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Chapter Five – How to Throw a Party on a Shoestring Budget
These days, it’s not unusual to hear a news report detailing the ﬁnancial struggles that many families are having to endure. If you ﬁnd yourself facing some kind of ﬁnancial hardship just as your child’s Sweet 16 date is approaching, try to avoid eliminating her party in the interest of saving some money.
I’ve stated it earlier, but it bears repeating. A Sweet 16 marks a girl’s transition into womanhood, and even though most Sweet 16 girls are ill equipped to step into the world alone at this point, still it’s vitally important that they begin to learn about how to manage money and how to come up with creative solutions. If a family has been assailed by a ﬁnancial problem, do not allow that problem to take down your spirit and put an end to your party. Just demonstrate for your daughter that you can work around it.
Our family had thrown a big party for our daughter when she became a Bat Mitzvah at age 13. We’d invited all of her friends, all of our son’s friends, all of our friends and neighbors, and all the relatives from both sides of the family. We had a guest list of over 100 people for a sit down dinner with entertainment, a DJ, a photographer, a gorgeous dress and shoes and hair styling, and the whole nine yards.
So for us, it didn’t seem appropriate to do the whole thing all over again only 3 years later when our daughter turned 16. Our daughter seemed to accept this without any fuss and went about her life assuming that there’d be no enormous party to mark her 16th Birthday.
But as the day drew near, I had second thoughts, and I wanted to do something special for her. Because she didn’t know this, I decided to enlist her friends and make the whole thing a surprise for her. On a budget of less than $200, I was able to put together a party for her and 12 of her friends. When the party was over and her guests were leaving, more than one told me that it was one of the best Sweet 16s they’d ever attended. I know that my daughter was over the moon about her party.
On the cheap:
Invitations: Because you are keeping the guest list very short, you may be able to invite your guests over the phone or via e-mail. Be clear with them that you need them to reply, and give them a deadline, the same way that you would if you were sending a formal invitation. You’re going to want to have a ﬁnal head count. If you have to place strict limits on the number of guests, be sure that the teenagers understand that they can’t bring along anyone else unless you’ve decided otherwise.
If you still want to use a paper Invitation, consider purchasing the type that you ﬁll in by hand. These are sold at most stationery stores, pharmacies, and gift shops, usually for about ten dollars for a pack of ten.
Another option can involve turning to your computer. Most kids have some degree of ﬂuency in some kind of graphic design software, or even Microsoft word. Have the Sweet 16 girl put together her own ﬂyer. Just be
sure to proof read it before she prints them, to make sure that the spelling and grammar is correct, and that she’s included all the pertinent information. (Occasion, guest of honor’s name, day, date, time, location with address, dress code [if any], host’s name(s) [optional] and RSVP information.) Many ofﬁce supply box stores sell small quantities of high quality yet affordable decorative papers that can be used on your home printer. Make sure that you clean your printer heads and run a test print on plain bond paper before you do the entire run on the stationery papers.
Decor: A little bit of imagination will take you a very long way. Balloons, streamers, crepe paper, ribbons, construction paper, glitter and glue, are cheap and they can transform the dullest room into something colorful and festive. Visit any popular craft or decor web site and you’ll ﬁnd dozens of ideas for fun and easy crafts to create the party decor. Enlist your daughter and her friends to create the atmosphere for the party. It will get their creative juices ﬂowing and they’ll feel incredibly proud when they view the ﬁnished result before the guests arrive and as the party is going on.
Food: If you’re working with an air tight budget, you might want to make the party a little later in the evening (starting at 8:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. for example) and make it clear to guests that there will not be a sit down meal. For instance, on the invitations you can specify that you’ll be serving hors d’oeuvres or appetizers, soft drinks and cake (rather than coming out and saying that there won’t be a formal sit down dinner). Alternately, you can put together a buffet. You can create a beautiful effect with a disposable table cloth from the 99 cent store, a few little decorations to keep with the party theme, and a bit of crackers and dip, pizza, sandwiches (quartered, so that guests can help themselves to as much as they want, but won’t be tempted to take something huge and then leave over 3/4 of it for the trash) crudite, small spinach pies, wraps and cold cuts, etc. Most teens are very easy to please when it comes to food, and aren’t in search of 5 star restaurant fare.
