DIY wedding · Uncategorized

How to make natural Bougainvillea flower petal confetti

which keeps its bright colours

sorting petals on the table

Confetti made from dried flowers is beautiful, colourful and eco friendly because it is biodegradable. It’s wonderful to celebrate your special wedding day while showing kindness to the planet.

Some venues, including churches and wine farms, have bans on artificial confetti because it is such a pain to clean up from between brick pavers, gravel or lawns. Natural confetti is lighter and softer so it sweeps up more easily and can just be raked or brushed into a nearby flowerbed. If your wedding ceremony is in a garden, on a farm, or near the ocean, it will just biodegrade without doing any harm.

Another advantage of bougainvillea petal confetti, is that, unlike many flowers (including fresh colourful rose petals) the colours do not tend to bleed into carpets or fabrics when they get squished underfoot.

Hot tip: you can also adapt this drying process for convenient, gorgeous make-ahead floral decorations and arrangements for other parties and celebrations. Scatter dried whole bougainvillea flowers on table cloths and picnic blankets, put them in glass vases and run a needle and thread through the thickest part of the dried flowers (or tie around stems of small bunches) for charming hanging arrangements.

Best of all, bougainvillea flowers are not heavy on pollen, or tiny little bits of fluff that can make some flowers an allergy nightmare for hay fever sufferers. In fact, you’re going to be removing the one bit of the flower that has any pollen at all, so you and your guests should hopefully be blissfully sniffle free!

Side note: The part you use for making confetti is actually not the true flower, but a bract, or outer casing for the true, skinny flower within. To avoid confusing people, I’m going to call the skinny little bit inside that you will remove in Step 2 the ‘stamen’ and the bracts ‘petals’.

I’m sorry to be botanically incorrect, but it’s easier to write that way, or perhaps I’m better at going with what looks like a flower petal to me. I hope the people who are annoyed by this can overlook it just this once, possibly after a stiff drink.

bougainvillea planted in our garden – sunlight is the only filter!

Indigenous to South America, Bougainvillea flowers abundantly nearly all year round in warmer climates around the world, such as South Africa to Greece. If you or a friend have a bush or tree, chances are you won’t even miss a large branch or two of flowers cut off for making your flower confetti. It is a vigorous, strong plant that thrives on being cut back.

Unlike with roses and other colourful cut flowers, your cost is really your time, or perhaps a gift for the neighbour who allows you to prune their bougainvillea hedge (I’m not joking – we gently ‘pruned’ the hawthorn and pyracantha hedges of an entire small town in Mpumalanga for our wedding… with permission, of course!)

Bougainvillea petals come in a variety of gorgeous colours ranging from bright hues of pink, red and orange through to pale pink blushes and white. They can keep the full intensity of their colours if you dry and store them correctly. Simply Sparkles have tested this out a few times.

If you want them faded for some variety, or to go with a toned-down colour scheme, then don’t worry about sunlight in the process. If you prefer the intense colours, then there is a bit more to the confetti making process.

There are so many types of boungainvillea that botanists can’t quite agree on how many there are. We have three in my garden, one has smaller, spikier flowers which are very pretty but a bit more hard work. We dry and use them whole. For this post, I used the larger petaled varieties, which are easier to use and give a good volume of confetti.

Follow Simply Sparkles‘ step-by-step guide to making gorgeous, colourful bougainvillea confetti. If you read our DIY guide and think you don’t have the time, then by all means get in touch and we’ll gladly make it for your special day (our bougainvillea is completely organic into the bargain!)

1. Hang your flowers up to dry

An old trick when drying any type of fresh flower is to hang them upside down from their stems. This allows air to freely circulate, drying the flowers evenly while the flower petals keep their shape. You should pick them on a dry day so there isn’t any additional rain or dew moisture to contend with.

In the case of bougainvillea, it is easiest to pick and hang them in biggish branches. Just watch out for those big thorns when you’re harvesting – there aren’t many near the flowering parts, but the minute you’re in the leafy bits, beware!

The important part for keeping the gorgeous intensity of the bougainvillea confetti colours is to make sure you hang the flowers to dry where there is no direct sunlight. We hang our branches from a roof beam on our veranda, but on the side closest to the house, so even low morning or evening sun doesn’t shine on them.

Leave the flowers to dry out for a week or two, depending on your climate. Check the petals from time to time by gently touching them to feel how dry they are. They should feel very dry and papery in texture (in Brazil, one variety of Bougainvillea is known as paperflower!).

