Okay guys I went a little crazy on this next party, but honestly I could not help myself. My daughter turned 5 a few weeks after we learned that the gender of our baby due this year would be another boy....and since we are considering stopping our family growth at 4 kids, I had to say goodbye to the idea that she might be my only little girl. And previously my husband and I had decided that we would only throw a big birthday party and invite their friends every other year, and then have a mellow party with family at our home and get them a present instead. But then I realized that if she would be my only little girl, this MIGHT be my only chance to throw my princess a princess themed party while she is young enough to think mermaids and the color pink is cool. Soooo maybe it was a way of me dealing with my grief of loosing the "perfect family" image I had created in my mind, and maybe it was more for me than for her, but WHO CARES! I did it anyways, and I loved every second of it, and she felt like a real princess on her special birthday.
We started off with a theme, and for me I like to choose a party theme centered around some kind of activity. I feel like my daughters friends come to a party bearing gifts, and have taken time out of their day to celebrate my daughter so I need to return the gesture and have some kind of activity planned, and have food along with it. I gave my daughter several options and we settled on having an "Under the Sea" birthday party at the local recreational pool in their party room. Once the theme was set, I searched etsy for an Ariel/Under the Sea themed party invitation and found this darling one that my daughter went gaga for. I do have experience making invitations, and with time I could've made it myself, but with all the other craft and special touches I had planned, I decided to outsource this step in order to save time. This is how the invitation turned out, and I think it is darling!
|I blurred out sensitive info, but you get the idea!|
Pretty awesome right!? Let me just start by saying I had a $50 decorating budget, which may seem like a lot, but for a party like this, it makes it pretty tight. So I made a majority of the stuff using things I already had lying around my craft room, and I encourage you to do the same. I'll show you how I decorated using a bunch of recycled stuff lying around my house.
Table Decorations - Tissue Paper PomPoms: For the centerpieces, I used old pieces of tissue paper to create small and large tissue pom poms. These pom poms are my absolute favorite way to decorate any table or wall......Why you ask? Because they add the perfect pop of color to compliment your party theme, and they are dirt cheap! If you have had a birthday party, baby/wedding shower, or a boxed gift at Christmas time, make sure to save that tissue paper!!! Not only will it come in handy when you need to give a gift (also save the bag your present came in!) but it comes in handy when you need to make pompoms for a party like this. There are tutorials all over pinterest on how to make these cute little pom poms, and I could create one for you if you'd like. Let me know in the comments below! But HERE is a tutorial that I found helpful to make a different sized pom poms, but the secret for making them to be a table centerpiece is to use half the amount of tissue paper, and only open them up to be one sided, so that they lay flat on a table or against a wall. And there you go...BAM, instant party pop for pennies on the dollar or even free if you use what you have lying around the house.
Seaglass Tinted, Rope Netted Jars: Next I decorated the table with these sea glass, netted mason jars. Now just to let you know, I already had all of the supplies needed to make these jars which saved me some major doubloons! But this DIY doesn't have to be expensive, you just have to plan ahead of time in order to save some bucks. If you don't already, you'll have to spend money on ModgePodge and Jute Twine, which I already had in my arsenal of craft supplies. But the rest of the supplies I bet you have hiding in your house! You'll also need dish soap, food coloring, and glass jars. And if you're thinking that you don't have any mason jars lying around the house, you would be wrong! My friends, take a look in your pantry, I betcha you'll find a few glass jars in there filled with fruit, spagetti sauce, pickles or peppers, salsa, or even jam that you would normally throw away when the jar is empty. SAVE THEM. These jars aren't typically recyclable like your other paper/plastic/or aluminum products unless you drive to a specific recycling station where they collect glass. So save mother earth and set those glass jars aside to be used for crafting later. I will be finishing a video tutorial on how to make these jars and will post it next week, but if you need the info before then, I used THIS photo tutorial to make the seaglass effect on the jars, and THIS website to get inspiration and instruction on how to make the netted robe idea.
