Now, the one thing we all know is planning a party can get expensive, but it doesn't have to be! Over the years I've learned what works and what flops and I'm here to share it all with you.
Maybe it's because I just love to plan, but I usually begin thinking about my party ideas up to 4 months out (is that excessive?). The best part about planning early is the sooner you pick a theme or overall look for your party, the more money you'll save. When I decided on Alice in Wonderland for Brooklyn's 1st birthday, I was immediately on the look out for large teacups and pitchers, colorful & whimsical frames, etc. When I saw one, I scooped it up! Slowly collecting items really helped to save money and cut down on stress, I wasn't frantically searching at the last minute. It also allowed me to wait to buy until I found deals.
I ADORE DIY projects! Not only does it save money, but there's a lot of satisfaction in seeing something you created in the landscape of your party. Of course knowing your limits is important too, you don't want to take on too big a project that takes a lot of your time and doesn't turn out. I've made that mistake and it ended up costing more than if I had just bought it already finished. For my wedding, I saved A LOT of money by making the menu cards and all of the signage. For those of you who have paid for a wedding you know they hike up the price for everything! Something as simple as menu cards for 100+ people was hundreds of dollars. I knew the look I wanted and I took to my printer and some cardstock. Using Microsoft Word, I designed the exact look I wanted for just the price of ink and two colors of cardstock. I inserted a text box of the dimensions I wanted, used my desired font and text color. I printed them out on ivory cardstock, cut them out and then glued the back to my chocolate brown cardstock - done! One was placed on each of our guests table settings and they looked just a nice as if I'd paid 5x as much!
After many, many wasted purchases, I finally learned that it pays to only buy what you need. I'm a visual person so it really helps me to write out my party plans (and there's that list obsession thing too). Once I know my theme, I pull out my trusty computer and start a simple excel spreadsheet. I create a few different pages: Guest List (with names, address, and RSVP), Rentals (with location, phone number and any costs), Ideas (this is where I start to write out any ideas I have for the food table, front yard décor, etc.), Items Needed (this is where I list out specifics of which platter I'll use for the fruit salad and where I'll put the drink table, etc.). The Items page is always my favorite and definitely showcases that OCD thing. I'm able to plan out as much as possible and it saves A LOT of time when party day arrives! I list out the food I plan to serve and then which platters/bowls I'll use. If I don't have something that will work this is where I can see that something needs to be purchased. I plan what décor will go in the front and backyard, inside the house, on the tables, etc. I include what will go in the goody bags, what I still need to buy, the centerpieces, literally everything and anything I can think of! It probably sounds crazy, but it truly is helpful and it keeps me from buying items I already own or don't really need. It also keeps me on track with what I've already covered and what still needs to be done. Once I started doing this, I stopped spending those extra dollars and no longer have that last minute "where am I going to put this!?" breakdown the day of my event!
One of the greatest expenses of any party is the food and drinks. You can cut that drastically by starting your party mid-afternoon where your guests won't be expecting a major meal. By starting at 2p you can get away with only serving a few appetizers (and a yummy dessert of course!) as opposed to lunch or dinner. Of course, only serving appetizers can still be costly. I've collected some great ideas that allow you to display a full table and won't break the bank.
Buying a lot of fruit can really add up, instead just buy a few bags of grapes, the kabobs are just as beautiful and you'll save some $! For a cracker and cheese platter, skip the expensive version and display some cheddar and jack cubes with water crackers, add a few strawberries for color. For dessert, display homemade cookies on a few colorful cake stands and skip the bakery bought cakes and cupcakes. Remember to always buy the generic food items when you can! A can of brand name nuts can cost up to $2 more than the generic!
Often times we get so wrapped up in every little detail that we forget most of our guests may not even notice (something I'm guilty of!). If you didn't have time to get the pink napkins or if you're missing a centerpiece on the main table, your guests will still have a wonderful time! As difficult as it can be to not sweat the small stuff, try! The most important thing is to enjoy yourself and remember why you're celebrating in the first place. I hope these tips gave you some inspiration for your next event, happy planning!
I love the look of cute party glasses with colorful paper straws! When I first started planning parties, I looked into buying a set of glasses, but in order to have enough for my average guest count I would have broken the bank! Instead I decided to make my own out of Starbucks Bottled Frappuccino's and a little Goo Gone. These can be yours in only 4 simple steps!
STEP 1 Drink your Frappuccino (Bonus!)