Use paper cups, plates and napkins to reduce your clean up. Dessert can be as simple as some sliced fruit (again, you can get very festive with the presentation of something as cheap and simple as a watermelon) ice cream, or a home baked cake. Remember that you don’t have to go crazy, and that your guests will be thrilled to see a cake in the ﬁrst place. It doesn’t have to be ﬁve tiers high and created by a master baker.
Activities and Games:
Go on line and run searches on the keywords “party games” and you will come up with dozens of results. Tailor your keywords and choices to the Sweet 16 Girl’s preferences.
An I-pod and a docking station should do the trick. So will a music station on the radio.
Memory Reel: Once again, I’d suggest that you enlist your home computer. If you’d like to present a collection of photos of your daughter from infancy through teenage, you don’t have to break the bank. If you have Microsoft Power Point or Windows Movie Maker, or a host of other computer software with a similar function, then you can put together your own presentation. If you have a scanner or have access to one, you can scan the girl’s baby pictures and class photos. If you have digital video, it can be edited into the presentation too. For my daughter’s Sweet 16, her best friend put together a 10 minute long presentation, with titles and graphics. The girl taught herself the software as she went along, and when she was ﬁnished she burned it on to a DVD that we’ve been able to treasure ever since.
Dedications: If you are having a surprise party for your daughter, she won’t have a chance to prepare dedications. In this situation, I asked my guests to write down a short paragraph about a memory that they had of a good time with the guest of honor. I can’t even begin to describe how effective this was, and what a beautiful moment it made in the party, when each guest stood and shared a story about a memorable event with my daughter, or expressed their love for her. It went so far beyond what any material gift could mean to her. Not only was my daughter overwhelmed by the outpouring of kind words, but her guests were equally as moved. It gave everyone involved the opportunity to really understand how valuable their friendships are, and that was something that all the money in the world could never buy.
Favors: As I mentioned in the previous chapter, the lion’s share of party favors are forgotten by the day following the party. I would not invest a lot of money in favors. You can ﬁll a tiny gift bag with candies, offer them with your good-byes at the end of the night, and most of your guests will be thrilled
If you have a digital camera and a printer in your home, you can take group photos of your daughter with her guests during the party. You can purchase picture frames for as little as $1 per piece. Then, while your guests are busy with an activity, or while they’re eating, you can download your photos, print out the best ones, crop them and slip them into photo frames. Give these as favors and your bound to get a great response. Your average Sweet 16 guest is going to be more focused on the subject of the photo than whether it was taken by a highly trained art school graduate or a parent with a point and shoot camera. Chances are that this type of favor will not be discarded.
If this seems like too much work, you can just purchase the photo frames (nothing bigger than a 5″ x 7″ frame). Before the party, you can make a little graphic on a piece of decorative paper, even if it just says Mary’s Sweet 16, and slip it into the frame. Then your guest can take it home and use it for her own photo.
Next Chapter 6: Alternatives to the Big Party
We offer a unique line of Sweet 16 Party Invitations. We will customize the text specifically for your special occasion. Choose from the designs shown below or you may choose any design from our other collections. The Basic Invitation Package includes personalized invitations and envelopes printed with your return address.
We also offer other Sweet 16 Invitation Packages including personalized invitation, coordinated response card and envelopes. We will personalize and address all envelopes.
You will have the opportunity to view an on line proof before we go to print.
Coordinated reception cards, map details, direction cards, programs, pamphlets and thank you cards are also available. Call toll free 888-286-0365 for further information.
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See sample Sweet 16 Invitation Verses, Wording.
See sample Sweet 16 Thank You Card Verses, Wording.
You may place your order by calling us toll free at 888-286-0365 or by using the order form below.
When you place your order, please have the following information ready. Here’s how you can get the best photograph of your Sweet 16 Girl, so that we can make the best quality print on your invitation.
See our blog post Sweet 16 Series – Part 01
For more than ten years, IPV Studio has been privileged to serve thousands of families preparing for their daughters’ Sweet 16s. Often times when parents called in to order their Sweet 16 Party Invitations with us, they were coping with the stress of planning the party, seeking advice about various aspects of the party, or looking for a sounding …….