins.

We used small matching Art Deco Pails to put on each end of the tables and filled them with buttermints in gold, white and Happy Anniversary wrappers.  Then we had the grandkids sprinkle the tablecloths with 50th Anniversary confetti.


We finished off with 50th Anniversary streamers and balloons.  Of course the kids loved batting those around 🙂

5.  Activities.

My sister still has young children and some of my cousins have smaller kids too.  We had a couple of tablets charged up in the corner, coloring books and crayons, and Hot Wheels Cars and other toys to keep the kids occupied, so their parents could spend time visiting with the other grown ups.

We even had a ‘game’ for the adults to play.  My parents moved a lot over the years and my brother went out and took photos of all the homes they lived in and put them up on a project board.  Then we tasked our guests to order them by the first home they lived in to their current home.  For bonus points they had to write down which of us kids were born in which home.  It was a fun for everyone and brought out a lot of memories from our guests many of which we as kids didn’t even know about!  Something like this of course can be done with photos of all kinds not just for homes 🙂


He had another project board just covered in photos of my parents and our families over their lifetimes.

Oh yes that cute little baby is me!!

6. Be prepared for something to go wrong and go with the flow.

Even when we plan, plan, plan and think everything will go off without a hitch, there is a grand possibility that something will go wrong.  First breathe, then think of a solution.

For us it was a broken coffee percolator just as the party was starting.  Ai yi yi!  130 people and a coffee machine that doesn’t work!  At first we panicked.  Then my sister, niece and I hopped in the car and headed to the local coffee shop and had them brew us up 30 cups of coffee to take back in a box, while my brothers went to scrounge up another coffee pot to use for the rest of the afternoon.


Not what we were expecting, but it all worked out.

What made this celebration so special was the come and go atmosphere and the ability for everyone to mingle and visit with each other.  Family and friends from all stages of my parents’ lives and marriage were together in one spot, sharing stories and memories of them over the years.

I can only hope that my husband and I will have so many people celebrating our marriage in 30 years when we hit our 50th Golden Wedding Anniversary 🙂


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10 thoughts on “How To Plan a Casual 50th Golden Wedding Anniversary Celebration

  1. I love it! We did a 50th surprise party for my parents too and it's touching to see all the loved ones come out and share their memories. You did a great job and isn't it a blessing to have siblings to help?

  2. I am glad all your hard work ended in a great party. 50 years seems like forever. I only have 28 1/2 years to go.

  3. I am glad you posted this. My husband and I are doing a vow renewal the end of this month, and your post inspired me to go with the casual approach to our reception instead of a sit-down dinner. May I ask if you had any type of "favor" to give to your guests? I was thinking of a decorated cookie in gold foil bags.

  4. Thanks D Dillon! We actually didn't have any favor to give to the guests, however I think the idea of decorated cookies in gold foil bags would be great 🙂 I think the casual approach makes it more amenable to conversation and being able to spend more time with the guests one on one and to mingle. It's amazing how people who don't know each other but know the anniversary couple tend to strike up conversations too.

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