The smaller flowers dry the slowest as the petals are so close together. However their colour is the most intense, so I think it’s worth the time to dry these little guys out – we add an extra step in for this in the next bit.

If you live in a humid climate with a lot of air moisture, consider drying the flowers inside somewhere. If you live in a dusty environment, consider very loosely covering your branch of flowers with very open weave muslin or fine netting, or even a brown paper bag with LOTS of holes punched in it. The important thing to remember is good air circulation or your flowers won’t dry quickly, and not to squash them.

2. Remove the stalks and stamens

You want your bougainvillea confetti to be soft and without little sticks and any pollen, so this is a step we highly recommend, though not everyone takes it. It’s a bit more effort, but worth it, and it actually increases the volume of confetti you get from your bougainvillea flowers.

Fun fact: wedding and party suppliers often sell flower confetti by the litre, as it’s an easier measure than weight for something this light. A standard amount of natural flower petal confetti (for larger petals like rose and bougainvillea) is 5l for a smaller wedding and 10l for more people, but you can ask your wedding planner for advice on quantities for your needs.

We tend to do this at a quiet time when our hands are free but our minds can be kept busy. So if you are a DIY bride or groom on a budget, this is a great job to do while you watch your favourite TV show or listen to an absorbing podcast. It’s quite a soothing and satisfying mindfulness activity, and just takes a little patience. Or daydreaming about your future Mr or Mrs!

We start by snipping off the flowers from the stalks right at the base of the petal so that there aren’t any sharp little sticks in your confetti. This is the bare minimum you need to do.

Then we peel the petals apart very gently. At least one will have a little stamen stuck along its inside seam. This can be pulled off quickly, but it will break off a bit of your petal. That isn’t a problem, as you aren’t aiming for perfect shapes in your mass of confetti, but if you don’t want to waste volume, it’s better to snip them out instead.

As this is a bit fiddly and messy, it’s best to work at a big, cleared table or on a cloth or newspaper. Just make sure the surface is clean – you don’t want stickiness or breadcrumbs in your precious confetti!

In the picture you can see the snipped out stalks and stamens. You can pop these into a flowerbed or flowerpot as mulch or throw them in your compost. I find them easiest to sweep up with a clean dustpan and brush after gathering up the lighter confetti petals by hand.

separating stalks and stamens from your petals

It’s also at this point that we add an extra step in if we want the lovely intense colours of those tiny flowers.

They tend to be a bit crumpled up and still a little moist at this point. So seeing as we’re in any case at the fiddly bit of the process, we peel these apart as well and smooth open the tiny petals with our fingers. We pop these into a separate basket or brown paper bag with holes in to carry on drying out for a few more days. If you don’t think it’s worth the trouble, just add them to the pile of stalks and stamens to throw away. Just don’t put still-moist smaller flowers in with your nicely dried bigger flowers or you’re going to invite mould into the mix – not what you are going for here!

3. Store your natural confetti somewhere well ventilated and protected from direct sunlight.

We store our confetti in a big bowl or basket with a cotton or linen tea towel over the top, if we’ve made it close to a wedding. You can stretch an elastic or tie a string over some cotton as well. We have also used a flat, fine-meshed kitchen sieve over a bowl.

You could also use a fine-weave basket with a lid, or a brown paper bag with small holes in it, a fine mesh gift bag from a craft store, or a muslin draw-string bag, if you are storing it for longer.

The important points to remember for your natural confetti storage:

  • Keep your confetti dry and well ventilated. No plastic bags or sealed glass jars for freshly made dried flower petals (you can move to airtight containers once the petals are bone dry, which takes a bit longer).
  • Protect your bougainvillea confetti from direct sunlight. It doesn’t have to be kept in the dark, but definitely out of direct sunlight or the colours will fade. It is great, of course, if you want to fade some of them to have a bit more colour variation.
  • Make sure your confetti can’t be crushed. You will have noticed in the last step that your flower petals are becoming more brittle as they dry. They don’t break all that easily, but it’s best to keep them nice and open and loose rather than having them get crumpled squashed or crushed.
  • Keep your confetti clean. You want to avoid dusty confetti at all costs. So large weave baskets and wide mesh/large-holed net fabric bags are not the best choi

For another week or so after putting the confetti in storage for a while, we like to open it up and toss it about gently with loose fingers. This ensures it is absolutely dry as a bone before we put it away (if you’ve made it a month or more in advance). It’s not that important to do this if you’ve made it under a month before your wedding day or party.

