Sweet 16 Birthday Parties
Remember when your baby turned 1 and you had the biggest bash ever? Complete with smash cake (yes, millennial moms, we originated that idea 😉 ) and all the Winnie the Pooh decorations you could find. You probably spent a fair amount of money because it was the FIRST! birthday and your baby deserved that! Then came the 2nd.. the 3rd and so on until, if you’re like me, you finally pulled the plug on big, expensive extravaganzas. Once my kids turned 10, they knew that the “big” parties were done except for the bigger milestones – 13, 16 and 18. They were allowed to have a couple of friends over, but nothing major.
Our oldest daughter had been mentally planning her 16th party a year leading up to her big day and I’m sure, sneaking off to watch old episodes of “My Sweet 16″ on MTV and Keeping Up With the Kardashians to give her plenty of ideas. When we first began discussing her party (and there was no way we weren’t having a party) I listened to her lists of wants and knew that if we didn’t nail down some limits and guidelines pretty quickly, one of us – or both – were going to be in for a rude awakening. I knew that it was an important event for her and I wanted to give her the best party possible, but with school, sports, bills and the other expenses of life, we had to be realistic.
So how do you keep it real and have the party still be great?
1) Set a Budget – The first thing we did was talk about how much things can cost. We talked about all the possible expenses from location and venue, to entertainment, food, favors, and decorations. We figured out what was most important to her and what she could live without. Her first choice was to have it a country club (big! beautiful! full of WOW!) followed by the local minor league ball park (cool factor) but absolutely not the park (one of her frenemies had it there and you can’t do it at the same place) and no way on having it at home.
2) Choose the location – Once I had an idea of the where, I started the process of calling to get the costs. I decided to tackle the country club idea first because I knew it was going to be the most cost prohibitive of the group. Almost any venue like a club or a hotel is going to have two costs – the cost of the room and the cost of the food. They will also have a food and beverage minimum. In our case, the cost of the room was $300 (plus more for a dance floor) and at a bare minimum, my finger count for food added up to $400. It was enough for me to know that it wasn’t going to happen at the club. Our ballpark never returned my phone call but I’m sure it wouldn’t have been much less and also would have had a food and beverage minimum. The park was the most feasible option of the 3 but make sure you call parks in your county or city as the resident rate is always cheaper. Once we discussed the pros and cons and costs of each one, I was able to get her to come around to reconsidering having the party at our house. She had her (valid) reasons and concerns on why she didn’t want to so we talked thru those and figured out how to overcome those and in the end, she was fine with having it here at our house.
3) Food and Beverage – You may not have gotten to this point yet, but one thing that I’ve learned about this age group is that they really don’t eat at parties. Now there may be some exceptions to this, but the last couple of parties we’ve had here 90% of the food went to waste. The girls don’t want to eat in front of the boys and the boys are usually too busy trying to look good for the girls. But each group is different and your teen should know what their friends expect. When we planned out the food, we decided that we would have sodas (she chose 2 Liter bottles so she wouldn’t have to worry about picking up cans all over the place the next day), chips, the Candy Bar treats and a S’mores station. It worked out pretty well.. there were a couple of hungry football players but I figure they’re hungry all the time and found some extra snacks to throw out.
4) Decorations – This could be a budget buster if you let it, but I decided to get really resourceful on this one.. I called my friend Trish who has the cutest decorations and had a S’mores station at our last party and asked if I could come and borrow some things to decorate with. We decided that a photo-booth was a perfect addition to the party, so I borrowed fun hats and other gear from my best friend as well as ordered cut out frames from Oriental Trading Company. While you may think of them as the place for younger kids, they have some great selections for the older kid’s birthdays and the CANDY for the candy station!! The kids all loved how we decorated and any parent will tell you, when the kids ooh and ahh, you’ve done a good job.
5) Entertainment – The request at first was for a DJ and while we have a friend who was giving us his services as her birthday gift, having a DJ in our backyard seemed silly. Instead we opted for an iTunes playlist, a projector and screen (white sheet really) to show the college games, a corn hole set and our basketball hoop. Last year the boys were a bit bored but that was far from the case this year! We also built a fire-pit (for under $70!) which was dual purpose because it served as a place for everyone to hangout and was needed for the S’mores. Honestly, once you have them all together, you don’t need much to actually entertain them.
So see… you don’t have to blow your bank to throw a huge, expensive party. With planning, creativity and friends who will let you “shop” their decor, you can pull off a great looking themed party. I would say our grand total for this party was under $300 and probably closer to $200. She was happy, her friends were happy and it was probably the best party we’ve had in a long time.
And now we have a fire-pit to boot!