How to host a cute party if you are not crafty or rich - just a few things I learned from Sam's first birthday party.... (and I promise this will be the last time I talk about it!)
1. Skimp on invitations. I really love to design cute post-cards/invitations/etc., and I had big ideas for this party. But, when I settled on a budget, I quickly decide that an Evite was the way to go. It was easy, cute (they even had a couple of designs to choose from in my color scheme), FREE, and people actually RSVP'ed. I think there is a time and place for the paper invitation; but, this was the way to go for this one.
2. Speaking of invitations, keep your guest list small. I learned the hard way back in my wedding planning days, that the best (maybe only) real way to save money and stress on a big event is to cut your guest list. It is definitely one of the hardest things to do, but it makes such a difference. Would I like to have had every single person Sam had met in his first year of life at his party? Sure! But, keeping our invites to just family and close friends eliminated a lot of pressure and added expenses/stress. PLUS, the smaller you make your guest list, the less people get their feelings hurt if they aren't invited. I'm sure we have plenty of parties in our future where we hand-out invitations to every kid in the class, but I'm glad we kept this one more "intimate."
3. Don't be a shopping snob. NOTHING from my party came from Etsy. (I know, can you imagine?!?) Not that I don't love Etsy, but I learned from this party that you can find a lot of these cute "trendy" party items at places like the Target dollar bins, The Dollar Store, and Amazon. Walmart's party section probably impressed me the most. They had TONS of photo-booth accessories, paper products, favors, etc. for REALLY great prices. (The 1st Birthday Banner was $1.50 and the mustaches on a stick were 97 cents for three. You get my drift?)
4. Cut the fat. Err... That's just a cute way of saying that you really don't need to have TONS of food. I decided that giving people the option of hotdogs and hamburgers at a summer cook-out was not a necessity. For Sam's party, we opted to do hotdogs only because, to be frank, they are cheaper (and delicious). They also require less time on the grill and fewer condiments - chili, onion, mustard, ketchup. Shockingly, not one guest complained about the absence of hamburgers. :) I'm sure this concept could apply to lots of different menus (steak and chicken?), but this is the one that mattered to us.
5. Ask for and accept help. This one should be underlined fifteen times for emphasis. I COULD NOT have thrown Sam's birthday party without the help of our friends and family. (Ironically, the same friends and family we invited to the party... You see how that works?) When people asked if they could bring something, I said "yes." In fact, I hardly made any of the food that was served. When people asked if they could make something, I said "yes." That adorable banner? Jeff's mom. The candy bar? All my mom. Sometimes, I even asked for help - like my friend Bekuh and the cute chalk photo frame. It was as easy as that... There was a time in my life (not very long ago) that I would never have accepted help. I would have wanted to do everything myself so that people thought I had it all under control and so that I could take all the credit. But, again, if motherhood has taught me one thing it is not to take myself so seriously. I needed help, and I am lucky enough to have people in my life that are willing to give it. It's a win win.
6. Multi-task with party decorations etc. A LOT of my party-supplies were things I already owned (or swiped from a relative's basement). For example: the highchair, the wheelbarrow, the tent and quilts, the vases, bulletin board, etc. etc. etc. This is the BEST way to go. BUT, if you do decide to make some purchases put them to work for you after the party too. Case in point, you will likely see the same teal and red theme (i.e. paper fans, lanterns, and banner) in my "classroom decoration" post in a few weeks.