Centerpiece Fabric: The next is the piece of mermaid scale looking blue fabric I put in the center of my table, and also used as a tablecloth on my buffet and display table. This little beauty was an absolute STEAL! I found it at Hancock Fabrics, on the last rack of their clearance section. It just so happen that they had marked all clearance fabrics down an extra 30% off, AND did you know that they accept competitors coupons yal!? I just so happen to have a coupon from JoAnn's for an extra 20% off one item (even clearance items) which brought the price down even more. Yal...I got 9 yards of fabric for $17.81 out the door with tax....that's only $1.97 a YARD!!! So I cut 6 yards off and placed it on top of my display table and bunched up the center and the sides with a safety pin to create a sweeping effect, and used the other 3 yards and laid it very messily in the center of my seating tables and placed the seaglass jars, small pom poms and seashells I bought from hobby lobby (with a 40% off coupon of course) on top and TA-DA, I had a beautiful mermaid themed center piece.
Balloons: Lets talk about the balloons I bought....I did spend a majority of my decoration budget on the balloons for the party and I used them to add decor to the seaglass jars and I also created a small balloon bouquet to highlight my daughters chair at the head of the table. Here's a money saving tip if you're in the Salt Lake UT area.., Harmons balloons are WAY better and cheaper than the balloons you will get at the DollarTree, Zurchers, or Party City. They last longer, and they are less expensive for a dozen balloons than at the party stores. I bought balloons in 4 different colors, bunched them into groups of 3, tied them to a spoon from my silverware drawer to weigh them down and then stuck the spoon into the seaglass jars. I love that the balloons create great height and color to the room, and you can send them home with your guests at the end of the party as an extra favor.
Individual Place Settings: I had requested on the invitation that an RSVP was sent for each child so I could plan ahead of time. I did this so I could plan to make enough food, but to also make enough favors and place cards for each child. Using photoshop, I cleared out all the writing from the invitation I purchased, and created a little template to use as a universal label for all my food and for the place cards. I've created a printable for you so that you can upload this to an editing program if you have one, or you can print them out and hand write your guests names, glue them to a cardstock place card, and you're good to go!
DIY Paper Straws: The last craft that I did for each place setting is one that I DO NOT RECOMMEND as a DIY. It was the straws...those dang, frustrating, time wasting, money sucking straws. Okay let me break it down for you, I checked etsy and a few other places online for cute paper straws to match my color scheme and they were all semi expensive and I thought I could save a few bucks by doing them myself. The process of making them yourself goes like this, you cut strips of craft paper, run a little elmers glue down one side, using a pencil you roll the paper diagonally up the pencil, and then dip your finished straw in paraffin wax to make it waterproof. At this point in my life, there are very few crafts that I am afraid of trying, and I feel like most pinterest crafts I can handle without being too frustrated. OH MY GOSH, let me tell you, this one made me almost throw in the towel. I'm a perfectionist, so rolling up these dumb little straws drove me nuts because they turned out a different length everytime. And then the paraffin wax was kinda expensive and it took forever for the wax to melt in my crock pot and it was so hard to find a container that was tall and skinny to make it easy to dip the long straws into! The finished products turned out cute, and none of my straws went soggy and mushy like the ones you pick up at the craft store, but each one was a different size because I couldn't get my "rolling" technique just right. IT WAS SUPER FRUSTRATING. It's up to you, but in my opinion, it wasn't worth it. Plus I was walking down the wedding craft aisle at Walmart a week after I finished them, and found super cheap paper straws in my colors for half of my overall cost. FACEPALM. Learn from me, not everything is cheaper as a DIY.