STEP 2 Peel off the labels on the bottle
STEP 3 Dip a napkin in Goo Gone and rub off any left over glue
STEP 4 Wash the bottle in warm soapy water
That's it! Make as many as you need, add some adorable straws (like these gold striped ones from Sweet Jelly Parties on Etsy) and you're ready to party!
This one is so fun and super easy!! I wanted to do something bright and colorful for my sister-in-laws Fiesta Grad Party. Since I recently became a stay-at-home mom, we are on a tight budget, but I still wanted to make her party special. I bought a cheap hula hoop at the dollar store and 8 different colors of streamers at Party City for $.89 each. I also used ribbon that I already had and cut out circles in different colors of cardstock. Scissors and double sided tape and you're ready to begin!
I first tied four pieces of string to my hula hoop and hung it loosely from my dining room chandelier so I could attach the streamers and ribbon. I held up one streamer to measure the longest length and then cut the rest at varying lengths. I chose two colorful spools of ribbon and cut 10 strips to the same length. I laid them along the floor and placed my circles. Then I flipped over each one and placed a strip of double sided tape, attaching each to different spots on the ribbon. Now I was ready to assemble the chandelier! I started with just the streamers and eyeballed how I wanted to mix the colors. At the very top of the streamer, I placed a piece of double sided tape horizontally, parallel to the top., and held it up against the hula hoop with the tape side facing inwards. I wrapped it around the hula hoop and attached the streamer to itself so it's secured. After I had all of the streamers attached, I did the same for the ribbon but attached the double sided tape to run vertical since the width of ribbon is thinner. That's it!! So easy and only costs a couple of dollars to make.
Debbie submitted a unique birthday party that I hadn't thought of, a beautiful combo of her mom's favorite things, quilting and genealogy! What made this even more special was her mom's birthday is December 22 and this was only the second party she has ever been thrown. Debbie says she was so thrilled that she is still talking about it!
Debbie found a photo of a quilt cake online and gave it to her bakery who recreated it to perfection!
To bring in genealogy, the centerpieces were beautiful bronze tree branches with hanging family photos. She scanned the photos, made them all black and white into 3" circles and had them printed on canvas. She then framed them into 3” embroidery hoops and hung them with ribbon that looked like a tape measure. After the party, family members were able to take any they wanted!
Debbie built two 3-panel dividers to showcase about 25 of her mom’s quilts. Between the two dividers, she hung a rope and attached quilt squares with fabric markers for people to sign. Her daughter took all the squares at the end of the party and is making a special quilt for her great-grandma! This was such a touching party and I'm honored Debbie shared it with me. I hope this gave you some inspiration for your next event!
With so many great party themes out there, it's hard to find something different. With that in mind I decided to rack my brain and think of as many unique and fun ideas as I could, and let me tell you, it was not easy! Below are a few themes you may not have thought of, and if you have, kudos to you for thinking outside the party box!
Enchanted Forest Party
Think lots of nature, soft lights, touches of fairies and butterflies! This is such a beautiful theme, especially for those who love being outdoors. One of the things I really love about this one is that it works for both adult and kid parties, just tweak it slightly depending on your audience. Check out my Pinterest Board for even more ideas for this theme!
I'm obsessed with lights, I think they add a magical touch to any party. Use battery operated tiny lights and wrap them around anything you want! I found these cute fairy lights on lightsforalloccasions.com. For your tables, use lots of bark and leaves/grass. Check out this live edge wood cake stand on Etsy from Chug Water Studios - $22. This adorable dessert table is from Kara's Party Ideas. You can use real tree branches, poke holes and stick in skewers of fruit and cake pops!
The Roaring Twenties
The 1920's: In short, beautiful flappers, tough gangsters and a ban on alcohol! Insist that your guests come dressed up to really get into the spirit! This post on ehow.com has great ideas on how to throw a 1920's party. One of my favorites is to set up a bar and serve virgin drinks, then let guests spike their own in honor of the secret drinking during prohibition.
An easy and effective invite is this DIY using fun wording and font! This amazing centerpiece is made up of white ostrich feathers in tall cylinders. You can buy these in bulk from eBay - 50 for $38. I love this simple table idea with silver tinsel as the backdrop! For more ideas on throwing a 1920's party, check out my Pinterest Board!
Disney's UP Birthday Party
Talk about color explosion! You could do so much with an UP theme, and best of all, you can use TONS of balloons! Balloons are an inexpensive decor idea, especially if you buy them in bulk, like these from Oriental Trading - 144 balloons for only $8.50!
