You don’t have to hock the farm to host your next party. Follow these tips to throw a budget-friendly bash.
By Abigail Boatwright
Gathering with friends and family is good for the heart and soul, but throwing a party can be hard on the wallet. If you’d rather spend your hard-earned cash on tack or a new blanket for your horse but still want to socialize with your people, we’ve got some ideas. You can host a memorable get-together without breaking the bank—here’s how.
Select a Site
Your first step is to pick a place to have your party. If it’s nice outside, an outdoor shindig can be fun. You don’t necessarily have to rent a party venue—lots of options for free locations are available. Think about hosting your get-together in a barn parking lot, nearby park (make sure to check park regulations before throwing a party), your backyard or a clutter-free carport—anywhere with plenty of space to socialize and close proximity to a restroom. If you choose an outdoor location, consider a backup plan under cover in case the weather refuses to cooperate.
Make sure seating options and tables are laid out in a way that encourages mingling and comfortable conversation. Hay bales covered with blankets are a cheap and easy way to supplement chairs. You can add ambience with white Christmas lights strung around your party area.
Weather aside, you can also gather inside a house. If you’re worried about space, consider temporarily moving furniture to other parts of the house or garage.
Build Your Guest List
Next, determine how many people you can host. Your head count is the single biggest indicator of how much money you’ll need to spend on your party, so take a minute to decide what kind of get-together you’re envisioning. A small gathering of two couples? Twenty family members? A bash with 50-plus friends? If your venue can only hold 16 people, you’re going to be disappointed trying to fit 30 in the space. Keep in mind, not everyone you invite will be able to attend, but you’ll want to plan around your estimated guest list.
Determine a Time
The time of your gathering is based on a number of factors. If you’re throwing a baby shower for example, but want to keep costs down, avoid scheduling the event during a meal. Planning a 2 p.m. party means light appetizers, whereas a noon or 1 p.m. party usually needs a real meal, which ups the cost. If you want to serve a meal that’s easy on your budget, consider a brunch time slot; breakfast meals are often less expensive than a full lunch or dinner.
Also determine if you want to have an end time. If you have no end planned, you might need to factor in additional food, drinks or activities for the extended social time.
Pick a Theme
Here’s where party planning gets fun! Particularly for showers and birthday parties, themes are a great way to make your event memorable and a key step in sticking to a budget. You can throw a unicorn-themed kid’s party, a Western barbecue, a horse-themed baby shower, a wine-and-cheese engagement party—the possibilities are endless. If you’re not sure how to incorporate your theme, a quick search on Pinterest will send you down the rabbit holeand offer lots of inspiration.
Thea Larsen of the western lifestyle blog The Cowgirl Diaries says décor is the most important part of your event, but that doesn’t mean it’s the most expensive element.
“I feel like great decor really sets the tone for the event and doesn’t have to break the bank,” Thea said. “It’s easy to find DIY projects to fit your theme on Pinterest, or exercise your Amazon Prime muscles and have pieces delivered to your door step.”
Having a theme allows you to focus your party’s décor, food and activities. That being said, you can easily go overboard on a theme and spend way too much money. Everything doesn’t need to be custom-made, and it doesn’t have to be perfectly matched from a party store. The essentials that make a theme stand out are your invitation, décor and food. Décor makes the most visual impact, so select a couple of items that really emphasize your theme and make the most of them. Coordinate with solid–colored disposable plates, cups, napkinsand so on, rather than expensive matching paper products.
You can even incorporate costumes or a dress code if you think your guests will play along. Why not host a “Roaring 20s” party or a color-themed gathering?
Use What You Have
This is the best way to cut down on costs while making sure your party is visually pleasing. Take a look around your house and consider what items you could use to decorate yourparty. If you’re having a party in the fall, incorporate autumn-themed garlands, wreaths and other items you already own into the event’s décor. For a cowboy-themed birthday party, pull out some of your boots and add fake flowers for centerpieces; you can even surround them with ropes from your tack room. You’d be surprised at how easily you can incorporate Western items into party decorations. Get creative!
Streamers and garland make a big visual impact at minimal cost. Buy crepe streamers at dollar stores or, if you’re a little bit crafty, make your own banners, garland and decorations.
Costco and other discount grocery stores carry flowers at a lower prices. You can create beautiful décor with vases or containers from home and a few bunches of flowers; look up YouTube tutorials for arranging flowers if you’re not adept.
Pull out your serving dishes. Do you have anything that can be elevated, or served at varying heights? Multi-tier serving dishes add visual interest to a buffet; even a cake stand can be used to display your food. You can purchase reusable serving trays, punch bowls and decorative plates, which incur an upfront cost but you can use them year after year. Often these items can be found on Craigslist or Facebook Market for a fraction of their original cost. Or, ask around and borrow pieces from friends or family.
You can purchase paper plates, plastic silverware and disposable cups in colors that match your theme and save any unused items to incorporate at another party.
If you’re hosting a sit-down meal, you can mix-and-match your plates, chargers, napkins and cups if you don’t have enough of one kind. Just make sure you alternate your place settings so it looks intentional instead of haphazard.
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2018 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.