Josh Pederson, an instructor of the Practice in Digital Design, celebrates his 28th birthday with a Moroccan-inspired birthday party. Photo provided by Josh Pedersen.
The lights suddenly switch off, a crowd forms around you and your friends present an extraordinary cake topped with vibrant candles and your favorite frosting.
It’s your birthday!
From grand parties to low-key dinners, Dixie State University students and staff each plan their special day in significant ways.
The variety of birthday celebrations differ with each student and staff member on campus depending on their personality and interests, said Joshua Pedersen, an instructor of the Practice in Digital Design.
“There’s no problem with loving something small, like a dinner with close friends and family,” Pedersen said. “Some people just don’t like the attention and want something simple. As for me, I start planning in November for my party in April.”
Pedersen said there is a lot that goes into preparing his birthday parties. He chooses a theme, has to find a venue, prepare intricate decorations, send out invitations, create videos for the “Save the Date” announcements, take extravagant photos, hire caterers to create cuisine that matches the theme, visit a bakery to plan a cake, etc…
“The hardest part about planning is finding a venue in St. George that will allow alcohol,” Pedersen said. “Most of my parties have been outside because it’s free and why not? There’s some beautiful places to have parties here. They’ve all turned out really well.”
Pedersen said he has had a birthday party every year since he was little.
Some of his past themes included “Josh Pedersen’s Evening in Morocco,” a Moroccan-inspired, desert party held in a sand-covered canyon; “Funk It Up,” a ‘70s inspired, disco party held at a transformed Dixie Bowl & Recreation Center; and this year’s “Pink to make the boys wink” party, which is a mix between Pedersen’s modern world and Marie Antoinette’s 18th-century rococo style.
“I love the whole experience,” Pedersen said. “From a designer’s perspective, I expect every little detail to fit the theme, down to the type of stamps I use on the envelopes of my invitations. I want my guests to have the full experience right when they get the ‘Save the Date’ announcement and actual invitation.”
Pedersen’s past parties usually include about 240 guests, so it is important that he prepares enough announcements to remind them about his party and has their RSVP’s, Pedersen said.
“So you send out the ‘Save the Date’, you get the hype up,” Pedersen said. “Then, you send out the official invite – about 6 weeks before, for me, if I’m requiring a dress code; and usually, I do. Some people may think it’s a little extra, but it always turns out great.”
Pedersen said the reason why he plans a huge party every year is because he loves the planning and all the work he puts in behind it to create the final outcome.
“I like the feeling of when all of the work I have to do finally comes together,” Pedersen said. “It’s like Christmas for some people; planning is the fun part. The actual day comes and it’s still amazing and still a blast, but I love the process.”
Although Pedersen’s parties may feel like an extravagant event or production, it is still his birthday and something personal to him. He does not invite just anyone or allow strangers into the party, Pedersen said.
“My birthday parties are not an event that a company is holding. I guess because so many guests have come to my parties in the past they can seem like an event or production, but it is still my birthday party and something that is special to me.”
Like Pedersen, Sydney Johnson, a junior business administration major from Spokane, Washington, likes to put together a party to celebrate with her loved ones and have a good time, Johnson said.
“First thing’s first, make a bumping birthday playlist with all the hits you know you love,” Johnson said. “Then, plot out your favorite spots to eat or drink at. Vegas is the place to go if you can, but staying in St. George is so nice year-round and getting outside with your friends is always a good time.”
Johnson said there are plenty of ways to get creative and plan an easy birthday party as a college student.
“If you have the time to drive to [Las] Vegas, do it,” Johnson said. “The atmosphere makes celebrating you even more exciting. If you don’t have time, put together a bonfire out in Warner Valley of the Arizona Strip. Don’t forget to always have a birthday cake or treat as well!”
Abbey Smith, a junior communication studies major from Prescott, Arizona, said ever since she has been in college she likes to keep her birthday celebrations low-key.
“I know for some people, they have major parties, but personally I like the small group I have that takes me out for dinner and calls it good,” Smith said.
For those who want a small dinner party, make sure you always make a reservation. Give your guests at least a couple of days of notice before planning the party to make sure that they can attend, Smith said.
“Quality over quantity when throwing a party,” Smith said. “You’ll have more fun with a couple close friends than a giant group of people you don’t know super well. Plus, the planning and clean-up is easier.”
Smith said, make sure you set time to call family and friends to thank everyone for the birthday wishes.
“I don’t feel the need to do anything special but be with friends,” Smith said. “The best part is getting all the appreciation and shout outs on social media. It’s always nice to get extra love that day.”
Regardless of how you want to celebrate your birthday, the day is all about you and each person should plan their celebrations according to what fits with their personality, Pedersen said.
“Enjoy your day, who cares what other people like or what they think. Celebrate it the way you want with no regrets,” Pedersen said.