I like to hold our kids’ parties at home in our back yard. It allows me the freedom to decorate just about however I want…and within my own time frame. But every once in a while the kids convince me that a party outside the home is better.
Last summer, T decided she wanted to have her 6th birthday party at our local aquatic center. Since I was going to be 8-months pregnant at the time, it seemed that having a party somewhere else was a no-brainer. (Little did I know that our baby boy would be born less than a week later!)
The only problem was that the aquatic center only allowed 2 hours for the entire rental. That’s 2 hours to get set-up, party, and clean up. In addition, we weren’t allowed to attach anything to walls or ceilings. T decided that she wanted a mermaid themed party, which worked perfectly with the location. But because of the limited time, and our mounting medical bills from my pregnancy, I knew that I needed to keep the budget as tight as possible. Talk about a challenge!
The best thing we did to stick to a budget was to find a printables package that could decorate the entire party. T and I spent several hours on Etsy looking at mermaid party printables. It was a bit of a struggle looking for party printables that weren’t too immature or childish. In the end, we found the perfect package from Cupcake Express. It came with everything we needed and more to decorate for the party. But if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I always like to put my own twist on things. T wasn’t in love with the actual invitation design…preferring a different background. After playing around in photoshop for a bit, we modified the included invitation into a design she loved.
For $35, we received a customized invitation, birthday banner, cupcake toppers, welcome sign, water bottle labels, 4-inch party circles, thank you tags, food labels, tent cards, cupcake wrappers, 4 11×8 paper designs, mini candy bar wrappers, thank you cards, hanging Thank You tags, Hershey’s kiss labels, centerpiece cut outs, centerpiece signs, party hats, popcorn boxes, straw flags, and napkin wraps.
Don’t be afraid to use printable images in ways that are different than originally intended. For example, I used the cupcake toppers to label the popcorn boxes and the utensil holders. I especially love packages that include paper designs. We used the sheets to make utensil holders in the days before the party. They added a special touch to each place setting and made setting up the tables a snap.
We kept the food simple and related to the mermaid theme party. T requested a bell pepper octopus; just like the one from her Octonauts party. We also made pasta shell salad, served in individual cups. I made mermaid munch popcorn (recipe coming soon!), and grapes and bananas made to look like dolphins jumping out of waves. Those and a few delivered pizzas were simple and inexpensive.
It’s the small touches that can make a party really pop. We had some natural twine sitting around our house, so I used that to add bows to the favor bags and pasta salad cups. Nautical knots at the end of the twine and tags from the printables package reinforced the mermaid theme.
The biggest way we saved money was by shopping the kids toys for decor. T had no less than 3 mermaid dress-up costumes, so those became table decor. I raided the girls’ jewelry collection for beaded necklaces to toss around the table, and added a couple mermaid dolls to the tables to further reinforce the mermaid theme. Simple, cheap and easy to set up!
Backdrops are usually what take me the longest to set up. With such a limited time to set up, I decided not to use my normal backdrop frame and instead covered a tri-fold foam core board with fabric. I added the printable birthday banner to a burlap banner from the Target dollar spot using mini clothespins. I even added the banner to the tri-fold board before leaving the house (making sure that the folded board didn’t ruin the banner). All I had to do was unfold the board and prop it up behind the food. Another simple and easy set-up trick.
Making your own cake is a great way to save money, and provides another opportunity to get really creative. Many of the guests were surprised to know that this ombre cake came from a box, and that I made my own gelatin bubbles and mermaid tail to decorate it. (Find out how to make that ombre cake here!)
Even though home is my favorite place to hold the kids’ parties, I’m glad we had this experience. I learned a lot about time management and about using what we have instead of always buying new.
What is the shortest set-up you’ve ever done for a party?
How do you save money when planning a birthday party?