Is bougainvillea toxic or edible?

I’ve lived my whole life with large bougainvillea plants all over the place, as it’s used extensively in South African gardens, particularly as a protective and attractive hedge. Kids make flower crowns and posies out of the flowers and they are often used in celebratory flower arrangements on food tables. So, I hadn’t ever considered this question, but thought I’d better look it up. I cannot give any health advice, but here is a useful link if you are concerned.

From what I gather, it’s the thorns and possibly the sap that might cause skin problems for rare individuals, but there is no sap in the flowers to speak of, so this is hopefully not of concern. Please do your own homework on reputable botany or health sites.

Eating most flowers unless you know what you are about is best avoided, and I LOVE edible flowers. Bougainvillea are sadly most definitely NOT edible, despite their delicious berry colours. Bougainvillea has to be eaten in reasonably large quantities to have any ill effect, as far as I can see. We’ve never been to a wedding where the guests have attempted to nibble the confetti, let alone shovel fistfuls in, but who knows? Perhaps if the speeches are too long?

Small children are of course in their own special category when it comes to any small objects anywhere. Most parents of little ones are super aware of this issue.

We hope you find this post useful – feel free to share your own tips in the comments! If there is a cool climate equivalent of bougainvillea, please also share your ideas or your own blog post links for review. We’d be happy to link to them to help brides out!


How to DIY and play a life size game of HUMAN glow in the dark PacMan!

Ever wished you could play a classic arcade game like PacMan, only life-size, with actual people? At Simply Sparkles, we love to make parties extra fun, and we’re always up for a creative challenge, like a real-life version of a game like PacMan which people can actually play. Then we like to level it up, with our super cool UV blacklight so it really has an arcade game vibe. Bonus points if we can do most of it with normal household supplies, something recycled, and on a budget!

So, when my son asked for a ‘computer games party without computers’ we rose to the challenge and as PacMan was back in thanks to the movie Game On … the rest was history! We also made a string laser maze in the garden, and had Plants vs Zombies attached to balloons that they could shoot with nerf guns. It was awesome.

Suitable for ages 5 and up, you can play this as a cool party game or even in your own household if you have a minimum of 3 people: one PacMan, at least one ghost and a person to referee and change the music (or do human sound effects, if you are my husband!). The maximum number of people depends a lot on the size space you are dealing with and the number of kids you can handle, as it gets fairly exciting and chaotic at times. We found for younger kids in a living room situation, 3 ghosts and 1 PacMan was the upper limit, so we made sure to allocate turns and had the spectators on the sofa really giggling as they waited for their turn. This can be almost as fun to watch as it is to play!

Supplies for making a life-size, human glow in the dark PacMan game:

  • A4 neon / fluorescent coloured card: 2 x yellow, 2 x pink, 2 x orange, 2 x blue/green
  • A4 white paper
  • A5 black paper or round black stickers (about 1cm or 1/2 inch wide) – or a black marker but I think cutouts looked nice
  • string or wool
  • hole punch
  • a side plate (to mark the top of the ghost shape and the PacMan)
  • an egg cup or small glass, like a sherry/highball glass (to mark the eye shapes)
  • a small circle stencil or other round object (approx 1cm or 1inch wide) to mark the eye pupils
  • scissors
  • a pencil
  • masking tape (the kind used to mask things while painting- not duct tape) approximately 2cm / 1 inch wide (white or ordinary cream-coloured painters tape – it needs to glow in the dark and thankfully the standard-coloured one does). You’ll probably need the whole roll or even more, so keep it inexpensive, and it mustn’t mess up your floors. We have hardwood floors and masking tape was fine. I have no idea what works on carpets, sorry.
  • plastic bottle tops like milk bottle tops – as many as you can get. We save ours for up-cycling and recycling projects so we had a big jar full. If you don’t have time to save them up, ask your friends, or you can use paper dots. Bright coloured lids that will glow are helpful, or you can paint them or stick on inexpensive office supply dot stickers in neon – those guys glow! People also use coloured ball-pool balls, but the less they can fly around the room if knocked, the better! You need lots in one colour and then a handful in another colour to be the ones to tell PacMan he can hunt the ghosts.
  • PacMan sound-effect music and a device to play it on, or a willing beep-beeper person who understands the game and has a good sense of fun.
  • Some pieces of fluro paper or painted jar lids for the ‘turn around’ dots – about 4-5, depending on the size of your space.
  • A clean floor you can put tape on – tiles, wood, cement all work well.
  • a bag or other container (a small bucket works well) for PacMan to collect his/her dots with


