5 Tips for Party Planning on a Dime

Today I want to share some pictures and tips from the party I threw for my parents and in-laws on the year of their 30th Anniversary(s). It was a small party for just the four of them. We (my husband, siblings and I), sent them out for the day and told them when they could arrive for dinner. Everything was set up after they left and my brother Silas and I did the cooking as well. This is definitely the most fun and beautiful party I've done to date! With young kids at home I haven't had the opportunity to do to much of this lately, although writing this is inspiring me to plan something for this fall. But now on to the money saving tips! Choosing a party venue | Erin Beutel Photography

1. Choose the right venue

For this party we chose to use the back deck off my parents house because it was small - 12'x12'. When choosing your location, don't go any bigger than you need to for the amount of guests you'll have. It's much easier to fill up a small space with decorations when you're on a budget. Also, in a big space with high ceilings, even large decorations can get lost very quickly. I helped decorate an event in a school gym last year and let me tell you, it was hard to get decorations that were visible in that space!

Setting the mood | Erin Beutel Photography

2. Create your ambiance

Set the mood for your party. If you don't have a theme, pick a few words that you want to convey with the atmosphere. My inspiration was the fantastic tents of Arabian fairy tales. Opulent, lush, and intimate were my words. I wanted our guests to feel like they had been transported to a sultan's tent draped in the colors of the rarest jewels, where a feast had been prepared just for them. Define what you want your guests to feel and that will give you focus for choosing your decor.

Adding ambiance to a party | Erin Beutel PhotographyRich jewel tones give the feeling of luxury.

Creating ambiance | Erin Beutel Photography

More rich colors and lush plants mixed with silver and mirrors bring in a feeling of intimate opulence.

Repurposing | Erin Beutel Photography

3. Repurpose

This is my favorite part of decorating for any party! Since we could only afford to buy the ingredients for our dinner, everything else had to be assembled from things we could find at my house or my parents. We started with the tent which was my mom's booth for craft shows. It had that fantastic peaked roof, was white, and 10' square which was perfect for our space. Next we dragged a rug up from the basement to give our floor some warmth. The hardest part was the table. I wanted something low to the ground to complement the idea of dining in an Arabian tent. Silas and I decided on my Great-Aunt's steamer trunk as the base with a thick square board we found (and unscrewed from the wall!) outside my Dad's workshop for the top. Two low shelves from the attic became our benches.

Now for decorating! Fabric had to go everywhere for the tent ambiance that I wanted. We used red curtains along the tent edges, raw black and red striped fabric from a bolt I had stashed away covered the benches. The table had a tablecloth then a sheer curtain panel and a gorgeous gold table runner. White lights were strung everywhere. Nothing matched, but all the colors coordinated and fit the theme.

Setting the table | Erin Beutel Photography

My favorite places to pick up beautiful things for decorating are Goodwill and garage sales. Curtains, white lights, votives, candles of most types, glassware, bolts of tulle, and all kinds of beautiful odds and ends can be found for a few dollars here and there. If you have the space to stash them you can collect over time, but if not, you can pretty much always find something for a bargain second hand.

Appetizers | Erin Beutel Photography

4. Good simple food

In my opinion really good, simple food is always the best idea for a party. Something you can make easily and present beautifully (and of course tastes good) will go far with your guests. Our appetizers were grilled eggplant slices with herbed ricotta cheese on baguette slices, and mango lassis garnished with mint leaves from the garden. For the main course I served Panzanella and Yogurt & Curry Marinated Mahimahi w/ Cardamom spinach and Mango Salad. Dessert was wine poached pears served with coffee and tea. 

Beautiful simple food | Erin Beutel Photography

Panzanella and Curried Mahimahi

Tea and dessert | Erin Beutel Photography

Wine poached pears

Dining details | Erin Beutel Photography

5. It's all in the details

If you can add some small but lovely touches to your decor it will lift the overall feel of your party. Above I used a stemmed glass to hold sugar for tea. Layer your fabrics and textures as much as possible. Scatter votives around. Set a silver tea service and candles on top of a small piece of mirror. A few paper lanterns strung along the path spread color outside the main area. Plants massed together and put on different levels give the feeling of a lush indoor garden. Use lovely dishes that don't match but carry the color theme throughout. If you don't want a big arrangement of flowers in the center of the table you can spread tiny vases (or shot glasses) with a few flowers in each around the table.

It's all in the details | Erin Beutel Photography

Most of all have fun! Don't let the stress of making everything just right take away the fun of throwing a party. Aim for beauty and good fellowship over perfection. If you have pictures from a gorgeous party you've thrown leave me a link in the comments. I'd love to see them!

Anniversary | Erin Beutel Photography

Have a wonderful week!

xo Erin