Balloon cupcakes! This adorable idea is from Bakerella. She took small doughnut holes, smeared them with frosting and dipped them in sprinkles. To make the balloon strings, she used Japanese Somen Noodles. She did note that they break easily so it may be better to use toothpicks or a stronger noodle like spaghetti.
This finger painting canvas is from Kara's Party Ideas. Draw a house on a canvas and have little ones use their fingers to make the balloons! You could also cut out clouds and hang them from the ceiling with fishing wire, like this one from my Planes, Trains and Automobiles party. Most importantly, tie up tons and tons of colorful balloons! For more ideas for an UP party, check out my Pinterest board!
Back to the Future Party
Who doesn't love the Back to the Future series! Years visited were 1885, 1955, 1985 and 2015. Insist that your guests come dressed up from one of the time periods. I had so much fun thinking of ideas for this one that I decided to plan it for next year! I'm just hoping they come out with the hover board by then cause that'd be a great entrance, right!? For more Back to the Future ideas check out my Pinterest Board.
Ideas for 1885: Set up a "Watering Hole" for your drinks. If you have a musician in your family (like I do!) you can include a corner of your party for dancing to re-create the ho-down scene. Add a few hay barrels and some cowboy boots and you've got yourself a party!
Ideas for 1955: Diner food is always a hit! This burger and fries idea is from Hostess with the Mostess. You can buy these cute red baskets from Amazon - 12 for $8. Set up a corner to look like the enchantment under the sea photo booth, with a backdrop of blue netting and iridescent colors.
Ideas for 1985: Two great posters: Re-Elect Mayor Goldie Wilson poster from AllPosters.com and the Save the Clock Tower flier from Etsy. I Love this Jailbird Cake! No doubt this will be a guest favorite!
Ideas for 2015: Lots of bright neon colors! You could have another food table set up with the same menu but with a futuristic spin on it. Serve pepsi bottles and change the name to "Pepsi Perfect", add a sign that each bottle costs $50. Futurepedia is full of interesting facts about the movies and you can find specifics on the 80's Café. A fun game to play would be "What did Back to the Future get right?" See the 11 Points website for 11 correct predictions as well as 11 wrong ones and put together a true/false game!
I love the idea of an art party! I'm a fan of keeping little ones busy, so this is perfect. Once I started digging, I realized the ideas are endless, and there's tons of DIY. For more inspiration, check out my Art Party Pinterest Board!
This Create Art table is from Kara's Party Ideas, easily recreated with colorful letters, a chalkboard and a DIY paper chain, see her Girly Art Party for tons of ideas! Easy centerpieces would be crayon filled glass jars on white tablecloths or butcher paper. What a cute idea to have your guests take a photo behind different sized frames and send it to them as your thank you note! This photo was found on A little of this, A little of that blog.
I just adore the decorate your own cupcake idea by using an art pallet! Surprise your guests by paying attention to the smallest of details. Add labels to a pack of hand wipes like these from Catch my Party, put a small packet of utensils together and label them Artists Tools, see these by Petite Party Studio on Etsy. Set up a few different areas for Play-doh, painting, coloring, etc. For invitations, there are many available to purchase, like these from Forever your Prints on Etsy, or you could create a cute DIY! Cut out cardstock in the shape of color pallets, add a few paint circles and write the party details on the back! These "paint brushes" from Kara's Party Ideas are so yummy! Just rice krispie treats dipped in frosting! There are so many great ideas that I couldn't list them all so check out my Pinterest board for more!
Ice Cream Party
A great way to save money is to skip the food and just serve dessert! Make sure you start your party in the afternoon so your guests don't expect to be fed. An ice cream party would be a huge hit for kids!
How adorable are these "ice cream" centerpieces! Put fake flowers in bowls and add a straw or paper cherry to the top. I love the idea of using mason jars for toppings and writing the name of it on wooden spoons like these from Ella Jane Crafts on Etsy - 20 for $4. Don't forget the root beer floats! Fill mason jars with pre-scooped, re-frozen vanilla ice cream balls, cute straws like these from BirthdayDirect.com (24 for $4) and put them in a cute drink barrel with ice. I love this idea from byStephanieLynn.com! Just like the root beer float ice cream, these ice cream jars by Catch my Party were also pre-scooped and re-frozen for easy picking! There are many adorable invitations for purchase like these from Day Signs by Day on Etsy, or you could try your hand at a DIY version. Cut out ice cream shapes and a cone and hand write or print your party details. Check out this adorable tutorial by Purdue Avenue! For those yummy (and sticky!) syrups, a great idea to keep them from getting too messy is to pour them into clear squeeze bottles, like these from Amazon - 6 bottles for $10. For more great ice cream party ideas check out my Pinterest Board.
