Cutting costs by making gifts and decorations has helped me save a lot of money and headaches.
You Have to Plan a Party? Now What?
So, you have been given the job of planning a party, and no one wants to help. Can you make the best party ever without drowning in debt and losing your mind over the details?
Yes, you can!
Here is how to get started on making the best party ever without losing sleep, a lot of money, or prestige. Watch out, though, because you are going to do so well that people will always want you to plan their parties.
The first thing you need to do, once your head stops spinning, is to think of a theme for the party. Will it be an adult party or a child's party? What occasion is it for? What should be the color scheme? Will it be a large party or relatively small? Where will the party be held? What time will the party be held (remember certain times will require food)?
These are the questions you should ask yourself before you begin. Find or create your answers, write them down, and you are already on your way. While you are writing, make a list of things to be done and cross them off as you finish them.
I know we all like to send out fancy invitations that wow the receiver and tell everyone the theme up front, but that isn't really a necessity anymore because of the internet. Take your list of people who will hopefully attend and send them an invitation online. You can make the invitation up in just a few minutes and even put a picture on it from any source. Tell them the theme, give them an email address to send their RSVP, and you are done. Of course, you will have to check to see who has responded, but you already check your email now, right?
You can also make invitations on your computer and print them out or by hand using crayons or colored pencils. When they are done, you can send them or have the kids deliver them. And if you really want to be creative, decorate the envelopes too.
Decorations can be made from virtually anything. You can print out pictures that you can put up. You can cut out letters, shapes, designs, or characters from the internet. Also, you can get crepe paper and balloons at a dollar store or even sometimes in second-hand stores. Ribbons of theme colors, especially the curly kind, can be used to decorate, making a chair, light fixture, or table look festive. And don't worry about leftover decorations; store them for the next party. I save mine in a plastic tote with all kinds of decorations that I have accumulated through the years. If you have leftovers from another party, don't be afraid to change the new theme to match what you have.
Use the balloons by blowing them up by hand (who needs a tank of helium), and then use a push pin to secure the tip of the balloon to your ceiling or walls. You can also tie a ribbon on the balloon and drape it down for more color. See games for ideas on using the balloons later on.
Food is a matter of choice, but I found it is easier to have a party during the mid-morning or mid-afternoon hours so I don't have to make a lot of food. Just have chips, crackers, cheese, or something similar for them to munch on while they play the games. And remember, if it is a kids' party, the parents will munch as well.
For drinks, you can put juice and seltzer soda in a big bowl with ice made from the juice or some fruit to be "fancy." Have an older child or a parent ladle the drink into cups for the kids. Mark each cup with the child's name so they can reuse it. You can also have juice boxes that have been put in a bucket or tote with ice. Make it really challenging and have the kids dig in the ice for their drink instead of having them right on top. (Make sure they know they can change the flavor if they don't like it.) Or you can have a big container of something for everyone, like iced tea or iced coffee.
For the kids: You can get several packs of small toys at the store to use as prizes. With ten or fifteen in each package, they will go a long way. I would give the winner a different prize for each game and make sure there were consolation prizes for those who didn't win. Also, you can make things like tissue flowers or a small jar filled with candy, so there are unique prizes for the more difficult games. Try to make sure everyone gets something, though, so there are no hard feelings. You could give everyone a sticker for playing or something like that.
For the adults: playing silly games is usually all they need, but you can get small silly things like a giant paper clip or a box of tattoos as prizes. If you want to get larger or more significant prizes, you can, but it will make the party cost more. I generally give small gag gifts for the prizes unless I can afford big prizes, which isn't often.
While it is easy to get the kids to sit for cake and ice cream, it is the before that time that it gets complicated. So here are a few tips for making the party fun for everyone, including the party's main attendee. Most of these can be altered slightly to make even an adult party fun and exciting.
- Have the decorations ready and make that part of the fun. Each guest gets a balloon and ribbon or something, and the first one to get their decorations up gets a prize.
- Buy a package of paper lunch bags and a bunch of small crayons from a dollar store (if you have kids, you already have a bunch in a box somewhere, so break them out). Let the kids decorate the bags how they want and then use them to store their grab bags and prizes.
- Pin the tail on just about anything. I once made a strawberry on a large piece of a display board and made 'seeds' for the kids to pin on. This meant they all got a prize making it a popular game.
- Get a large bucket or wide-mouth jar. Place it just behind a chair and have the kids drop clothespins into it from the chair. Give each one a set of five clothespins. The one who gets all of them in the jar wins a prize. The larger the mouth of the jar, the easier this game will be for them. Paint the clothespins and the jar if you like, or you can wrap the jar in ribbons.
- Place small pieces of paper with something silly written on them into each balloon before it is blown up. Have the children choose a balloon or two to pop. Have them sit on the balloons to pop them. As they pop the balloons, they have to do the silly thing written down. It can be something like: turn five times and walk straight, put a ribbon on as a necklace, bark like a dog, or anything else you can think of that would be entertaining.
More Game Ideas
- Create a treasure hunt for the kids. Have a starting point with a clue for the next location of the treasure. The kids can use their goody bags to collect the prizes. Make sure there are enough small prizes for each of them. The hunt can be a quick riddle they have to solve to get to the next treasure. It can be complicated or simple, depending on the age of the children. And don't be afraid of using things like closets and the fridge for hiding places. I also found that if I engaged parents at a kids' party to put a new set of prizes down once the kids have found one, the kids have another treasure to find.
- Put everyone's name in a bowl or hat and then have someone draw them out one by one. As each name is pulled, you can have them do something silly or give them a prize, with each prize getting larger and larger. Or have the kids team up and play elimination checkers or bingo for prizes.
- Give the kids stickers (you can get them just about anywhere, and they don't cost much, depending on what you get). The stickers can be used on paper, their goody bags, foam pieces, paper cups, or the bottom of the paper plate they want to use for their piece of cake.
- Make water balloons to be carried by a spoon to a box on the other side of a yard or room by teams. Be sure to cover the floor first to protect it from accidents.
Parties cost money, no matter how you look at it. You can cut corners as detailed here, but even they cost something in the long run. To offset the costs, try these tips:
- Ask attendees to each bring a dish of something if you plan to serve food.
- Ask attendees to donate prizes (often helps them to get rid of things they don't use, like perfume or trinkets).
- Ask for decoration donations. They can donate leftover decorations from parties they have hosted. They can even donate leftover plates and cups. Or something new if they want.
- Ask for help putting up the decorations, or make that the first game (see more game ideas.
- Ask for everyone to bring a bag of chips or some drinks.
- Make sure you everyone ahead of time if you do not want alcohol at the party.
When the party is over and the clean-up must begin, ask parents and attendees to help with the mess. Most will, and they will have fun doing it. Make sure there are plenty of plastic bags for the trash, and be prepared to wash some dishes even if you did use paper plates and plastic cups. This is a great time to start the balloon popping game. The next time you are asked to host a party, everyone will know that it will be the best party ever!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Cheryl Simonds
I would love to hear from you!
Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on March 23, 2019:
Pamela, thank you for dropping in, I appreciate the compliment. I hope your next party is easy and great, Cheryl.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 23, 2019:
You have many excellent suggestions for planning a party that will simplify your work. I haven't had to do that for a while but when the holidays or birthdays come, then I do my best. Thank goodness my family is good to help when it comes to food. Thanks for your suggestions.