The Art of Creating Themes

Event syling tips from Narragansett's Party Pants


Narragansett’s Jessica Billings of Party Pants has a niche for creating unique themed parties and tablescapes. It wasn’t until her daughter’s first birthday that she realized she could make a business out of it. Her keen sense of style sets her apart from other event planners, especially since she utilizes local vendors and goods. Recently, Jessica worked with Queen B’s Cakery out of Johnston to create a whimsical cotton candy-themed birthday party. Her colorful aesthetic makes every party bright and festive, especially when there is candy involved.

Could you tell me about this birthday party you have created?
This is a cotton candy-themed birthday party for a little girl. Cotton candy is my favorite treat to use on a dessert table, so I’ve always wanted to create a theme that is totally based on cotton candy. The color palette is all pastels, pale pink being the primary color with aqua and blue accents.

When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in event styling?
I’ve always had the creative gene but I’ve never really known how to use it. I’m not an artist in any sense of the word and stick figures are as far as I can draw, but I’ve always been good with colors and aesthetics. It took me a long time to find the perfect creative outlet that combined all of my talents. My daughter’s first birthday party was when I realized this was something I could take to the next level. I chose a theme and a color scheme and I just ran with it. I made the dessert table the centerpiece of a party and I got an overwhelming response from friends and family. People started asking me to create tablescapes for their events, so I did a few for friends and family until I really perfected my craft.

Do you often team up with other artists or local businesses when styling an event?
My focus is mostly on the handmade details of the table, but none of it would be possible without the desserts themselves. I have a list of preferred vendors that I work exclusively with for photo shoots and client parties. It’s so important to make and maintain loyal relationships in this business. I often get asked for bakery references and it’s important that I refer people to someone I trust, so I promote my vendors every chance I get because they make my business possible. I also shop local every chance I get.

Where do you get your inspiration for the various types of events you style?
I get so much of my inspiration from sweet treats and pretty candy. Like my cotton candy party, I often find one simple element that can give me a wealth of inspiration and fun ideas. I’ve tossed around the idea of opening a candy shop at some point because there is nothing more beautiful than a wall of glass jars filled with colorful candy.

What advice would you give someone when creating a tablescape?
The best advice I can give someone creating a tablescape is to make sure there is height on the table. There is nothing more boring than a table full of items all the same height. To avoid your table looking boring, you need to add dimension and depth. The easiest way to add some height is to wrap a basic box in beautiful wrapping paper and use it as a pedestal for cakes and cookies.

What are some inexpensive ways someone can create a tablescape?
Although I love a beautifully a detailed fondant cake, I’ve created some gorgeous tablescapes using nothing but grocery store treats. Brownies, Rice Krispies Treats, basic cookies and cupcakes are inexpensive items that can be found at any store and can look beautiful with the right details. You can add your own details by buying a few sheets of craft paper from the craft store, cutting flags and handmade tags from them and adding them to a toothpick or paper straw. I also love wrapping individual brownies or cookies in pretty ribbon. Those inexpensive details add great charm to every party.

What was the most interesting event you have done?
It’s always interesting to style a gender- neutral event, like a baby shower or a combined birthday party. Sometimes it’s challenging to come up with a theme and color scheme that reveals nothing. I recently created a Gender Reveal Party for The Rhode Show themed “What Will It BEE?” The color palette was pale yellow, brown and cream and everything had bumblebee details. I used giant balloons filled with pink confetti that we popped at the end of the segment to reveal the gender.

What kinds of events do you enjoy styling most?
My favorite events to style are those with the most unique themes. Most kids request a birthday party with the most popular theme. It’s always rewarding to make them happy by creating the most beautiful princess or pirate party. But every now and then I will get a client who doesn’t have a specific theme in mind and will give me complete creative control to pick the theme and color scheme. I have so many unique ideas in mind and it’s always a thrill to be given the opportunity to bring them to life.