Making an event memorable starts with planning and a conscious effort to budget your time, energy levels and finances. Parties don’t have to break the bank or your personal stores of energy, if you remember to keep it simple and think semi-homemade. Faith Moon turned seventeen this past Friday and to honor her birthday, we decided to throw a surprise party. I hope you enjoy this post, collecting ideas along the way as the DIY magic comes to life.
Logistics: Who, What, When and Where?
Who: The guest list for teenagers doesn’t have to be as difficult as it might seem. The trick is to solicit the help of a few trusted friends. Start by deciding how many guests you can accommodate and stick to that number. (Remember, you are balancing energy levels and finances.) Jot down 3-5 must-have guests on the list and then let the friends take over. I had some amazingly thoughtful text message streams with Faith’s friends during the planning process. Note: This is also an incredible way to get-to-know your teenager’s friends on a different level. Such a gift for any parent! WIN-WIN
What: What will you do with a house full of 16-18 year olds? After four teenagers, I have found the key to keeping teenagers engaged is creating space for them to move about freely. If the budget allows, planning an activity outside of the party space helps to get the kids involved and opens up their energy. In our case, Faith’s friends planned a scavenger hunt in our local town. They worked out the logistics, created a list and divided the guests into teams. Such a fun idea!
After the scavenger hunt, we took Faith and her friends to the House of Hints, a live escape game in San Diego. I would say this was, “hands-down” one of the best ideas my husband and I have had to date. (Chalk one up for the parents my friends!) Given Faith has several friends that don’t know each other well, the escape game was the perfect activity to break the ice. The kids had to work together on teams (we had teams of 5) to solve the puzzles and find clues along the way in order to escape the room. A five star activity and we will definitely go back again with our family.
When and Where: Timing is everything! I have found most teens get bored after a couple of hours. We started our party at 3:00 p.m., kicking it off with the surprise and then heading downtown for a scavenger hunt. After the hunt we drove the kids to the House of Hints. They arrived back to our house for dinner, dancing, ping-pong, Just Dance and my DIY photo wall. Actual time in our home, about 2 hours – not including the impromptu sleepover with six of her girlfriends. 🙂
FOOD: I love creating simple and inexpensive snack bars. We included popcorn (both regular and sweet), pretzels, spicy Arare Crackers, natural candy, veggies and hummus. I made cookies and we purchased donuts from an iconic donut shop near us – something a little unexpected and fun.
Decorations: Keep it simple! I foraged for greenery in my neighborhood and backyard helping to stretch my flower budget. I also used old beer bottles to divide the bouquets into individual mini-bouquets – stretching both the budget and view of color across the space.
Build your own tables for under $20. We used inexpensive fencing wood to make two-6′ long tables. I also had two wood pallets in my backyard (props for my food photography) which added a little dimension to the expansive run of table. I stained them with my own DIY vinegar and steel wool stain, both non-toxic and beautiful. The tables were propped up on cinder blocks – found at Home Depot for about $1.00 each. I found the colorful Mexican saddle blankets from The Indian Store in Vista. Two blankets for $20 and made from recycled fabric. WIN-WIN
Teenagers love Snapchat and Instagram: A photo wall is a relevant addition to your party. Our photo wall was one of my most time-consuming projects for this party, taking me much longer than anticipated but well worth the effort and time. Such a fun way to document memories.
Note: My mandala was made out of a large cardboard box, about 700 coffee filters and colored tissue paper.