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It doesn’t take a million-dollar budget to party like a rock star.  I love to throw parties but my budget is limited.  You can get a fabulous look with a tight budget… it is all about the planning.

You have two options when it comes to party planning if you want it to look like a million bucks:

  • spend a lot of money
  • to spend a lot of time

So, I really have only one option… spend the time.  I try to give myself ample planning time.  That way I can pick a theme and start brainstorming and searching.  The difference between a good party and a really great one that people talk about afterwards for weeks is in the details.  So, I’m going to share how I pay attention to detail and where I go for ideas.

First, pick a theme. Think outside of the box, you don’t have to go with a cartoon character or a commercial theme for birthday parties, pick something that interests you child, like farm animals, monkeys, princesses, fairy tales, sports, you get the idea.  For other parties like bridal showers, baby showers, or just get-togethers or bar-b-ques, you can pick a theme too!  Need help with a theme?  You can get lots of ideas from The Hostess with the Mostess blog.

In the past I’ve hosted several baby showers for friends based on their likes and wishes.  For example, I threw an elegant “whine and cheese” party for a couple’s shower, I threw a baby shower just for the mom based on the child’s name which is “Noah” and went with a Noah’s Ark theme.  I have also thrown a couple’s baby shower for some friends that were having their first girl, but second child, so it was based on a color theme – pink and black and we went with a brunch.  The latest party I threw was for Feast of Tabernacles and we had a Japanese hibachi style dinner, so the decor was contemporary Japanese.

Once you’ve decided on the theme you can start the fun part, finding the decor, deciding on the food, and picking a party favor. To me, a party isn’t complete unless you have a party favor!

I usually start making notes about what I want the party to look like and what I will need to pull off that look.  For example, when I threw my son’s first birthday I decided I wanted a candy buffet.  After searching for pictures online and researching candy and cost, I decided I would use the candy for decoration and for the party favor that way the cost could be justified because one item would serve two purposes.  I bought two huge candy jars from Walmart for super cheap and bought taffy in the colors of my son’s party decorations to fill them with.  I picked up clear favor bags at the Dollar Tree and once the party was over and people began to leave I started bagging candy and tying them off to send home.  Not only did the Taffy look great on the table as a decoration, but I also had a way of getting rid of it so we weren’t stuck with 10 pounds of taffy after everyone was gone!

When planning the decor, think about decorations, balloons, banners, entry ways, table decorations, and paper products.  Some of my favourite places for these things are Etsy, Birthday Express, Plum Party, and Oriental Trading.  First, I look around to see what I can find that fits my theme.  Then, I pick out my favourites to purchase.  I also get ideas from these sites so that I can make my own, or find similar things at other local stores cheaper.

I love to throw parties, so I also have a pretty good supply of items that are great for parties that I can use over and over that I’ve accumulated over time.  Things like large supplies of Canopy white square dinner plates, small white cocktail plates, champagne glasses, wine glasses, black designed salad plates (that also work great for small hors d’oeuvres), white and black serving platters, punch bowls, tiered serving plates, water pitchers, vases, candles, coloured rocks (for decoration), paper lanterns, candy jars, cupcake stands, large ice buckets, table cloths, cloth napkins (I have a big set of black, white, and green), and other various items.  I have bought all these items at Home Goods, World Market, Walmart, The Dollar Tree, Ikea, and Target.  So, I was able to get them at a low price, but they all make big statements- especially when used together!   By giving myself lots of planning time, I can also find out if friends and family members have other various items that I can borrow for parties to keep me from having to purchase everything, especially items that I can’t reuse later.

To save money, I do all the food myself.  When planning your food you have a couple of options, you can plan a meal, or you can plan the party in an off time, like midday or late in the evening and plan hors d’oeuvres.  I’ve done both and it really depends on what the party is for, how many people you’re inviting, if you have space for a sit-down meal or if you want people to mingle with small bites, etc.  Of course, small bites are cheaper than a full meal, and you can impress people all the same.  Planning a sit-down meal also requires you have enough tables and chairs and service for as many people you invite so you’ll need to consider these things when planning your guest list.  Take your guest list and space into consideration when determining what time of food you will plan. If you don’t really have enough seating for everyone then you should plan food that doesn’t require a fork so that guests can mingle around holding only a small plate (or no plate) and a glass.

Last, I go on a hunt for a party favour.  Cheap, plastic toys can end up costing you an arm and a leg, and premade party favour boxes that you purchase will cost you even more.  Party favours don’t have to cost a lot and can still be something really special.  Candy is a great choice, especially big lollipops tied up with party favour tags.  I have made purchases from candy.com and candy warehouse and both have huge tons of choices and you can search by colour.  I’ve bought tags from several folks on Etsy and I’ve also purchased PDF files, so I can print them myself (as many as I need) and save myself some money.  The PDF file can be used as favour tags, cupcake toppers, and even as parts of the invitations! I bought a monkey party favour tag for my son’s first birthday and I was able to print and cut out just the monkey face to add as a 3-D pop out on the invitation.  I’ve bought stickers, tags, and PDF files from Ciao Bambino, Posh Pixels, & Little Beane Boutique and I’ve been more than happy with them all!

I’ve also made cake pops (as seen on Bakerella’s site) for favours, bags of homemade sugar cookies, I’ve given bath sponges, small bottles of wine with wine stoppers, Hershey kisses with theme labels from Posh Pixels and other things.  The main thing when deciding what to give is to think about the theme and the recipients.  Find something that fits the theme and is age-appropriate for the receiver.  I am throwing my son a farm party for his second birthday and I’m thinking some homemade crayons in the shape of cows will be super cute.