- Things always take longer than you think. Give yourself plenty of time.
- Try and have an empty house a few hours before, especially if you have little ones.
- Feed your family with takeout or a freezer meal. Put it in your meal plan the week before, and you won't have to think about it.
- Take a shower early.
- Your sanity and genuine welcoming spirit are more important to your guests than everything being done exactly the way you planned. No centerpiece is worth being harried.
- Have an empty dishwasher and soapy sink before the party starts.
- When the party is over, CLEAN UP THE DISHES BEFORE YOU GO TO BED. The furniture can wait until tomorrow if you want (even though doing it all now is best), but the food and dishes? No way. Don't you dare wake up to a dirty kitchen unless someone is going to clean it for you. Then by all means sleep in and get a massage.
The guest bathroom. The framed photos on your wall. Your clock. Closed doors. The coat rack.
Look at your home with fresh eyes, and imagine ways to incorporate your theme in areas that would normally get overlooked.
This large canvas print has moved with us to three different homes, and while I do like it, I almost don't see it anymore.
But when I played pretend in my living room, I saw it new. Can you guess what I'm going to do for the Wizard of Oz party? Of course. With some yellow paper, that sucker's turning into a yellow brick road.
You can't go too far with your theme or with creating a fun experience for your people. Look again at what you don't usually see, and discover something new. Your party will be even more awesome because of it.
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?
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.
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]