A Celebration 70 Years in the Making

Mom, appropriately known as Granny by the family turned 70 this past summer. Behind the scenes our family was secretly scheming, and all trying to think of something we could do to make it special. The truth is, mom likes things simple, and never wants a fuss. She must have known something was up because at one point she even threatened to run away if we planned a birthday bash.

Of course we did it anyway because you can't turn 70 without a celebration! We are in a photographic family, and that means that we don't have a lot of photographs of our own family. You know the saying that "the plummers pipes are leaking, and the electrician's house is about to catch fire...", or something like that...?

Well for photographers, often your are behind the camera rather than in front. We are so focused on capturing the love in our clients lives that we miss out on capturing our own. It's a big part of why we started Together In Style. At least this way, we are forced to tell our own story.

Back to granny's birthday... The family agreed, and decided to throw a southern style pig roast with some southern style cocktails. Since we have co-created several books on entertaining with our good friend, and party planner, David Tutera we know the makings of a great party, and how to pull it together. Thank you David for the incredible education you have given us all on the importance of meaningful celebrations!

We decided to throw the party at home in Connecticut poolside around sunset, with a guest list of close friends and family. A few family members flew in from down south to surprise granny, and as I write this I am tearing up thinking about the gleam in her eye that this was all for her.

Being from the Carolina's there is a HUGE distinction from what we grew up on in the "pulled pork" world, and what the so called BBQ joints in NYC and the northeast call Carolina pulled pork. Granny you see is picky about her pork, because our family does it differenty.. Vinegar, Texas Pete, and a couple other secret ingredients. But, you can't enjoy your own party and be the chef. So, we pulled in an expert chef from Blue Star Gourmet named Bobby Skiber, who pulled off the best whole hog party one could ask for.

My wife Jennifer set up the bar simply, and creatively. Mason jars with ribbons, and spouts of lemonades and flavored iced teas, which guests could spike to their hearts content. 

As dusk appeared and night started to fall, the real surprise came out. While it was challenging to find a lot of photos from recent years, I spent days injesting old 8mm films, video, and photographs into the computer filled with memories from years gone by. Those that couldn't be at the party in person due to distance and timing, I asked to send a video message on their phone, which I added in as well. I then cut them into a short video montage sharing her incredible journey, and loved ones here and gone. 

I must say that Granny went through a lot of hairstyles over the years! One things stands strong with all of us. She has been a blessing in every life she has touched, and this celebration was important not only to her, but to us as a family as well.

The points I hope you take home from this little story are...

  1. Photograph, and film, your family as you go. Don't let today slip by without doing so. 

  2. Celebrations don't have to be lavish to be meaningful.

  3. Create a montage on your computer, or have a professional do it, and take all the guests on the life's journey. It is heart warming.

  4. Personalize your party for the one you are celebrating.

  5. Celebrate often.

Charles Maring is a photographer and filmmaker at Maring Visuals, and a co-host / creator of the Together In Style talk show.