After years of having others plan her birthday party, former Disney Channel star Ashley Tisdale, 31, decided it was time to take matters into her own hands. Now married and the owner of a beautiful Los Angeles home, the actress wanted to use her backyard as the backdrop for her summer birthday bash. The theme: a bohemian backyard dinner complete with a henna artist, a flower-crown station, and a dairy-free menu to impress.
After browsing Pinterest for endless boho-chic inspiration, she called on the expertise of her wedding planner, Lisa Vorce, to bring her vision to life. With a strong team behind the event to look over every detail, Tisdale was able to focus on what mattered most: her close friends and guests. We chatted with the actress and her event planner to get every last detail of the event. Take notes—these hostesses are a treasure trove of entertaining tips.
"Ashley came to me with a really strong vision," says Vorce. "Her birthday wish was for us to create an intimate magical bohemian backyard birthday celebration. So we delivered just that!"
Tisdale did her due diligence prior to calling on Vorce: "I looked through Pinterest pictures, and I just loved the idea of getting all my friends together and having a bohemian dinner party," she says. "We have a really big backyard, and I could just envision a really long wooden table."
Vorce was on the same page: "I wouldn't dream of doing a boho party without a low table and an eclectic mix of floor pillows!" For the seating, she pulled a selection of Indonesian batik pillows, Moroccan wedding blankets, and vintage rugs.
A flower-crown station and henna artist were also high on Tisdale's list: "I really wanted a henna artist because I wanted for people to be able to do something fun while everybody was snacking on appetizers and having a drink. Henna is really big with my friends, and I love it too."
"We had a flower crown station for the girls," says the actress. "The guys didn't take part so much, but the girls had so much fun doing it, and everyone looked so beautiful," she adds. Even her pup Maui got the crown treatment.
For the floral station, Vorce called on Flower Wild to create a beautiful array of greens, berries, garden roses, spray roses, seeded eucalyptus, orchids, and hand-dyed silk ribbon that guests could put together themselves. "Everyone loves a good flower-crown station," she says. "No matter how many times you see them, people always love the ability to create their own."
The tablescape created for the dinner party was one of Vorce's favorite to date. "I was a perfect mix of beautiful bohemian elements from Found Vintage Rentals and The Ark. We incorporated bone china, copper chargers, a mix of copper and bone napkin rings, vintage glassware, hand-dyed silk runners, linen napkins, and a combination of bone and pewter flatware." The event planner also added beautiful bowls of fresh summer fruits, gorgeous vibrant colored florals, and an abundance of candlelight to set the mood.
"I'm an eclectic person, and I just loved the idea of something super different, casual, chic, and fun," says Tisdale of her beautiful tablescape.
On the menu: an assortment of fresh colorful and dairy-free dishes for Tisdale. "We asked Jerry from Food Matters to be the chef. He also did our wedding, so we just knew," she says. "There were specific things that I loved from our wedding that I had him re-create in appetizers. I specifically asked for those things again because I'm dairy-free, and so he was able to make everything to accommodate this, and it was so delicious."
Some of the dishes Tisdale fondly remembered from her wedding included grilled summer-peach crostinis, fried-chicken sliders, and navel pastrami sliders on a pretzel roll with deli mustard. Other notable dishes included a free-range chicken tagine with grilled lemons and olives, roasted heirloom carrot tacos, and a baby spring lamb rack.
On the dessert menu: a pineapple and chili de arbol paleta, coconut rice pudding with fresh mango, homemade chocolate chip cookies, warm cinnamon-sugar churros, and summer berries.
To set the mood, Vorce made sure every guest was taken care of upon arrival, which she tells us is the most important aspect of throwing a party: "It's all about the guest experience! From the minute they arrive, they should be taken care of and attended to," she says. "Start things off with a thematic tray-passed beverage. Make sure guests have what they need throughout the party: pashminas for a cool evening and fans for a hot summer day."
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Among Vorce's other entertaining tips, she suggested asking guests about food allergies along with their RSVP—so their meal can be customized for them as needed. "Amenities, florals, and candles in the restrooms are always a lovely touch as well."
"I love family-style dinners, as it promotes amazing conversation and interaction between the guests," says Vorce. "For evening soirées, beautiful lighting and tons of candlelight are key. Everyone feels and looks great with candlelight!"
For Tisdale, the most important thing was spending time with her husband and close friends. "We had about 30 people over. I had my closest friends there, the ones who I could just call at any moment in my life and have them be there for me."
Now that she's in her 30s, Tisdale says she's most thankful to have a great group of friends who she can invite over for dinner parties: "I like that even though I'm in my 30s and getting older, my friends and I still like to have fun and throw girls' nights or themed parties—we haven't grown out of that phase. I think it's really great, and I hope that's something we always do."
"I love putting together themed dinner parties and seeing my friends coming over and enjoying themselves," Tisdale told us. "I love being able to get all my friends together and throw a really awesome night that has great moments to create memories. The pictures from our party really capture exactly what the party was like, and you could see how much fun we had." Photographer Elizabeth Messina was on site to capture the beautiful moments.
Tisdale's only regret: that her bestie Vanessa Hudgens couldn't attend. "Vanessa wasn't in town, so she missed out—but she would have died for this birthday party. She loves bohemian nights, so she was so upset she wasn't there."
Tisdale blew out 31 candles on top of a red-velvet Sweet Lady Jane cake covered with beautiful bougainvillea and fresh berries. We don't know exactly what she wished for, but between a budding production company, a growing makeup line, a clothing company, and her new movie, Amateur Night, premiering August 5 and on VOD August 12, we know she has a lot to be thankful for. One thing's for sure: We're willing to bet she wished for many more candlelit evenings surrounded by her nearest and dearest.
Inspired to throw your own backyard birthday bash? Share your favorite entertaining tips with us.