A Color/Pattern Party
Do you love a certain color combination? Are you obsessed with chevron like me? This could be the party idea for you! Pick your favorite and go nuts! For many more color ideas, check out my Pinterest Board.
Once you have your colors and/or patterns in mind, use it for your table settings, foods, desserts and décor. The pink and white chevron party was found on Pizzazzerie. I love the idea of white frames as décor! The polka dot party is so colorful! Check out this garland from 1 Pixie Place on Etsy $3 for one 6 foot strand. The yellow and blue You are my sunshine party is from Kara's Party Ideas. This one just makes me smile. Another adorable party from Kara's Party Ideas is the color combo of aqua and red. I'm obsessed with polka dots (you should see my girls playroom!) and this bucket is just amazing. A classic theme is the black & white, I love this centerpiece of oreo's and simple white flowers.
I hope these gave you some inspiration for your next party! Happy Planning!
A flag banner is a great addition to any type of celebration! It's also an easy DIY project that doesn't cost a lot of $. I made the above for a fiesta themed graduation party we're throwing for my brilliant sister-in-law who just got her PhD!
Use cardstock scrapbook paper in the colors and patterns that match your event. 8x10 is ideal but if you have 12x12, like me, just cut it to size.
Flip your paper over so none of your lines show. On the 8" side of the paper, make a small pencil mark in the very center at 4". Place your ruler edges at the corner of the paper and the pencil mark and draw the lines of your triangle. Cut out as many flags as you want! I cut enough for 3 banners, two of 8 flags each, and one of 12.
For the "CONGRATS" flags, I hand drew the letters in permanent marker and used a hole punch to cut two slits along the top. I used a colored twine and thread it through each of the flags to make three banners. Voila! That's how easy it is!
ADD COLOR! A colorful backdrop will draw people to your table and have them smiling! This gorgeous dessert table from realsimple.com was given extra flare by using tissue fans of varying sizes and colors. Check out these from Craftmusou on Etsy - five 10" pieces for $8. This beautiful ombre paper chain was made by floridianweddings, an inexpensive DIY project and super easy! Cut strips of colored paper of the same size, take the first one and roll it so the two ends meet, attach with tape, staple or glue. Then take the next, wrap it through the first, attach the ends so it makes an enclosed circle, repeat until you reach the length you want!
ADD HEIGHT! Instead of placing all of your platters on one level, try adding height to make your table more interesting. Place a few dishes on pedestal cake stands, like this one on Amazon. To add a third level, you could use overturned crates or decorative boxes and place platters on top of them. I found this set of three wood crates on Amazon for $32. For an inexpensive DIY project, wrap a sturdy box in gift wrapping or scrapbook paper, bonus if it matches your theme!
ADD CUTE NAMES! When you're throwing a themed party there will always be creative names you can attach to your food, you may have to do some serious brainstorming though! Your guests will have so much fun reading them and it really adds a unique touch to a theme that may have been done many times before. The Pirates Gold is a stack of cheddar cheese cubes and Ariel's Dinglehoppers, from Catch my Party, are dessert squares stuck on tiny forks, so cute!
ADD A TABLE RUNNER! You can add to your theme by creating a unique table runner. The faux grass runner is from Project Nursery. I did something similar for Brooklyn's Alice in Wonderland party. I bought 5 grass mats that connect to each other, the great thing about these is you can break them up and use them as place mats. I found them at Heart to Heart - $7.50 for one 10x10 square. The train tracks idea is so easy and takes very little time. On a plain colored table cloth, add electrical tape down the length and then across to create tracks! anTo YYou
ADD TABLE SKIRTING! When you spend so much time and energy making your tabletop perfect, you don't want to leave the bottom bare! For a summer party, especially a luau theme, a grass skirt is a nice touch. This one from Amazon is $16. For a fancy party, a tulle skirt is perfect! They are rather expensive to buy so if you can sew (unlike me!) you could make one yourself, just buy colored tulle. I love this one from BaileyHadaParty on Etsy $67.
I hope these gave you some inspiration for your next party! Happy Planning!