So, little known fact about me is that I work at the same middle school I attended. Cool, right? The coolest part of that is that I get to work beside some of my teachers...the same people who inspired me as a student now inspire me as a teacher and colleague. Well, one of the greatest inspirations in my life, my 6th grade English and Ancient History teacher, is retiring after 30 (thirty!) years teaching. To invoke some Simba here, guess who will be teaching Ancient History (as well as my usual Latin) next year? That's right, me! So exciting. Circle of life, right? Well, the other night we threw a great retirement party and I wanted to share three very budget friendly, very easy, and most of all, impact-making and effective party ideas. These ideas could easily be applied to any party: birthday, anniversary, retirement, even a wedding. 

I mean, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I've thrown some pretty rockin' parties over the years...take for example, the party Jenny and I threw in college for all of our friends (and their friends, and their friends' friends...oy) at our dad's apartment in New York City. We kept it all simple with the food, only had wine, and ended up having the time of our lives, hanging out and talking until the sun came up. What about that other party Jenny and I threw? The clothing swap! Again, simple decor, simple food (champagne and cupcakes), and many sassy ladies. Also, tons of gorgeous clothing. Perfect. 

Mom and her kids rocking out at my wedding. Love this photo! (by Hart & Sol)
Oh, and...our wedding! It was the perfect mix of food, music, and that other thing: people. That's the key. Your budget can be giant, but if you have the wrong people at a party, or if you don't allow for people to mingle, or if the music is too loud to doesn't matter how big the budget is, the party won't rock. People want to see people, and that's the bottom line. That being said: a party does need some elements to you know, make it a party! When I was planning the retirement party, I kept it very low key, simple, and budget, but I also wanted special ways to honor the woman of the hour. So, what did I find worked best? 

Three Things:

1. Balloons. Balloons. Balloons. Balloons don't have to be silly, neon, or can now get matte colored, pastel colored, personalized...anything balloons! And you know what? They really do spruce up a room (they also define a space very well), they can identify the theme (seen here are the school colors), and they are totally festive, are they not? I placed a "happy retirement" balloon on the food table (tied onto a gorgeous bouquet of flowers), and on either side of the drink station we tied these green and white balloons. Also, they are cheap. I got two "fancy" retirement balloons and 6 green and white balloons for under $15. 
2. A sign-in board. Actually, I got this idea from the PTA here at school. When they plan the 8th grade graduation dance they have a sign-in board with each graduating student's photograph, and room for all the kids to sign the board...I kept mine for years! So, how easy and budget is this? Well, there's two elements which make it look really pulled together. First off, you need a picture of the person. Make sure it's a photo that is GOOD and they won't mind people seeing! Secondly, I took the photo to CVS Drugstore and got it printed as a 5x7 and had "Congratulations!" written on it. Also, when you're at the drugstore, pick up a piece of white foam board. It's under $5. To make the board look nice, take a piece of colored paper (I used blue scrapbook paper), glue it to the center, then glue the photo the center, as if you were matting a painting. Voila. Easy. What's next? Make sure you have some Sharpies in pretty colors (matching the theme, duh!) so people can write messages. How will people know how to write messages? I bought a $3 5x7 picture frame at CVS; in Photoshop I made a 5x7 sign (the background matched the green and white balloons) which said "Please write your well wishes on this board!", printed it out, framed it, and stuck it next to the board! When she walked into the party, she was so excited to see all the messages from everyone. Also, it's a great memory of who was at the party!

3. A gift. I knew I wanted to do a scrapbook, but I a) didn't have a ton of photos, and b) didn't have a ton of time. I also knew that I wanted people to express their gratitude, feelings, and thoughts to the honoree, and I also wanted a way that people from afar could contribute. So, I kept it really simple, but the end result was awesome. Basically, gathered up a variety of pretty note-cards....some I had, some I bought, some I bought at thrift shops, some people donated. I gave one out to all the faculty at school, and for the people far away, I even offered to send them a card to fill out. Once I had everyone's cards filled out (and people from far away did send a lot!), I bought a hard covered spiral book from Michaels, as well as adhesive back colored card stock (best invention ever). For each page of the book I put two pieces of cardstock, and then glued (back side down), a card in the center of each piece of colored cardstock. Some pages I included photos, but for the most part, it was a whole book of well wishes on pretty cards! It was so, so easy to make, and when it was done, it was thick, beautiful, and very meaningful. This could easily be done for a bridal or baby shower, or any big birthday celebration. 
What are your ideas for budget party decor? What have you done in the past?

One Comment

  1. It was a beautiful party, the book couldn't have been nicer and the board looked beautiful with all the brightly colored signatures.
    Well done!