  • UV blacklight to make it all glow in the dark – we recommend the package Simply Sparkles hires out, which has two good par can flood lights and one bar light. This way you can have the light coming from different angles in the room and it makes everything really pop.
  • larger dots (paper ones or jam jar lids) with printed out pictures of cherries and other bonus points items from the PacMan game. Very big dots (paper plates work well) for PacMan to be able to chase the ghosts back.
  • Score board: For older kids and adults, you can up the challenge and keep a score of how many of the dots and the bonus items each PacMan gets on their turn, and keep score on a chalk board. This works best if there aren’t so many players that it will take ALL day to each have a turn, but you could do it on a team basis. Really don’t do this with children under 10 as they truly have enough fun just playing it and randomly collecting the dots, and they tend to be unhappy with competitions at parties and start arguing.

Making the PacMan characters

If look at the first photo on this blog, you’ll get an idea of what you’re after. Use your plate to make a circle in the yellow card for PacMan, cut it out, then measure out a cake slice piece to cut out for the mouth. There are loads of free PacMan colouring in pages on the net you can use as a template if you aren’t keen on drawing your own. Try this French blog for making PacMan and ghost cushions – she has a really great template for both. Stick a small black dot on for the eye and you have PacMan’s dear familiar face.

Use the same plate to draw the top half of a circle for the top of the ghosts, then use a ruler to draw side lines, and make a wavy line at the bottom (You could free-hand. I happened to have a wavy line stencil ruler, but you could make a quick template from card to keep it uniform and neat – use your sherry or highball glass rim to mark the curves of your wavy line). The ghost eyes are a different size and type from Pacman’s. Use your highball/ sherry glass to measure the white circles, then cut them out, and check the position before sticking them on. Cut the black pupils (or draw them on with a black marker or use black stickers). Try varying their direction so they look expressive and interesting like the ones in the photo.

Once you have two ghosts in each colour, and two PacMan characters, you need to put them back to back and punch holes on the sides, nearish to the top. You then thread string/ wool through the holes, to make a little harness to hold the faces on the chest and back of each player. You can adjust the length by trying it out on your child/ person of a suitable size who will be playing, then tie and cut off loose ends. You can get the idea here – the arrow shows you where the string holes are, as the glow light makes it a bit hard to see:

where to place the strings on your ghost/pacman

TIP: if you plan to play this on more than one occasion or with lots of kids and you want it to really last, you can laminate each piece and use a hold punch and metal hole-liners if you have the tool to put them in with. The plain card with holes last very well for one party’s set of games, but help/ remind children to put them on and take them off gently as they won’t survive overly rough treatment.

How to set up a human PacMan game floor layout

If you are more comfortable with knowing exactly how this will turn out, then you can measure your floor, get some pictures of a PacMan game screen off the internet, and plan the whole thing with exact measurements, factoring in the width of your masking tape. If this makes you happy and you have a lot of time, have fun! If you are shorter on patience and time, like me, read on…

What I did: Got a pic of a PacMan game on my laptop to refer to. Started in the middle of the room with the rectangle big enough for one person to stand and turn in, with an opening big enough for two feet right next to each other, plus a bit extra. I then taped out pathways fairy intuitively in concentric rectangles around the original one, occasionally referring to my laptop screen for inspiration to keep things varied – a couple of awkward twists and turns and dead ends add to the fun.

It is super important for game play that there is not an easy, direct path straight from the middle rectangle to the outside opening. Hopefully referring to your chosen image of a typical PacMan screen will help you see this.

You can see the result in the picture above. Notice the ordinary-coloured masking tape is glowing a nice purple under the black light UV.

To finish off, enclose the whole lot in a big rectangle with an opening that connects to one of the paths. The best part is, apart from wasting a bit of tape, if something goes wrong with your design, it’s easy enough to pull up the tape and reapply it or else start that bit over – just keep stepping back to look at the big picture and checking your paceman screen/ image for reference.

You can do this the day before your party – if your tape works, it can stay down for a day or even two. Just remember to use masking tape and not duct tape and your floor should be fine. If you’re not sure with your specific type of flooring, please check in a hidden spot.

TIP: for teenagers or adults, check the pathways are wide enough for bigger sized feet to move through, though making fairly tight turns is part of the fun!

