Monday, January 14, 2008

Big Party; Small Budget: A Frugal Event Planning Guide: Pt. 1

How do you plan a big party for a milestone event without breaking the bank? That's the key question in my house as we plan a Bar Mitzvah celebration for my middle son. The goal: a frugal, but elegant party.

Here's our to-do list:
1. DIY invitations. We saved $250 to $500 by making our own invitations and the product looked really elegant. I wrote about our invitations in this post: DIY Invitations: Bar Mitzvahs, Weddings & Other Formal Parties.
2. Location, Location, Location: Traditional catering halls can cost thousands of dollars for a wedding or other formal celebrations, including family reunions, milestone anniversaries, Sweet Sixteens, Quince parties, and Bar Mitzvahs. But unusual party sites offer several perks: 1) affordable rates, 2) lower food bills -- alternative sites often let you bring DIY food or hire an off-site restaurant or food service caterer and 3) an exotic site.

Here's my list of non-standard party locations:
  • Community Gardens: Many public gardens and community centers have beautiful party rooms, conference rooms and banquet halls that are ideal and very affordable. These sites are ideal for formal parties. For my oldest son, we held a Bar Mitzvah celebration at Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, which was beautiful, affordable and elegant. The party room and the public garden provided a wonderful backdrop for our event.

  • Nightclubs: Many clubs are dark and empty during the day and early evening hours. Nightclubs are often available to rent for a low cost during off hours.

  • Office Buildings: Many office buildings have beautiful public spaces, including rooftop gardens, party-friendly lobbies and other areas that are perfect for large gatherings. Surprisingly, some of these locations are available for rent.

  • Condo/Apartment Buildings: Many large residential buildings and planned communities have large party rooms that are available for a bargain rate. Our upcoming celebration, for example, will take place in a beautiful banquet hall in a waterfront residential building.

  • Churches and Synagogues: Many churches, synagogues and mosques, etc. have large community halls, banquet rooms and multi-purpose fellowship halls that are ideal for parties.

3. Pick Your Time: To save money, but still have an elegant party, we carefully select party hours. For instance, I prefer the gallery-night party style, which consists of elegant desserts, finger food, coffee, tea and assorted drinks. Bottom Line: It's everything but the big-ticket meal. This party style works best when delivered after 8:00 pm. At that hour, no one expects a meal and the desserts are a real treat. It's very affordable to arrange tables and trays of elegant desserts that look real sweet. An elegant coffee bar adds an extra touch. A morning brunch is also a money-saving option that enables us to deliver an affordable meal without the high cost of a standard meal. For my oldest son, we had a Sunday brunch with salads, bagels, beautiful desserts, and other treats. The garden setting was beautiful, the meal was elegant and the party was a success.

Next installment: Decorations, Flowers & More.



Kim said...

Good note about condo clubhouses. I am paying $35 to use one and they clean up after the party. It doesn't get better than that :)

Frugal Duchess said...

Hi Kim:

It sounds like you received a good deal on that party room.
Thanks so much for stopping by!
Take Care,