And I’m thrilled that I pulled off a nice party with our immediate family, and that Don really enjoyed the party in the end.
How was I able to throw a classy party for 25 people in a beautiful venue for only $500?
You have to do a lot yourself and be lucky to get a venue for free.
Here are my tips for throwing a big party for less:
1. Barter and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I had my eye on The Lodge at the Tilly Foster Farm, which is a pretty venue with a lovely main room, but I couldn’t swing the rental fee plus the costs of food, etc. So luckily I asked! I mentioned the upcoming party to the owner and she let me have the Lodge for free, in exchange for social media consulting. It was a win/win for the both of us.
I asked one sister-in-law to make a cake (she also brought her iPod for free music), the other for appetizers, Grandma to bring her pretty silverware, and my third sister-in law to pick up the catered food.
My girlfriend Heather, a talented florist, made a beautiful floral arrangement as her gift to Don.
2. Order affordable, catered food and pick it up yourself.
We do potluck a lot for family events, everyone usually makes a point to chip in, but for this event I didn’t want anyone to have to cook or do much. I wanted to offer catered food, and it had to be affordable and yummy.
The first place that came to mind was Panera Bread. Don, Landon and I love their food. Sure, I would’ve loved to offer a three-course meal with a warm entree, but that just wasn’t in the budget. So I ordered 20 sandwiches — which came with potato chips, baguette, and pickles — plus mac and cheese, and coffee and tea.
My sister-in-law Ruth usually makes the birthday cakes for everyone, and she was happy to make Don’s favorite: carrot cake.
I had a huge room to work with and had to somehow make it feel comfortable and inviting for 25 people.
Thankfully The Lodge room comes with folding tables, nice chairs, and three little sofas, but that’s it. I had to bring in everything else.
At the party decorating store, I opted for the simple balloons for $1 instead of the once that cost up to $10 each. I bought golden paper plates but we used Grandma’s real silverware. That made for a much easier cleanup, but I was able to offer classy utensils.
Since two babies were going to be at the party, I even brought toys L had outgrown so they’d have something to play with, and after the party I let them take them home.
And I had my own bartender who was thrilled to help out:
Panera Bread (sandwiches, baguette, mac and cheese, coffee/tea): $270
Trader Joe’s food (water, juice, cakes, cookies): $50
Party decor store (plates, cups, party decor, candles, balloons): $50
Kohl’s (5 table linens, I used 30% off coupon): $50
Target: ice bucket, ice, and 6 pillows: $80
My total to host a party for 25 guests: $500
It took a lot of time to organize everything and then to decorate the room, but it was so worth it.
Landon helped me unload the car and we put up the tables together one day, and we made the run to Trader Joe’s, Kohl’s, Target, and Party City together. On the day of the party, I did the rest of the decorating with his help. We finished just in time, I threw on my dress, and we all had a wonderful evening celebrating Don’s big day.
When it took seven people 45 minutes to take down the decoration and pack up, Don got a sense of how much work had gone into making this party happen, but it was a labor of love for me and I’m kind of proud that I did all the decorating by myself.
Look out for a more detailed post about my DIY party decor.
Do you have tips for planning a party on a budget? How much would it have cost you to plan a party for 25 guests?