Getting ready to play human PacMan!

Once you’ve done your pathway, and you’re close to the start time, place your dots (bottle tops or whatever you are using) around your maze. It’s great if you can put them fairly evenly spaced around the whole thing, as it looks like the real game and makes it challenging, but for younger kids, or if you are just short of dots, you can spread them out a bit more.

Decide ahead of time how teams will work, especially if you have lots of kids or a tricky number. You can adapt. Best case scenario, we found, was 3 ghosts to one PacMan, but you could mess about with the ratio depending on your space and the age of the players, etc.

  1. Give each ghost their ghost ‘harness’ to put on, so they have one ghost picture on their chest/tummy and one on their back. Do the same for the first PacMan.
  2. Give PacMan the container or bag which he or she is going to put their dots in.
  3. Get your sound or sound-effects person ready to go.
  4. Switch on your UV blacklights.
  5. Close your curtains and switch off extra lights.
  6. Explain the rules to your players and demonstrate the walking technique.

How to move in a game of human, life- sized PacMan

You can’t walk in a normal way like the kid in the front of this game (see picture below). An important rule is that you have to keep your knees together at all times and shuffle, one foot in front of the other, as if your legs started at your knees. This slows everyone down a bit, keeping up the challenge level, and makes you move a bit like you are in a pixelated old school arcade game. It also makes it more silly and fun.

From a safety perspective, you also don’t want people attempting to run in a small space with lots of tight turns.

Alternatives are tying older people’s knees together (not recommended for kids – they just need lots of reminding when things heat up). Use duct tape or soft, wide ribbon or scarves that won’t cut. Tie gently, not too tight. If your floor is not too hard and people are wearing long trousers, they can crawl, but then you need a bigger maze and lots of room for wider paths. You can get some people to hop with both feet, or make ghosts hop with one foot and PacMan with two. The hopping and shuffling and crawling have to happen without shooting the dots everywhere – though some of this is inevitable – a demonstration can be helpful.

How to play a game of human, life-size PacMan

  1. PacMan stands outside the maze, next to the opening, holding his/her bag or container.
  2. The ghosts are placed in the middle rectangle, all together in a row.
  3. Press play or start making slow beep-bop PacMan noises while everyone starts to move. PacMan has to pick up as many of the dots as he/she can while avoiding capture by the ghosts.
  4. The ghosts can move in a random way, as in the game, or try to head straight for PacMan to catch him. It helps to explain to the players that all the ghosts going after PacMan at once isn’t the most fun strategy as they all just end up in a row. Spreading out makes it more fun AND narrows down PacMan’s options for escape.
  5. If PacMan reaches one of the BIG/ WHITE dots (e.g. paper plates)Call out ‘GHOST HUNT!” and the chase reverses (use a different soundtrack here – faster bee-bops or a wazoo or something) and PacMan has a chance to capture the ghosts. This tends to be really fun and chaotic as the ghosts are suddenly the ones being hunted and have to hobble for their lives! The person doing the sound effects can use their judgement as to how long to let this go on before the tide turns against PacMan again, though the older the teens/adults, the more important it is for this to be on a proper timer of some kind for fairness. The little kids are usually so into it they don’t notice the time exactly and the adult running the game can tweak it a bit to keep things happy and running well.
  6. PacMan can not pick up any dots while chasing the ghosts.
  7. Captured ghosts have to return to their home base rectangle in the middle and wait to start over.
  8. As soon as time is up, call out ‘PACMAN HUNT!’ and go back to your original, slower beep-bop soundtrack. PacMan can return to picking up dots and bonus points. The ghosts return to chasing PacMan.
  9. If PacMan gets captured by a ghost, he or she loses a life and the game resets, with the ghosts returning to the middle while PacMan returns to the outer opening of the maze. 3 lives works well.
  10. At the end of PacMan’s third life, if you are keeping score, you count the number of tokens he/she has managed to collect and write it down next to that player or team’s name. Then while everyone is changing places, selecting a new PacMan and ghosts to have a go, replace all the tokens quickly. Players can help to make this quick. It’s not as painful as it sounds, as very few players pick up most of the dots because they are also trying to escape the ghosts. With very young kids, having something to do in between rounds, like a quick snack or drinks break, can buy you time.
  11. SCORING: If you are keeping score, and not just playing for fun with little kids, then you have to count the number of dots collected by PacMan at the end of his/her 3 lives, and keep track of the number of ghosts captured in their turn. Suggested simple scoring: 1 point: common colour dots, 2 points for bonus colour dots (e.g. cherries in the original game) and 5 points for ghosts. Write scores on a piece of paper or score board. Simply Sparkles have a great chalk board and chalk markers you can use (bonus that chalk markers glow under UV too!)

