How to Throw a Classy Milestone Birthday Party on a Budget

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The year my mom turned 65 I asked her if she wanted to have a nice dinner or a big party to celebrate her big day… and in true fashion to her personality, she chose the big party. My mother enjoys nothing more than gathering with lots of food, music and loved ones. Even knowing her personality, I was really hoping she said a dinner because I had it all planned out in my head. I would rent a private room in a restaurant and invite close family and friends. Decorate it really nicely, with the help of Pinterest, and have a little after party at her apartment. Simple. It wouldn’t be cheap, but it would be a lot cheaper than a big party.

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Over the years, I have attended many big milestone parties – all ages from sweet sixteens to my grandmother’s ninetieth birthday. Some super glamorous, others simple, yet classy backyard affairs. It always seemed like the bigger the budget the nicer the party, which is not always true. At some parties, everything just looks cheap, even if it was not and other parties, where it looked liked it cost a fortune, the host found super creative hacks to make everything gorgeous on a relatively modest budget. My goal was to throw an epic, classy party without breaking my bank account. I wanted my mom and her guests to be blown away.

And they were! In the end, I was able to throw my mom a fully catered affair for 100, with a DJ and photographer for less than $3400 of which about $450 was spent on decor. To do so, I started with a checklist similar to the one below.

Party Planning Checklist

  • Create a guest list – the number of people you invite to your party really is the driving force of your party. The more people you invite, the bigger the space you will need and the higher your budget has to be. So decide early if you want an intimate affair or a “bashment.”
  • Budget – there is no right or wrong number here but you do need to be realistic. I started with a $2500 and increased it to $3500, when family members were able to pitch in. Without that extra help, I may have asked for many more non-monetary contributions to the party.
  • Pick a venue – The venue can make or break your budget and party so look for somewhere that is budget friendly AND can visually appealing.
  • Determine your menu – My suggestion, keep it simple! Two choices of meat, three sides and a salad. If you are serving alcohol, ditch the full bar and go for beer, wine and a boozy punch. And don’t forget the appetizers!
  • Music – Tip, find a younger DJ that will play for less
  • Photographer – optional, but a classy touch. Tip, look for an amateur photographer looking to build their portfolio
  • Choose a color scheme – This is crucial. Once you know your colors, it makes it really easy to search for decorating ideas
  • Invitations – You can do free online invitations with Evite or Punchbowl. For an older crowd, you may want to do paper invitations, which you can find on vista print or create your own and print them at Staples
  • Extras – Decide if you want giveaways. I gave away Jamaican black cake in gold paper boxes.
  • Decor – The most fun step! Pinterest is your best friend here. Start by creating a Pinterest board, then look for party ideas in your color scheme. Before you run straight to Party City, start by searching online to see what you can order for cheap and hit stores like Marshalls and TJMaxx. If you start the planning early, you can also DIY many things. My centerpieces had a black paper flower and gold spray painted wine and beer bottles in it that added a classy touch.

My Decor Breakdown

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