Anna’s Birthday Gathering

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It’s my annual tradition to kick off the year with a creative birthday celebration. Past celebrations include the moody dinner party, spoon carving, pottery, my 10-year business anniversary, a plant party, and last year’s tea party. This year? A gathering about gatherings.

I was inspired by Priya Parker’s book, The Art of Gathering, to think about my birthday as an opportunity to gather with purpose. And as I thought about what purpose that might be, I thought about my year of connection in 2019 and how to both celebrate my sense of community in this moment and also set myself up for continued community and connection in the year ahead. As I get older and older I become more aware of the difficulty in making close friends, but I also have become better at being proactive in fostering these relationships. And so I had the vision for using my birthday to do just that.

We met in a group, brainstormed about each of our own intentions for the year, practiced some watercolor skills, and then everything culminated in a big collaborative art piece that would set us up for a year filled with gatherings. See it all unfold below!

Many thanks to Courtney & Jackson for hosting my party in their beautiful home. And thank you to Cassie Valente for taking many of the photos below.

Watercolors and gatherings were the theme of the day! I created these watercolor name tag dots for each of the guests.

A lovely cheese board spread and many colorful snacks.

My watercolor example. Guests would be learning how to paint abstract circles like these too. Plus, giant circle balloons that created quite the situation when less than half fit into my car. This is a cautionary tale of buying things online without any conceptual understanding of the dimensions.

My gorgeous birthday cake, perfectly in keeping with theme! Thank you to La Chinoiserie for the custom creation. You can now find her pastries at select Boba Guys locations in San Francisco!

After guests arrived, I made a little welcome announcement to explain the purpose of our gathering.

It’s a little unconventional for a birthday party to involve worksheets, but here we are! Look how studious everyone looks!

After discussing some of our intentions for the year and brainstorming gatherings, we practiced our watercolor skills.

I love how differently everyone’s paintings turned out.

And then it was time to move into phase three, the collaborative art piece. We used some of those gathering ideas we had brainstormed and turned them into watercolor bubbles. Each gathering was a circle, and people could add themselves to the gatherings by writing their names inside circles that attached to the gatherings.


And, of course, a birthday cake interlude.

Such great ideas! And such a fun way to visualize the year of gatherings that lies ahead. Of course these are just ideas to get us started, and no one is obligated to 

Thank you so much to everyone who came and participated in this unconventional birthday celebration with me! I look forward to gathering with you all again and again for the rest of this year and beyond!


Venue: Courtney & Jackson
Cake: La Chinoiserie
Photography & Birthday Girl: Anna Wu Photography
Additional Photography: Cassie Valente Photography

Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco but often traveling and working around the world. She creates beautiful, soft, and timeless imagery while capturing the most fleeting of moments. View her work at, follow her daily adventures on instagram, or contact her to book your own session today.