If you enjoyed this post, you might want to look at our other posts on glow in the dark parties and lawn games:

Glow in the dark party ideas

Grown up glow party ideas

How to play Kubb or viking chess


Party ideas for 60th, 70th and 80th birthdays and beyond

Every culture has its own way of celebrating birthday milestones, particularly the decades past 40. But things are always changing – we now see men and women well over 60 jogging around the neighbourhood in preparation for a major marathon, or taking part in mountain biking events, something that was rare indeed when I was a kid. Gone are the days of lavender rinses and curlers and grannies knitting doilies while grandpa smokes a pipe!

These guys were young in the swinging 60s and 70s, and can still shake a leg- so why stick to high tea and cake smashes as the best party themes? How about a super memorable dance party? I know my mother still enjoys a good dance and she’s hitting 70 next year. Hey, with a good knee replacement (or two), who knows how long my generation will one day be lip syncing to Queen and The Bangles?

There could be such a thing as going too far, of course. I attended a friend’s grandmother’s 80th in Dover, England, 20 years ago. It was a very large gathering at a local hall, and someone had booked a male stripper. There was a moment when this feisty but short-sighted lady in her wheelchair was enthusiastically rubbing baby oil on his back while he was clad in nothing but a red thong. This image is maddeningly difficult to erase from my mind 2 decades later!! I wouldn’t recommend this, but it did get me thinking!

Imagine my delight when I got a WhatsApp from a customer a short while ago, wanting to hire Simply Sparkles disco lights for her dad’s Sixtieth 60s disco party! Now that’s more like it!

A classic disco ball, a few coloured lights that move to the beat and some fairy lights to add extra glamour and fun, and there you go! Plug in your MP3 player or CD player or get out your Spotify playlists and speakers (you can ask the youngest grandkids to sort this out for you), and you’re good to go for a family-and-friends party in your home.

For a larger party with prepared speeches and toasts ,and perhaps someone singing a special serenade to your beloved uncle, gorgeous wife, dapper dad or fabulous granny, hire some simple to use speakers for better dance sound and a good quality microphone. Our speakers can handle anything from plugging into an electronic record-player outlet so you can spin that vinyl, to seamless bluetooth connection to any smart device, or USB input. We also offer a two cordless microphones which can be used with your smart TV or a tablet app for some first class insert-retro-decade-here karaoke fun!

dancing with grandma!

My stepdad turns out to have been quite the singer back in his youth. For his 80th birthday party, he not only had very clear ideas on what music he wanted from the 50s-70s, he also asked for the mics to be able to sing a song to my mum: Frank Sinatra’s ‘You make me feel so young’. We found the backing track on Youtube and set him up with the speakers, and it was a really special moment. Check out our post on setting up karaoke or singing with our blue tooth speakers and mic.

Get all the generations into some fun dance party games and you’ll all be laughing and dancing the night away as you celebrate that wonderful older person in your life. Remember to have lots of comfy chairs and plenty of great snacks and drinks to keep everyone going. Just don’t be too surprised if its the golden oldies who get up to the most mischief reliving their glory days on the dance floor!


Glow in the dark party ideas

Glow in the dark parties, using black light UV lighting and neon clothes and lumo decor, are all the rage with teens, pre-teens (or tweens) and younger kids as well as adults. My teen daughter had a glow in the dark dance party for her birthday and we had such fun with the black lights we’ve added to our Simply Sparkles packages. We’ve all been going a little nuts researching things, trying out paint supplies and running around the house plugging in the black light to see what gets that glow in the dark wow factor!

You can have SO much fun with this as a basic theme all on its own, as part of a dance party (especially an 80s disco), or by using elements to jazz up your decorations for a futuristic or retro space / computer game (e.g. life-size pac man) or fantasy parties like unicorn or fairy themes.

All you need is some imagination, a good strong black light (it’s which is a particular type of UV light spectrum that works much better than straight UV) some cool neon and white decorations, and UV, glow in the dark, neon or black light body paint or craft paint. A moving disco light can add an extra touch of fun.

general tips

You’d be surprised what can glow in the dark, including white or neon liquid chalk markers and tonic water (with quinine), so you can make the coolest glow in the dark cocktails for adults (GNT, you beauty!), or alcohol free mixes for kids, and even glow in the dark jelly (tip: replace the cold water in the recipe with tonic water and use litchi flavoured jelly from Pick ‘n’ Pay, as it is a pale white)! This only shines if close to a UV light and it does change the taste a little, so its best in small quantities.

