When planning a party, it's easy to get carried away in the excitement of design and details. But the first, and most important, step of planning a party is your budget. The budget is the framework for what can and cannot be done for a party, and it helps keep things in check when creative ideas are running wild. Instead of whipping out your credit card to pay for that party, read our top tips on party planning budget basics so you can have a stylish party without breaking the bank.
Party Budget Tip 1: Set a Budget
The first tip of budgeting for a party is to always set a budget. This tip might seem intuitive, but it's surprising how many people launch into planning, purchasing and hiring vendors for their party without sitting down to take a serious look at the funds available for the event.
In order to set a realistic budget, take a look at the following factors:
1. Number of guests
2. Desired food and approximate food cost
3. Desired beverages and approximate beverage cost
4. Decor budget (include rentals)
5. Additional vendors (photographer, florist, planner, etc.)
The number of guests, your decor and the type of food and beverage you want to serve makes up the vast majority of a party budget. For larger scale events like weddings, quincineras or milestone anniversary parties, you probably want to include room in the budget for a photographer, florist and planner as well.
Party Budget Tip 2: Budget Breakdown
If you have never thrown an elaborate party before, it's easy to get confused as to what percentage of your budget should go toward each line item. Here's a general breakdown that should help:
Venue, food and drink - 40 - 50%, although this can take up a larger portion (about 75%) with parties that do not have a photographer, videographer or floral arrangements
Decor - 10 - 15%
Other vendors, favors, etc. - 40 - 50%
Party Budget Tip 3: Food Options
Unless you're throwing an elaborate party with multiple outside vendors, your highest costs will be providing food and drinks for your guests. Food and drink can range from $10 per guest to $250 per guest, and the cost is determined by where the food comes from, the type of food, the type of beverages and whether or not service costs are involved.
Professional Event Catering
A professional catering company will probably do a great job providing ample food and beverage, but many can be costly. Most catering companies provide food and beverage service as well, which can add a substantial amount to the bottom line. Always be sure to get catering quotes that include the "plus plus" - price per person, plus tax plus gratuity - since it can add an additional 30% to your final total.
For more low-key catering, call around to your favorite local restaurants and inquire about catered meals. The food is usually prepared at the restaurant and dropped off buffet-style in chafing dishes at your home, but it can be a cost-effective way to serve tasty food you don't have to spend hours prepping yourself.
Do It Yourself
Creating all the food for the party yourself is a great way to stick to a tight food budget. However, for many hosts the stress and time involved in preparing dinner for twenty or more people is not worth the amount of money they save. Realize that if you plan to make the food yourself, you should enlist the help of friends and family. Otherwise, it can take days of planning, cooking, storing and reheating time to get ready for the party - especially if you have more than twenty guests.
Party Budget Tip 4: Beverage Options
The best way to stick to a tight party budget is to control the alcohol costs, which can easily spin out of control. Here are some recommendations on how to keep costs low while keeping guests happy:
Party Budget Tip 5: Ways to Save on Decor
Depending on your party, decor can be a huge portion of your budget - or it can take up no part of the budget at all. We suggest at least allocating some part of your budget toward decor, whether it be enough for a few small vases of flowers or an investment in a nice linen and serving platters. Decor is largely responsible for setting your party's ambiance, and for this reason alone we suggest that at least some thought it put into the look and feel of your event.
That said, there are many inventive ways to save on party decor, including:
1. Buying Online - almost any decoration that you can find in stores you can find online, for much less. Online party decoration warehouses usually have triple the selection of a retail location party store, but much less overhead - enabling them to pass along savings to you, the customer.
2. Visiting the Flower Market - if you live in a major city, chances are that you have a local flower market. By purchasing flowers yourself, you can easily create 4 - 5 large arrangements with $30 - $40 of wholesale flowers. It will look like you spent a fortune on florals, and can really set the tone for an elegant party.
3. Repurpose Household Items - vintage parties are all the rage, and vintage decor is easy to find. Raid Grandma and Grandpa's garage for old knick-knacks, clocks, furniture, radios and vases that would make excellent party decor. For larger pieces, the free listings section of Craigslist is a great place to pick up party decor without making a dent in your budget. Just be sure you borrow a truck or van from a friend to haul it around - the people who own the items usually do not help load them when they are free.
4. Do It Yourself - if you're feeling crafty, creating flag banners, pennants and pomanders is a great way to add color and personality to your event. There are so many fabulous online tutorials, simply type 'DIY decor' into your search engine and delve into the options available. For those who love the DIY look but are not natural-born crafters, the Etsy handmade online marketplace is a great option to turn to.
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