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.
TIP #1 Start planning and collecting early!
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.
TIP #2 Do it Yourself!
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!
TIP #3 List out your plans
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!
TIP #4 Change the time of your 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!
Tip #5 Remember why you're celebrating!
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!