Day 23 :: How to save money on a party.

Since you probably aren't going to spend six figures on your party and have Wolfgang Puck cater like Tom and Katie did for Suri's second birthday (SECOND. BIRTHDAY.), you'll need some normal-person money-saving tips. 

Easy Ways to Save Money on a Party

  • The most expensive thing is alcohol by a mile. Are your friends drinkers? You could skip it altogether. Or rather than having a little bar set up, have an alcoholic punch. There are so many variations, so there's bound to be something out there that fits your theme and your wallet.
  • The Nester has taught us for years to shop the house. (Here's a perfect example where she does it to furnish an entire bedroom.) You'll save more than you can imagine by using what you already have. 

I bought two of these metal hot air balloons at a thrift store a couple of years ago, hoping to paint and hang them in the playroom I have yet to create. Since they're in the garage collecting spider webs, why not use them for my Wizard of Oz party! Hot air balloons are an icon of the movie anyway, so I have a mostly free statement decoration that only needs a $0.69 bottle of acrylic paint and twenty minutes.

  • The best money-saving question in party land - can I make that? Sometimes the answer is no - to the costume, the cake, the Jack Shepherd wax figure - but more times than you think, the answer is yes. We live in the land of Google, y'all. Just Google it. How do I make a garland? Google it. How can I decorate for a Downton Abbey party? Google it. What's the best spinach dip recipe? I've already Googled and made it. And it is indeed the best. Ask before you buy. Every time.
  •  Remember that you pay for convenience. A bag of lettuce costs $3.99. A head of lettuce costs $1.79. There's nothing wrong with paying for the work to be done, but it might not always be worth it. Think first because you buy anything that's "ready to go."
  • Email invitations. Evites are totally fine, but I like doing things a little more personally. The problem? Printed invitations and stamps can cost $40 in a heartbeat. While that's not crazy or wrong, when I'm working with a limited budget, every dollar matters. My solution? I design an invitation using Illustrator and then email the PDF to my friends. That way it's personal, doesn't require clicking anything, but costs just my time. Don't know how to use Illustrator? Support someone who does and order a downloadable custom-made invitation from one of the hundreds of creatives on Etsy. They cost $10-15 and get a more personalized result at a lower cost.
  • Don't go overboard. Tom and Katie can (well, DO), but your friends don't need an expensive party to have fun. There's a good chance they'll feel more comfortable at a homemade party than a fancy one. Don't get me wrong; there's a time and a place for fancy. But if that place isn't your party, don't feel badly. No one measures you the way you do. So let's all stop and just have fun. 

Are there any money saving party tips you like to use?

Day 22 :: There's no I in team. Or in party.

Please forthelove do not try and throw an epic party by yourself. It's a TERRIBLE idea.

Instead, recruit people you know who have something to offer. My friend Megan can make beautiful decorations out of anything (that's her Instagram account up there). My friend Melissa can style a table (or an entire event!) like a rock star. Sara takes beautiful photos. My sister Hannah (who I do a podcast with) can make a playlist that would rival T Bone Burnett's. 

Creativity is always better with others. Let people make their art alongside you.

Day 21 :: What to remember when making your guest list.

This is one of the best and simultaneously worst things about throwing a party. You're excited to celebrate something with friends, but you can't possibly invite everybody to every party.

Did you guys also have a List A and List B when you made your wedding guest list? THE WORST. If anyone ever found that paper, I'd bury myself in a hole with my Benedict Cumberbatch poster and die.

(I'm not kidding by the way. Here's my poster.)

He keeps me smart, y'all. I go and get a new book from the bookshelf ALL THE TIME.

While being buried in a hole with Benedict Cumberbatch I mean a poster of him is actually not ideal (right? convince me, please), it is possible to navigate the guest list without a steady stream of awkward.

Things to Remember When Making Your Guest List

1. Everyone should have someone there that they know.
If you think your party is the place for that one friend to get to know the rest of your friends, think again. Forced socialization is the WORST. Instead, save the meet-and-greet for a lunch out one weekend with a smaller group so your one friend isn't socially bombarded. Or invite her to bring someone with her so that she has a person to talk to if things go south.

2. Everyone should be in the party spirit.
No hecklers, people. If you're throwing a Harry Potter gala, but your friend's boyfriend makes fun of anything that doesn't involve football, consider leaving her (and therefore him) off the list. Sounds harsh, but remember your most important job? Heckler boyfriend will not make your friends feel comfortable, especially when they get excited about making their own wands.

3. You don't have to invite everyone you know to everything you throw.
Some parties are better small. Sometimes group dynamics play a big part in whatever agenda you have planned. You're still a good friend to someone even if this particular party or guest list doesn't include them. It really is going to be okay.

Don't let the guest list keep you from throwing the party. Be thoughtful and considerate, and then move on. 

[goes back into hole with Benedict Cumberbatch I CAN'T STOP]

Day 20 :: Set your perspective.

It's been all hands on the party deck the last couple of weeks, and we need a zen moment. 

Our heads get swirly with the planning, the ideas, the expectations, and before long, we start to hype up the party more than the people there. 

Worse, we might start to think of ourselves as way better ("I'm sooooo awesome because this party is sooooo awesome!") or way worse ("I suck at planning parties, and everyone will hate it and me.") than we actually are. Here's a little Monday morning truth to go with your pastry and coffee.

This party isn't about you.

This party won't define you. 

This party won't make people like you more. 

Feel better? Yeah, that was the wompy side of the coin. Here's the other. 

This party is about having fun, not about proving that you are fun.

This party will make your friends feel loved, even if the thing flops.

This party will feed your soul in some really cool ways. 

My truth? I'm a fangirl. I throw fangirl parties. And if I get down on myself, parties like mine can feel silly. On a Monday morning, you might feel the same. But you guys? Parties are important. Celebrating is important. Giving your friends a place to come and feel lighthearted is important. 

Relax and remember, my sweet friends. It's just a party but it also matters, so show yourself some grace and have fun.


Day 19 :: You don't have to be the boss of dancing.

We make the mistake of thinking we need to entertain our people constantly. Always have something going on, always be on, run the party ship from the front of the room like we're Johnny Carson. 

Indirect vs. Direct Entertainment

If you cruise-direct your party and continually offer up the next thing and push people into something (even with the sweetest voice and intention), your party will bum you and your people out.

But if you have a big theme party, invite people in, and then do nothing but sit around, it'll be fine, but it probably won't be memorable.

You need both. You need indirect entertainment where you aren't involved - activities at seating areas, voting for something on your own time, a relevant game or movie or even home movie (!) on the TV - and direct entertainment where you have everyone's attention, i.e. games that don't suck.

Being intentional about both kinds will keep your party alive and moving and keep your people smiling... without having to be the boss of dancing.