For my last items I used purple plastic utensils from Walmart, tied them up with some old ribbon from my Christmas box, and some white napkins and plastic cups I had in my pantry from a previous party. I might add that although the ribbon on the silverware was a cute touch, none of the kids could get their forks/spoons out without needing the help of an adult, so next time I'm skipping that step!
|Ariel got a little bent on the ride to the venue because it|
was raining and when the backside got wet, it warped
a little and ended up bowing backwards.
Let's jump to the main event, the buffet table! BACKDROP: I used these 14ft long pre-ruffled plastic tableskirts from zurchers as my backdrop since I had to pay by the hour for the room, and didn't want to waste time setting up a huge display. These worked out really well because they came with a adhesive tape that stuck them to the wall, so set up was a breeze! I tore off the tape cover, stuck them on, and layered the colors on top of each other. When I was done at the end of the night, they pulled off the wall easily and I folded them up to use again in the future.
Happy Birthday Banner: Although the banner took some time to make, it was cheap and easy to put together. Do you or someone you know have a cricut cutting machine? I bought my mini cricut used for about 30 bucks and it's been great for these little projects. I bet you know someone who has it already, and if you have a computer, you have at least 1 free font and free shapes to make this banner. If you already have a cricut, you may have heard of the Cricut Craft Room application. It's a program that allows you to customize your designs on the computer and it's completely free! You can purchase new fonts and designs through the app, but it also has weekly free images and fonts that you can use free of charge. I used cardstock and colored paper I already had on hand, cut out my desired banner shapes and letters, used some elmers glue to keep it together, hot glued some left over jute twine on the back to connect the letters, and then used some 4in X 4in colored tulle fabric pieces to tie in between each letter to give it some pazazz! It turned out darling and was way cheaper than buying a custom one from etsy, or worse...having to cut out each letter by hand!!!
I decorated our beverage container with the same jute twine and netting design as I did on the mason jars, and filled it with a ocean colored punch (recipe below!) and it turned out super cute!
#5 Tissue Paper PomPom using the leftover tissue paper from my table pompoms and a sheet of foam board from the dollar store. Tips on how to make this craft easier: #1- I have terrible hand writing and didn't want to free hand the shape of the number, so I taped my foam board against a wall, found a stencil (you could also cut out your own stencil from a print out on the computer) of the number 5, and had my friend hold the stencil up with a flashlight behind it while I quickly used a pencil and traced the outline of the shadow from the stencil. Pretty smart right!? Tip #2- I used an exacto knife to cut, and my sewing cutting mat underneath my board to protect my work surface. It was way easier to manuveaur than trying to cut it with a pair of scissors.
Door Way Decor: Before I move onto the food, I also want to cover this cute craft that literally took maybe 10 minutes to put together. I wanted to have a way to make the doorway from the pool to the party room fun and decorative, and then I found this idea on pinterest. Guys this one was SO easy and I will definitely be trying it in the future. I used 3 - $1 plastic tablecloths from Walmart, taped the tops together, cut them into strips, and then braided the top 4 inches together and it made a really cute entry for the door. I made this craft ahead of time, and just folded the top of my tape over to keep the pieces all together, and then re-taped it above the door when we got there. When I was done, I pulled off the tape keeping it attached to the door, folded it up, and brought it home to use again in the future! This would also be a cute idea for a photo back drop or even for a table backdrop. Here's a couple of tips to help this project go by smoother: #1- When you're cutting your strips, start in the middle and work your way down to the size you want your strips. For example, make your first cut in the middle, then cut those two pieces in the middle, and then those 4 pieces in the middle, and so on and so forth until you've reached your desired width! Tip #2- Tape the tops AND the bottoms together to make it easier to keep all 3 tablecloths together while you're cutting. Then when you're done cutting and you're ready to braid, cut the bottom few inches off to the desired length you want.
Now for the food and the cake! Here was the menu:
Sand Dollar Sugar Cookies - store bought sugar cookie dough, then right as I took them out of the oven, I used the curve in a spoon to indent the center with the starfish shape.
