Friday, December 7, 2012

The Big Girl's Guide to Hosting the Perfect Budget-Friendly Party

The Big Girl Chronicles:  The Big Girl’s Guide to Hosting the Perfect Budget-Friendly Party

Did someone say “party?”  Let the fun begin!  Envisioning what you want your party to be and bringing that vision into fruition can put a fizzle on your fun.  To avoid the pre-party pooper, plan plan and plan again as much in advance as you can to make the process smooth.  You could possibly have just as much fun planning as you anticipate your event will be on that big day! 


Before you decide to make a guest list, it could be helpful to decide what kind of party you want to have.  For example, some of your guests could be hesitant to do an outdoor pool party and would feel more comfortable attending something more elegant and reserved.  Also, deciding upon a theme early will make the selection of invitations, decorations and location easier.

Guest list

With your theme in mind, begin making a list of those most likely to attend that will add to the milieu you hope to create.  Try to avoid personalities that you know will clash unless you have specific plans to mediate between the two.  If there’s a best friend that you know won’t mesh well with what you’re planning, it’s ok to invite him or her to help with some other tasks so as not to have him or her feel as though (s)he is being left out.  It could be a good idea also to take into consideration who of your guests smokes and who doesn’t.


Now that you have a general idea what kind of party you hope to have and about how many people you hope to entertain,  begin budgeting for expenses like invitations, food, decorations, rental fees, music, giveaways or favors, etc.  If you plan far enough ahead, you can minimize these expenses drastically.  There are a variety of software packages available on most computers that have fonts and art appropriate for creating your own personalized invitations.  For those who are gifted in crafts, there are limitless creative possibilities. Research ideas online.  Creative use of simple things like construction paper, string or yarn, newspaper and spray paint can make it appear as though you spent a ton for pennies on the dollar. 

The ambience you create will definitely define the mood of your extravaganza.  Deciding upon a location is essential to creating the right vibe to carry your party from start to finish.  Try to avoid places where there will be constant distractions or bothersome interruptions.  You also want to make sure that your location isn’t too difficult to find if you are expecting guests that aren’t familiar with the area and offers a "Plan B" area in cases of unexpected (and uninvited) weather .  Spaces that offer an open plan could prove easier to work with than having to dash in and out of different rooms.  Be certain to check what is included in your rental fee for the space.  Will you be responsible for chairs and tables?  Or are a certain number of these available to you?  Can you rent additional tables and chairs for a fee with the lease?  Whatever you decide, make certain your space is functional and easy to transform into the vision you hope to create.  In many instances, if you have the space, you can host a fabulous event in your own back yard for an economical alternative to rental spaces.    

If you decide against a live band you can still have live entertainment by having your guests sing for their supper with karaoke instead, which would also add a bit of fun to your festivities, is appropriate for most occasions and rather inexpensive.  Another alternative is to load your mp3 device with music appropriate for your guests and occasion.  Rent a couple of speakers for outdoor occasions or employ your surround sound and you’ve set your event to music.

It’s pretty safe to say that food is the most expensive consideration when hosting a party.  Caterers are pricey, and doing it on your own is both expensive and time consuming.  All the costs you can trim from the other categories can help make this a success.  After all, it will be one of the major points of reflection on your event.  If you have friends and family who are willing to help, take advantage of their kindness.  Buy items in bulk from places like Sam’s Club where you can get large quantities slightly cheaper than grocery store prices.  Consider doing hors d’oeuvres and one featured entrée to cleverly minimize costs.  For that finishing touch, simple desserts like cakes and pies adorned with fresh flowers make a wonderful presentation for little to no added cost. 


When scheduling a date for your party, unless it is in observance of a specific holiday, avoid dates that could conflict with holiday travel and family time.  Being conscious of holidays also lessens the likelihood that whatever space you decide to use won’t be booked for celebrations or family reunions.  Once you have a date in mind, send out an RSVP with a “save-the-date” to get a general idea of how many of your guests will be available.  Include on your RSVP any food allergies your guests might have, whether or not (s)he will bring a guest and a deadline to respond.  If you can afford to do so, include postage to make certain your RSVPs are received in a timely matter.  Or opt to have your guests respond via email.  If you don’t expect the RSVP to be a keepsake, online invitations are a fabulous alternative at no cost to you!

Ready? Set. Party!

Once you’ve confirmed a headcount, you’re ready to put all your hard work into action.  Take time to tally up what you can expect to have to spend per guest for things like favors, food and other costs. It could even be helpful to create a spreadsheet. You’ll want to constantly keep track of spending and minimize overage.  Solicit help from volunteers to get deposits and reservations made.  Decide upon flatware and tableware that add to your chosen theme.  Depending upon how you decorate your tables, you could get away with simple paper plates at your local dollar store or general store.  Other places to find bargains are at stores like Hudson’s, TJMaxx and Marshall’s that offer huge discounts on discontinued items.  If you plan to make your own decorations, how about hosting a mini get together with some volunteers to get them done! 

The day before your event, you’ll want to call and confirm everything.   Accomplish as much decorating as possible.  Check the weather again and have an alternative in mind should there be an unexpected change.  Have someone volunteer to do random video during the event for a nice memento for you and possible gift for your guests.  If you can’t find a volunteer, set up a tripod for your guests to have at it instead.  Get that manicure and pedicure done, along with a hairdo that puts the finishing touches on your look.  Double check your garb. Get a good night’s rest, and wake up refreshed and prepared to tackle those last minute errands like picking up ice and fresh flowers.  If you’ve elected to have a co-host, make certain the two of you are clear on who’s going to be responsible for what, especially clean up.  Accept offers of help after your event to clean up or designate helpers if necessary.  Try to get as much done early in the day as possible so that you have an hour or two to rest up before you expect your guests to begin to arrive.  As soon as the doorbell rings, it’s lights, camera, ACTION!  Your party’s on!  Put your hosting skills into action as only you know how and enjoy the success you’ve made of your event!       

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