Winning Birthday Bash

Event designer Blair Laborde teams up with her close friend and client Kelli Haywood to create an unforgettable blue-ribbon birthday bash.
A large and fluffy green arrangement graces an elegantly set table.

“I wanted the floral trees to look as though they were growing straight up from the table,” says floral designer Meg Hutchinson. “They add a sense of whimsy and accentuate the dramatic height of the ceilings.”

Kelli Haywood loves a little friendly competition. So, when the Texan-turned-Tennessean began planning her 40th birthday bash with husband Dave Haywood (of the country music group Lady A), she wanted it to be remembered as the BEST game night of all time. “Next to her people, what Kelli loves most is winning—whether it’s games, sports, contests, or anything else for that matter!” says the honoree’s close friend Blair Laborde of Sarah Blair Event Design. “So we planned an event that really spoke to Kelli’s passion for fun and games with festivities that would start in the afternoon and continue well past dinner.”

A couple poses for a happy birthday photo.

Dave and Kelli Haywood

White ranunculus, foxgloves, hellebores, heather, and assorted white flowers pop against the green-and-white botanical tablecloth.

White ranunculus, foxgloves, hellebores, heather, and assorted white flowers pop against the green-and-white botanical tablecloth.

In an homage to Kelli’s roots, more than 70 of her nearest and dearest wore their “Texas best” and convened at West Glow Farm, an enchanting 65-acre property in Kingston Springs, just a short drive from her home base in Nashville. The event kicked off with an afternoon skeet shoot offering challenging speeds and angles for the advanced shooters, along with instructors to assist the first-timers in the group. As dusk drew, the gang strapped on brightly-colored “fanny packs” filled with tokens and chips featuring photos of Kelli from the past four decades. They headed to The Barn for 80s arcade games such as Skee-Ball and mini-golf, as well as casino games like poker and roulette. “It’s rare for adults to just ‘play’ anymore, so the best gift I got was seeing everyone having some good, old-fashioned fun,” Kelli says. “Some friends got really into it and even developed strategies to collect the most tokens and chips.”

A Skee-ball machine is ready to play covered in hot pink.
Guests play casino games.

Guests test their luck at casino games and a variety of arcade game such as Skee-ball.

Those taking a break from the competitions could be found at the bourbon-tasting bar or imbibing specialty cocktails. In addition to enjoying passed hors d’oeuvres, guests also grazed at the 6-foot-long charcuterie station before taking their dinner seats beneath the canopy of bistro lights and basket chandeliers. There, they indulged in four courses of farm-to-table fare prepared by Chef Steven Bailey of Kindred Farm.

Green napkins have "40 years of winning" engraved in silver.

Custom cocktail napkins were a special surprise from Blair to Kelli.

Pieces of toasts are served with cheese, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Passed hors d’oeuvres included sourdough toasts topped with turmeric hummus, heirloom tomatoes, English cucumbers, and herb Noble Springs chèvre.

Much like the theme, deciding on a decorative scheme was a no-brainer for Kelli and Blair as long as it included nature, flowers, and anything green—“Kelli” green to be exact. Billowy linen tablecloths featuring birds and botanicals made the perfect backdrop for wood-handled flatware and chargers, white ceramic plates, and delicate blush linen napkins topped with hand-calligraphed menu cards. In lieu of traditional centerpieces, Nashville floral designer Meg Hutchinson of The Florista constructed towering floral topiaries to accentuate The Barn’s soaring ceilings and offer a major wow factor. For movement, she wove hurricanes and flower-filled compotes into the mix and paraded them down the length of the table.

A menu with green ink sits on top of a princess pink napkin.

Menu cards were hand-calligraphed in green on ivory watercolor paper.

Silverware is tied with a ribbon and a deck of playing cards while sitting on top of a green floral table cloth.

Nature-inspired decks of playing cards accompanied place settings.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” says Kelli. “It is not every day—or even every birthday— that you get to partake in all of your favorite pastimes with all of your favorite people in one place. Everything came together so seamlessly, and I loved knowing that the evening was just as special for my guests as it was for me. We could start planning now for my 50th, but I’m not quite sure it could top this one.”


Event designer Blair Laborde takes her clients’ parties personally. “Party favors are a wonderful way for a host or hostess to show their guests how much their presence is appreciated,” she says. “I like to take them one step further by creating a favor that reflects the giver’s personality or passion. It not only serves as a tangible memory of the event but also as a special reminder of the giver.”

Here are a few of Blair’s gift ideas that reflect different givers:

FROM THE GOLFER: Personalized golf balls or golf towel.

FROM THE GAME LOVER: A customized deck of playing cards.

FROM THE GARDENER: Personalized packets of flower or vegetable seeds.

FROM THE WINE ENTHUSIAST: A bottle of the host’s favorite vino with a personalized label.

FROM THE NIGHT OWL: A customized “breakfast box” for late night or early morning munchies.

A green and white striped cake has candles and a Happy Birthday Kelli sign on it.

Although decadent desserts were served, a birthday party isn’t complete without a birthday cake. Blair commissioned the single-serving cake and custom candle topper for use during the