It is the quinine in tonic water that makes it glow, so check that this is one of the ingredients. When you add tonic water to the hot water jelly mixture, it tends to froth up quite a bit. Let the warm mixture cool a bit or at least make sure you are using a big container with room for the foam. The foam does settle down after a bit so you get a normal, smooth jelly.

Tonic water ice cubes glow amazingly well, and make an interesting addition to drinks.

Things we have at home that glow in the dark under the Simply Sparkles black light UV: a white plate, Bastion glow paint, black light glow face paint, highlighter and Sharpie, tonic water. Cool, hey?

For a list of interesting things that glow in the dark (with pictures), check out this website: science notes.

Local suppliers and resources in South Africa:


You can buy black light and neon body and craft paints at most PNA shops and other craft/ art supply stores like the Crafters’ Inn in Somerset West, or at a local Chinese shop that stocks party costumes, like China Town at Somerset Mall. If you are ordering larger quantities, it is worth checking out a local direct supplier like Bastion paint. Don’t forget ordinary neon felt tip pens liquid chalk markers and school highlighters will also make fantastic signs and other decor!

There are four kinds of paint that work well. Most are available as either body (or face) paint OR craft paint. You can’t mix and match because of the chemicals, so check the label carefully.

  1. straight neon or white paint (which are bright even without the light so can be used again for sports events, etc.
  2. glow in the dark or UV glow paint
  3. Black light glow paint which is amazing and gives you a bigger colour range, including blue.
  4. Invisible UV paint (also useful to secretly mark expensive items in your home or bicycles) which only shows under UV light (I’ve been able to find this at PNA and online at Bastion Paint


Neon slinky springs (to hang down in spirals), reusable paper lanterns (white is good, paint them if you can’t find neon colours, or stick neon stickers on them), bunting and glow sticks are all usually available at your nearest Crazy Store or China Town.

We try to consider the environment (as well as our budget) and buy more of the kind of decor we can reuse or recycle (like the paper lanterns and bunting, which come out in various guises at lots of different parties) and fewer of the items that can’t be reused or recycled (like glow sticks or balloons). Remember some things you already own will seriously ‘pop’ in the UV light, like white serving platters and white picture frames, and anything neon like a frisbee or hula hoop, or neon post-it notes.

When in doubt, buy cheap neon dot or star stickers and put them on all kinds of things. Our paper lanterns for a recent party didn’t glow much, so we just added the dot stickers and they looked amazing, with or without the lights.

For big impact, we make giant neon dreamcatchers and ribbon chandeliers (psst! buying all those ribbons can get expensive, so why not hire these from us and save gazillions?!)

Locally, CAB foods sell individual balloons (to avoid waste getting more than you need) in lots of neon colours that work well with our lights, like violet, blue, green, pink and yellow. They need to be fairly close to the light (in the same half of a larger room) to really zing., and the colour description must say ‘neon’ not just ‘bright’ or ‘electric’. Here’s what they look like deflated, in the day time and with the black light in a darkened room (the spotty one was from a packet of balloons at the Crazy Store:

Glow in the dark tape can be bought online at takealot. So can lots of other glow in the dark pens, toys, craft paint and glow sticks. They also stock glow in the dark pebbles in colour or green – or order some glow in the dark paint and paint garden pebbles.

The glow in the dark paint needs to be ‘charged’ by daylight or lights in general and can fade with time. This doesn’t happen with the UV light – it gets supercharged and stays shiny, and a little paint goes much further under UV light. For instance, in the painting below, it glows without a UV light when the room is completely dark (it can’t be photographed), but even in the daytime you get a really cool glow if there is a proper UV light on it (and I can get a photo of it – yay!).

A painting I made on canvas for my son’s room with glow paint doubles up as Space party decor with a UV light


Game props can easily be made out of things you already have, with a few extra supplies like ordinary neon or white duct/ masking tape or glow in the dark tape from takealot. E.g. Bowling skittles made from plastic coke bottles filled with a little water, and wrapped in tape or painted to glow in the dark or tin cans decorated with the tape or white/neon dot stickers, and white tape used to mark the ‘bowling alley’.