Sea Cucumbers and Crab Legs - individual cups of sliced cucumbers and baby carrots.
Individual bags of Pirates Booty
Fish Bowl Jello Cups - individual cups of blue raspberry jello, with a piece of swedish fish resting on the top.
Flounder's Fish and Chips - individual cups of goldfish crackers, and potato chips.
Sour Seaweed - green sour punch straw candy.
Coral Krispies - homemade rice krispie treats with blue and purple chocolate drizzled over the top and cut into individual servings.
Sebastian Sandwiches - Croissants from Walmart, sliced open with a piece of ham/turkey and cheese. What makes these special are the googlie eyes that I hot-glued onto toothpicks and stuck into each sandwich to make them look like crab eyes. The kids LOVED this one!
Ocean Water Punch - You can find the recipe HERE, and it's only 3 ingredients, but its so yummy that I want you to see the blog that the recipe came from hahaha! Credit should go where credit is deserved right!?
Here are all the labels I used to go along with each item. Only after I came up with, created, and cut out all these labels did I realize that my daughter can't read yet...and doesn't even get how cute these are....OH WELL....
The last piece of this party puzzle was the CAKE....OH BOY. SOOOOOOO....I had grand ideas for what I wanted for this cake. Let me show you a picture of my original inspiration:
I had an image in my head of a 2 tiered cake with butter cream frosting and the look of coral and seaweed all over it. I had it priced out at both cake shops and individual cake decorators and was quoted anywhere from $80 to $250 for the cake. YIKES. I love my daughter, and I really wanted this cake, but REALLY!? That much money for a cake!? So I started to get creative, I watched a few tutorials on youtube (Hereand Here) to see how difficult it would be to decorate it myself...and the biggest hurdle I had to overcome was the baking part (it has to taste good right!?) and then stacking the layers...which seems pretty complicated. But it just so happened that during that month I was having daily pregnancy cravings for white sheet cake...and wouldn't you know....Kneaders Bakery was selling their fresh strawberry cake in individual servings. It took me about 3 visits (it was that addictive) before it clicked that I should ask if they make that cake in rounds or sheets...WHICH THEY DO! So then I took it a step further, and called the head pastry chef at Kneaders and asked if I could order 2 cakes (so that I could stack them) and if they would decorate the normally white whipped frosting to be a seawater blue....AND THEY SAID YES, FOR NO EXTRA CHARGE!!! It was WAY cheaper to buy it from Kneaders and honestly it was one of the best cakes I have ever tasted! I picked it up in the morning, whipped up some easy green and purple buttercream frosting from a recipe I found on pinterest, used a Wiltons beginners piping set I found at Walmart and piped on the side decorations and topped it off with a few white candies to make it look like bubbles, and a little mermaid cake topper that you can buy from Walmart in the bakery section.
Seriously, I have NEVER decorated a cake with icing like this before, so I just went for it, and it turned out so cute. My daughter thought it was the bomb dot com, and everyone was super impressed with how it turned out. The only snaffu I hit was the tiering of the round cake on top of the half-sheet cake. I bought a "tiered cake set" from Walmart that turned out to be garbage...so we winged it again and stuck a few of our plastic cups upside down into the cake and set the round cake on top of that. It wasn't perfect, but you really couldn't tell anything was wacky.
That cake was absolutely delicious, and we had so much leftover that everyone had to take a cute piece home with them. Moral of the story? If you think you can't afford something for your event or party, think outside the box, and ask yourself "How can I make this happen?" and don't take no for an answer! Keep looking and don't be afraid to ask around for ideas.
Well guys, that's it! I hope you enjoyed this novel of a post, and I'm sorry it was so long but I spent so much time planning and prepping that I couldn't let this one go without giving you every little detail to the party. To all my Utah friends with little girls out there, I still have A TON of these decorations left over from the party that you are welcome to use if you want, so leave me a message in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and have fun party prepping!!!