a sweet sixteen surprise


I thought I was shooting family portraits. I charged my camera the night before and bought a snazzy new memory card just for the occasion. It was the perfect tactic to have me ready to document the actual event - my sixteenth birthday party.

The 'shoot' was to take place in a little town just outside the state border, and I was to be accompanied by my dad and brother. I kept occupied on the forty-minute drive by reciting different family poses in my mind. I was told the family would be waiting by the bandshell in the park, but as we neared it, there was no one but a group of girls, huddled in the corner. I thought nothing of it. 

I hopped out of the car, camera bag on my shoulder, and hurried towards the bandshell - all the while scanning the scene for my subjects. That is, until a threesome of big, pink balloons crossed my line of vision. Wait a second... I wondered, and before I could put the pieces together - "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!".

A few months ago, I attended a surprise party for a good friend of mine, and when the time came for us to yell, "SURPRISE!", her reaction sent mixed signals. She looked shocked, excited, and at the same time, like she didn't want us there. Needless to say, I was confused.

But when four girls came from behind and tackled me in my tracks, I felt a sudden wave of emotions, including shock, excitement, and humility - almost to the point of tears. And then I understood.

This happened three times as a total of eleven girls divided themselves into groups of three and four and surprised from every which way - including the four girls I saw huddling in the bandshell. And after a few moments of hugs and awkward conversation, out climbed my mom and her good friend - the two masterminds behind the party - from the bushed, cameras in hand, and making the final surprise.

Once all surprises and happy birthdays had been said, we lined up for lunch. Platters of assorted fruits and vegetables, chips, and Jimmy John sandwiches were set up in a sort of buffet manor upon two vintage card tables and surrounded by all sorts of vintage items. Glass-bottled pop, mustaches on sticks, and paper straws - it was pure bliss.

We sat down on an array of colorful blankets to indulge in our vintage picnic. All the while laughing over silly conversation. And getting up for seconds, and thirds.

Then came presents - and, oh lordy were there lots. Can I just say that these gifts were quite possibly the best I have ever received? Each gift was carefully wrapped, and, well, utterly me. Let me name a few: a mustache ring, an adventure book, an original elephant drawing, and about a pile more of pure perfection. But the best gift was from my very own mother, and it came in national camera bag. The lens I had been saving for, for the past 6 months or so - the Canon 50mm 1.4!

the lens!!

With my new lens, we headed out for a two hour photo shoot - right in time for golden hour. It was the best part of the party.

After the photo shoot, we adventured downtown to a little ice-cream shop named Knoke's for a few scoops of utter deliciousness. The shop was small, and a little chaotic as all 14 of us carefully chose our scoops. But it was so worth it.

We spent the last few moments of golden sunlight on the river bank jumping the trademarked high school musical jump, and catching group photos in the water.

And we ended the day with a bang at my town's annual fireworks show.

I have to say, it was the best sweet sixteen party a sixteen year old girl could've ever received - thanks mom. :)

A few things I never mentioned:

1. These girls are eleven of my closest friends, and I was so thankful for their being there, to celebrate me and my big day! I love you all!

2. Did you see how adorable all these girls' outfits are? I mean, seriously. Seriously.

3. This post is lonnng overdue, but there was no way I could skip writing it, so here you are, one month late. :)

Hope you had a wonderful weekend! Expect a post on my two camping adventures soon!


  1. How cute!! And your right.. Everyone's outfits = GAH. I want!!

  2. oh, my word. how fantastic. their outfits, the decorations, the overall thoughtfulness of everything-- it's great. mothers know best, don't they? =)

  3. this is so adorable. the photographs are lovely. and everything is amazing.

  4. You must've had tons of fun! I love the whole photo collection. Great memories to be able to come back and sort through in future. :)

    eve @ essence of eve

  5. ahhh this is so fun! i've always wanted someone to throw a surprise party with me, but I don't think it'd work since I like planning every single thing. I probably would find out. I threw a surprise party for Madeline last year and it was so great! :) Have fun with Hannah and Madeline today. :)

  6. This post is, seriously, adorable. :) Happy Birthday!! I love the pictures--and decorations--and the girls outfits. Oh, and your glasses. ADORE. ;)

    Mikailah @ finding beauty


  7. Looks so fun and absolutely lovely! Ditto to what Kiley said :)

  8. Oh my gosh - how fun! And everyone's outfits are adorable!

  9. oh golly goshbubbles. This sounds like the most perfect birthday party anyone could ask for! If I had a surprise party, this is how I'd want it to be. :) Beautiful photos!


  10. Oh, you lucky duck, a surprise sweet sixteen party! Everything seems perfect.

  11. So beautiful! Sounds fantastic :) And all of the photos are lovely <3

  12. AH! congrats, it sounds like SO much fun! My best friends surprised me with a bithday party this year too, and it was one of the best days ever. ;)

  13. your birthday looked like a TON of fun, Alexa. :]

  14. Love the photos, you guys look like you had a lot of fun! x
    - Jianine

  15. So.much.awesomeness!!! Looks like it was an unforgetful evening. Love all the pics.