You can use things you already have in unexpected ways, like any glow in the dark items from your kids’ bedrooms, or games like Twister – we just drew over our existing twister mat with matching highlighter colours.

They don’t show up in ordinary light but look pretty cool in the UV light. Some laundry detergents glow in the dark, so experiment with that in your skittles etc. too! Office stationary supply shops (CNA, PNA. Waltons) have loads of large star burst shapes in neon colours (intended for sales displays) as well as neon cardboard for musical island (stand up musical chairs variation) games. Neon highlighters can be used as relay baton sticks for races, and so on.

Hot wheels car races or remote control robot races or obstacle courses are extra fun with a UV Light adding atmosphere. Glow stickers from crazy stores or Takealot will seriously pop!


White clothes, shoes and accessories are a great place to start, as these automatically stand out in the UV light. If you don’t own anything and don’t want to spend a fortune, try Pep stores school sections for some inexpensive white vests, white canvas shoes and T shirts to play with. Pearls, some diamonds and of course white plastic jewellery will also stand out, so wear the bling that will have some zing!

Neon accessories from a costume shop are loads of fun. We found everything from fingerless fishnet gloves to tutus, flowery head bands and trouser braces in neon at the Somerset Mall China Town.

Money saving tip: buy a box of cheap white or neon office stickers in different shapes (dots and stars work best) and put them on your clothes, jewellery or shoes (the outfit will look fun and last the party).

Anything neon, including swimming costumes, hair bands, craft string, shoelaces and cheap plastic jewellery or beads and craft wire will seriously zing. An old 80s trick: cut tassel strips at the bottom of white/ neon T shirts and their sleeves and string on plastic neon beads before knotting. These swing and glow and add a lot of fun to a glow in the dark party outfit. They can be cheaply bought at craft supply shops. You can paint your own neon or glow in the dark clothes using fabric paint from PNA or craft supply shops like Crafters Inn. Takealot also sell neon fabric paint online.

All glow stick earrings, headbands and bracelets will also look extra special under UV. Check out a Crazy Store, PNA or Chinese shop, or order online from Takealot.

A word of warning from someone who has survived partying in the 1990s… white underwear will glow right through thinner clothing, so choose your outfit with that in mind (so at least it’s deliberate if it shows and glows!).

You can get lovely neon glow stick-on face jewels and glow in the dark temporary tattoos very reasonably at some party supply shops too! Chat to us if you are looking as we tend to know who has them at the moment!


Apart from drinks with tonic water, you can try tonic water ice cubes. We’ve experimented with neon food colouring from CAB foods and found that really only the neon pink gel colouring truly glowed under our lights. The only other neon colour they had at the time of writing was neon green, but that looked like yellow-brown poo, which was NOT the look we were hoping for! White mints glow really well, and for some reason so does the plain background biscuit of Zoo buscuits, while the colourful bits and white animals (which we had hoped would glow), didn’t.

More reliable for your food, is serving it on white or neon plates. My daughter discovered a rather cool trick: neon yellow paper cups, decorated with yellow highlighter. The highlighter is invisible in normal light, but under the black light UV… it glows! She put a cute secret message on all the cups for her party, which the other kids really loved.


Without a good black light UV light that spreads across a wide area, your glow in the dark party will not happen. The glow in the dark paints and decor items need to ‘charge’ with the light. Simply Sparkles offer a great black light UV for hire that can flood a large sitting room or garage with black light UV, as well as a range of decor items and photo booth props that we can guarantee work under lumo black light.

We also offer dance lights and smoke, bubble machines and more if you really want to amp up the fun and especially if you’re keen to dance!

Check out some more great glow in the dark party ideas and follow us on Pinterest (seriously, how did we survive party planning before Pinterest???).

CONTACT Simply Sparkles party light hire if you would like to hire our glow in the dark lights, other disco lights and a great sound system. We also do party styling on request.

If you would like to commission a painting similar to the Space one or any other theme for your child’s bedroom or your theme party, please contact artist Marguerite MacRobert:


Forget the algorithm and dance to the beat!

Spend too much time in front of your computer? Maybe it’s time to close put the laptop to better use with all your playlists on iTunes or Spotify, and hook up to our bluetooth speakers? Just a thought… you can be a grown up for the rest of your life, but no one said you had to be mature ALL the time!

Check out our lights and sound packages. Easy to set up, with something for every kind of party. Free delivery in Somerset West and Strand, or collect your party-in-a-box yourself.