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"I had so many amazing things happen in my 20s, and I also had a lot of hard lessons to learn. I'm ready to put those lessons into play," LeAnn Rimes, who marked her milestone with an Aug. 18 "Die, 20s, Die"-themed party in Laguna Beach, Calif., tells PEOPLE.
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Enjoying the surf and sun, the birthday girl, born Aug. 28, soaks up the last days of summer with 20 of her closest friends. "I have a beautiful life. I am lucky," she says.
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ANGEL IN AMERICA
At her party, Rimes adds an angelic touch to the open bar (featuring Don Julio tequila) with angel wings and birdcages. The singer wanted to say goodbye to 29 years of feeling caged and embrace her new decade of freedom. "I think there's something that happens to women when you turn 30, that you enter into being a true woman," she says.
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Paying tribute to her roots, the country crooner (who is preparing to release her latest album, Spitfire) incorporates her Southern charm into customized "Hell in a Handbasket" bottles, encouraging guests to reveal their sins after making a wish. "I wasn't so sure that people would confess anything!" she says. "Whoever was up at the end of the night shared what they wrote."
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ON THE EDGE
Keeping in line with the heaven and hell themes, vases of purple orchids and white blooms (along with rhinestone skulls) serve as the décor centerpieces scattered throughout the soirée designed by events firm R. Jack Balthazar.
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PIECE OF CAKE
Make a wish! Rimes takes a deep breath as she blows out the candles on her personalized cake from Sweet amp Saucy – featuring a look-alike topper stomping on a coffin! "We laugh so hard all the time because people have this obsession with me in a bikini," she tells PEOPLE. "I've always said, 'I'm on the beach, what am I supposed to wear?'"