When you’re a mom, you don’t have much time or money to put into a party. Yet like any good hostess, you want to do something special for your guests and, especially, your guest of honor.
Here are 5 easy party decoration ideas I picked up from planning my daughter’s “Red, White, and Two” party.
Whether you’re throwing a Labor Day lollapalooza, a Halloween hoedown, a birthday bonanza, or an anniversary affair, hopefully there’s a tip in here that will help you pull it off with less stress and more ooohs and ahhhs.
1. Never underestimate the power of a dollar store.
One such store moved into the neighborhood two weeks before my party, and I popped in on a whim, more to check out the latest addition to the block. I was impressed by how pristine and well organized it was as well as the variety of inventory: napkins, plates, plastic silverware, cups, balloons, favors, gift bags, ribbons, wrapping papers, vases, tablecloths, serving platters, and the list goes on. You’d pay much more for all this at your typical party store (and I have). But there’s no reason you can’t have style on a budget. And, come on, you’re just going to throw most of this stuff away anyway, right?
Although they do have smaller packs of the themed napkins, cups, and such, you can get more for your money (from a wider selection) if you shop seasonally. For instance, since my daughter’s birthday was July 3, I picked up 4th-of-July themed tableware, adding pops of aqua and leaving out the flags to make it more childlike and unique. If you know you want a pastel party, grab stuff before Easter. If you want a fire fighter party, grab red stuff around Christmas. You get the idea.
2. You don’t need to sew to make charming handmade decorations.
All you need is some ribbon (again: dollar store), a couple of push pins, and a stapler. I measured some thin ribbon for the length I needed and laid it out on my kitchen table, centering it for equidistant application of the “flags.” Then I cut equal lengths of a couple different patterns of wide ribbon, and stapled them to the hanging ribbon. Easy as that, and so cute, don’t you think?
You don’t even need a ruler. For the thin wall- or entry-spanning ribbons, just fold the length in half (or half and then half again for fourths), and cut. For the small flags, I quickly figured out all my wide ribbon spools were 108″. By folding in half, half, half again, etc., I ended up with 16 equal flags of 6.75″. Perfect! And since I was using wire ribbon, the folding created a line for me to cut by. So easy!
3. Get the kids involved.
My daughter was intrigued by my work on the flag banner and wanted to help. I gave her several pieces of construction paper in the color theme of the party and let her go to town with stickers, crayons, and markers (all of the same color theme, of course). She loved “helping” and having something fun to do to boot.
When she finished, I used the decorated paper to make the letters of her name into a sign and then hung that via yarn, reusable 3M hooks, and clothes pins. (I’m particularly fond of the mini clothes pins, which you can get at craft stores and online.) We left our “art clothes line” up and will continue to use it to show off my daughter’s art … which is of course sure to be worth something someday.
This idea also works well for a shower game. For my sister’s baby shower, I cut out paper onesies and had the guests decorate them. The winner, as chosen by the momma-to-be, received a gift. Plus, the game had the extra benefit of providing decorations for our party … that we didn’t even have to make! My sister then used them as a personalized art piece in the nursery. Love love love.
4. Have a signature drink.
This is commonly done at weddings, but it’s a fun and easy way to do something special for your guests. The key here is to pick something that’s unique, but not labor intensive. I did Pimm’s cups at Szaba’s first birthday, and they were perfect. This year I tried watermelon mojitos, and I wish I would’ve made a pitcher instead of trying to mix them individually. Once guests started arriving and the craziness of BBQing, present opening, and cake presentation ensued, only a handful of guests got a mojito before my attention was diverted elsewhere.
Choose a drink with a flair or color specific to your theme, but make sure it has a dash of the unusual to make it memorable. Like I said, I chose watermelon mojitos for my summery red theme. You could give margaritas a Christmas tinge with both strawberry and Midori-spiked options. Decorative ice cubes add a touch of whimsy, too. I saw a star ice cube tray at the dollar store, and you could use that for anything from birthday and patriotic parties to Christmas, New Year’s, a graduation, or even the Oscars.
5. Flowers for the party … but really for you.
Sure, this isn’t really fair to include because I live in Seattle, where we’re fortunate to have an amazing flower selection for cheap at Pike Street Market. But I really feel like flowers are the perfect finishing touch. Plus I selfishly love taking a break from the party planning chaos to arrange them, AND I get to enjoy them after. This tip is isn’t just for your guest and your guest of honor. It’s also for you. And after all that work, you deserve it!
Coordinate the colors of your flowers and your vase, too. Or use a clear vase and add a bit of ribbon. I like to divide up one big bouquet, making one center arrangement and several little arrangements to scatter throughout the party space, thus creating a subtle thread of the theme from room to room. It’s especially nice to have a little something at your entry way and in unexpected (though trafficked) spots, like the kitchen and bathroom.
Have your own ideas? Please share them! I’m always on the lookout for great ideas to file away for next year.