Wednesday, October 19, 2011

31 days || nineteen: party on a budget.

1. Lights. Lighting is everything. Turn off the florescent overhead lights. Light candles. String Christmas lights indoors. Host your party outside and utilize outdoor lighting. The entire look of your venue and event changes the moment you change the lighting. It's an inexpensive way to make a big difference. (We use our outdoor lights from Target every time we host a party; they were inexpensive to begin with, but now they've become an investment.)

2. Balloons. You can buy cheap balloons at Walmart or your local dollar store, and thanks to blogs and Pinterest, there are plenty of ways to use balloons without having to purchase helium. Hang them upside down from streamers; create a balloon chandelier; tie them to ceiling corners. Balloons scream party to me. (Here's my current favorite way to hang balloons at a party.)
3. Streamers. I've read enough blogs to know that there are all kinds of fun things you can do with streamers: homemade pinatas, photo backdrops, tassels, fringe. The truth is, though, the KISS method is as true in party planning as it is in life: Keep it simple. Hang streamers like your mom used to do at your childhood birthday parties. Just like balloons, they instantly scream "party." You don't have to reinvent the wheel to have some pretty stellar decorations.

4. Photobooth. You may be sick of photobooths and props on sticks -- they seem to be everywhere in the blogging and online craft world -- but your friends probably aren't. We forget sometimes that our friends and neighbors don't see what we see online every day. What's overdone on Pinterest may not be overdone at all in "real life." Besides, photobooths are just plain fun, no matter the age of your guests. My aunt and uncle made theirs out of PVC pipe and black sheets (and streamers, of course). We set up my Macbook to take pictures, and the results were hysterical. If building a photobooth isn't for you, that's fine. Maybe set up a corner with a quilt or sheets or streamers just to give people a place to take goofy pictures. Provide disposable cameras if you want. Easy entertainment for your guests, and memories for you later.
5. Music. You've already heard how I feel about music and celebration. Music sets the tone for your entire event, whether it's a loud, upbeat dance party, or a quiet night of dinner and charades. (Do people play charades anymore? I may just be remembering a scene from When Harry Met Sally, but you get the idea.) Set your iPod up through a speaker system, and make sure you've got a playlist that will last the length of your get-together. You may even introduce your guests to artists they've never heard. Music can start conversations and can pick up the slack when conversation seems to fade. 

6. Details. All these awesome parties we see online have one major common denominator: They're all concerned with the details. The pictures we see on blogs and Pinterest don't show the entire party; we never know how the whole event occurred, and we never even really see the entire venue. Instead, we get glimpses of what the guests saw: colorful sodas and straws set out on tables, balloons and flower arrangements. Pay attention to a few details, and go all out. Chances are you can't do everything you want to, especially on a budget, but you probably can execute a couple of ideas really well.
7. Venue. Think outside the box. Know a friend with a really great yard? Ask if they'd be willing to co-host an outdoor movie night. That dump of a clubhouse located in your apartment complex? You can probably throw a pretty great party there. Your outdoor patio? The park across the street? Free options for a good party. Sure, you could rent a conference room or a banquet room in a local restaurant. But those places are going to be a little pricey. Give your home -- and the homes of your friends and family -- some credit. They're probably prime locations for gatherings of all kinds.

8. Common sense. Don't let blogging and Pinterest keep you from planning parties. So many of us spend most of our time thinking about these grand ideas, but we never help them come to fruition. We're paralyzed instead of inspired. Occasionally, get off the computer and think practically. Use those ideas you've bookmarked online, but understand: You're not Amy Atlas. You're not Martha Stewart. You're you and you're busy and you have a life. And that's okay.

9. Budget. The best way to party on a budget is to actually create a budget. Know what you want to spend, and promise yourself you won't surpass that amount. Remember, stick to a couple of ideas or details that you want to execute really well; some other things may have to go by the wayside. If you want your party to be all about the food, that's where most of your money should go. But if you'd rather the focus be on the atmosphere, finger foods made by friends or appetizers from Publix could certainly suffice. Choose how you want to spend your money, and do it long before you're standing in line at Party City. (Note: Think outside regular party stores. Try Target, Walmart, and a dollar general store. This past weekend, I wound up randomly trying Hobby Lobby for fun straws thanks to the recommendation of a friend. They were half the price they had been at Party City. Shop around if you have the time. You never know what you'll find in the oddest of places.)

10. Friends. Have friends or family who you know can help you execute your vision. Have friends or family who are so on board with your idea, they'll not only help you execute that idea, they'll be your cheerleaders and your best guests the actual day of the party. I always invite a couple of friends who I know will appreciate the work and effort a party takes, friends who will help conversation flow, who will get the dancing or the games or the food started. You can't throw a great party by yourself. You need people who value celebration, who have fun and let loose, those friends who immediately help everyone else feel at ease, friends who make others comfortable in celebration.


What are your tips for throwing a great party on a small budget? 


Huckleberry Creative said...

These photos look like such fun! I like your advice... Pay attention to the details. So true!

melissa said...

Finger foods are always great to have a party! Having your friends pitch it little snacks helps out and keeps up the variety! I love being asked to bring food to party because it helps me stay creative and feel like I'm helping out :]

Great party tips!
Definitely a huge fan of turning down and lights and using lanterns and such! I almost never have the overhead lights on.

Annie said...

I love these ideas for throwing parties! I'm definitely going to have to use the advice you give here next time I'm planning a get-together.