My husband and I love gnomes. When we got our first apartment together, we decided we were going to be those weird gnome people and have them all over our front porch. They’re cute, and there’s just such a fascinating folklore behind them. Ultimately, we realized decorative lawn gnomes were ridiculously overpriced and quickly gave that up, but the interest is still there. So when it became time to choose a theme for our second daughter’s first birthday party, we thought a gnome theme would be really fun and personal to us.
The Invitations & Thank You Notes
The invitation is the first thing your guests will see about your party. It hints at the theme and gets people in the right mood. So that’s usually what I like to start with when I’m planning a party. When I can find a free e-invitation that fits my party’s theme, I go with that. Easy, breezy. But I couldn’t find any gnome-related ones—shocker, I know—and gnome cards/art I did find online was representative of exactly what you would expect a gnome to be: male, old, and hairy. I wanted cute little girl gnomes! Having-the-time-of-their-lives gnomes! Finding the right invitation became my everything, my project, my obsession…because I am a geek and I tend to jump into projects wholeheartedly.
And also because I am a geek, I ended up contacting an artist I met at San Diego Comic-Con 2014, Eunjung June Kim, who just does the cutest stuff. I told her—in entirely too many words (sorry, June!)—exactly what my inspiration was. I combined ideas from some of her previous illustrations that I loved on her website, mixing in the gnome factor and the physical description of my two little girls. As you can see from the image above (left), she did a fantastic job. The illustration she made was perfect in every way. I was able to add text in the middle, which read: “Hey gnomies! Yeah? Wanna party? Yeah! Join us for the 1st birthday of…” and print them on cardstock at Costco.
Meanwhile, I was still looking for gnome stuff on Etsy and found the art featured above (right) by Moon Cookie Gallery. It was too adorable to pass up. I ended up asking her if she could make it into cards, and she agreed, so I got myself a stack of thank you notes with a fun complement to the invitation designs.
With the invitations and thank you cards handled beautifully, I was ready to accept that this theme idea could really work out well!
When choosing a party theme, it’s a good idea to consider what season you’re in and what’s trending—especially when trying to stay under a budget. You’ll be more likely to find items available, in stock, and on sale if you play up what’s in season. If you’re planning a party in late spring, for example, you might want to consider a red theme so you can catch Christmas and Valentine’s Day items on sale that might fit your theme color. We picked gnomes (red, white, and green color palette) without much thought for the season—not following my own advice—but we luckily ending up hitting the holiday season. Plus, gnomes were “in” this year for holiday decor, so that was a huge score.
For our decor, we had a few gnomes from our front porch that we could reuse, plus my mom had a few fall decor items that fit in quite well. The gnome on a swing was a Christmas gnome that my mom found at a discount store and glued to a makeshift swing. The stars hanging over the tables were also supposed to be holiday decorations.
The Little Details
For the disposable dinnerware items, we had Birch paper straws, disposable bamboo plates (costly, so we bought only one set and complemented with cheaper plates for extras), red napkins with white polka dots, white plastic table covers, and moss runners as centerpieces.
To complete the theme, we had a mushroom piñata (which I filled with little containers of Play-Doh and plastic bugs), and red paper party hats for the kids to dress-up as gnomes. The party favors were tiny 1-inch terra cotta pots and sunflower seeds, which were sold as kits for like $1 at Michaels.
I’m usually all over the food and dessert situation and making everything myself, but this year I was too tired to care. Maybe it was because, oh I don’t know, I had a baby and all?! I hired a taco truck to provide lunch and handed over the cake duties to my mom—for the record, she offered. My mom always did love play dough, so she rocked fondant on that mushroom cake like nobody’s business! As for the acorn cupcakes, they are, perhaps obviously, topped with donut holes dipped in chocolate and chocolate sprinkles, speared by pretzel sticks.
Non-Party-Related Fun Tidbits About Gnomes (Kind Of)
Have you ever heard of erdstalls? They are underground tunnels in Europe, mostly Germany, dating back to the middle ages. We have little to no information about who created them, or why. The tunnels are small, around 4 feet high by 24 inches wide on average. It would make sense that the tunnels were put in place to safely escape whatever scared people in the middle ages, but generally the tunnels don’t lead anywhere. The next logical assumption would be that they might have been used for non-Christian religious cults. However, humans using the tunnels as escapes, hideouts, or religious grounds would have left some artifacts behind. No significant artifacts were ever found in erdstalls, their dating was only possible based on carbon dating small bits of wood or charcoal found inside. So in the end, you are free to make up your own theories for the existence of erdstalls. Some say they might have been used as root cellars to hide food from pillagers. But personally, I think gnomes make a much better story!
For a fun intro to erdstalls, I suggest listening to this episode of the podcast Good Job, Brain!