Jan 11

Let the Games Begin

Let the Games Begin



We have brand new games!  Check out World Sport Games, Speed Pitch, and Ladder Golf.   Reserve now and be ready for some outdoor fun as soon as spring arrives!


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Dec 04

Got The Holiday Party Host Blues?

Here’s 6 Tips To Bring Back The Cheer

Does the thought of hosting yet another holiday party make your heart sink and shrink three sizes at the idea? Are you racking your brain to come up with some new ideas to make it fun for everyone?  Hosting holiday gatherings adds extra stress, not to mention cost to an already stressful time of year.

One research study found that 17% of people host one holiday party a year. Another 17% host multiple parties. How can you keep your holiday party fresh & keep your stress levels down to a minimum? According to Diane Phillips, entertaining expert, in an article from Eating Well, “The key to a great party is a relaxed host.” And to be happy host means you have to plan ahead.

So lose the “grinchiness” and perk up your holiday party with some of these “out of the box” ideas for your holiday gatherings this year. These tips will help make your party memorable, fun and unique.

  • Create the theater experience for a holiday movie themed party.

Instead of having folks standing around the dining room table sipping on eggnog and eating Chex mix, let them know they are attending a movie marathon. They can come dressed in cozy, comfy clothes or as their favorite character from a holiday movie rather than in their holiday dress shoes and attire. Sure, you’ve made it tradition to show Polar Express for the kids each year at your family holiday party. Why not change that this year and make it into a full-blown movie theater experience? Set up the recreation room or basement with a large movie screen and sound system. Instead of just one movie, show a few holiday favorites. Kids and adults alike will enjoy feeling like they can escape to “the theater” and relax. Set up a popcorn machine for everyone to have buttery popcorn to munch on while enjoying the movie. A slushie machine or other fountain drinks are great for the kids, while adults can sip on margaritas or other adult spirits. You could even make it an afternoon event, so your party doesn’t overlap with other holiday parties.                                                                                  

  • Make your party the pre-party.

Before people’s schedules get crammed and the holiday parties turn into a blur of candy-canes and holly, hold your party early. Maybe a week or two before the scheduling jam. Besides, you want people to come to your event, right? Although for some, standing around chit-chatting isn’t in their comfort zone. Set up tables with different stations of “holiday prep”. Tables with ornament making, creating Christmas cards or decorating cookies (or even Christmas brownies!) can get everyone, even the shyest of your guests, talking and creating a memory to take home or to give away. And you’ll be sure to have enough tables & chairs when that one guest that never rsvp’s, but always shows up, arrives with a plus 1 or 2.


  • Hold your own reindeer games.

Playing games at holiday parties is not a new idea, according to one 2013 market research study, 37% of partygoers say they play games at their holiday parties. Woman’s Day magazine offers up some DIY holiday party themed games, like Jingle Bell Toss, which is “like beer pong, but for kids! Use red plastic cups and have kiddos try to toss jingle bells into ‘em.”  You can take your games up a notch with giant games. Set up a variety of games throughout your party space, this way everyone can play! Giant Jenga, Kerplunk, Checkers and Twister will keep your guests engaged and having a fun time. Keep score and have stocking filled fun holiday themed prizes for the winner of each round. Add more to the prizes and make it a full-blown tournament with a grand prize at the end.

  • Throw a Christmas carol dance-off.

Set up a dance floor, load up the holiday tunes and brush off your dancing shoes. Grab a partner for a holiday carol dance off. Guests will have fun moving around and burning off all the extra calories they take in at all their holiday parties. Hopefully your moves will keep you from getting “tapped out” from the competition. Rent a large speaker to keep “Jingle Bell Rock”, other holiday favorites and some classic party songs playing loud and clear.

  • Share memories with a slideshow or home movie.

Perhaps there’s no avoiding the more traditional take on the holiday party-besides, your cheese ball is the best after all! But, you can add a little more to just the eat, drink and be merry event. With a little preparation, you can remind your guests why you all gather together each year. Create a slideshow of pictures or a home movie from the party over the years or from various gatherings throughout the year when you all have gotten together and project these as part of the party. Celebrate the moments you have shared. Make it even more fun by “emceeing” the slide show or dvd with your own witty commentary or have guests fill in the blanks ala the kids game, Ad-Libs, and make it even more interactive and fun.

  • Set up an obstacle course challenge for the kids.

After sampling all of Aunt Marge’s cookie platter (as well as, Aunt Edna’s, Joyce’s and even your neighbor Marianne’s), the kids will be bouncing off the walls! Burn off some of that energy with an indoor obstacle course challenge. Depending on the size of your space, you could run one course or a few. Create teams for tag teams or run individually.

Your holiday party can keep your friends and family buzzing throughout the season as well as keeping your heart full. According to a 2015 article from Entrepreneur.com, everyone is feeling more stressed at the holidays, but one way to combat that is with some preparation and planning, especially if you are hosting a holiday party. Use the tips above or let them inspire your own unique ideas and create a party your guests will love and remember for a long time. And if you are serving spirits at your event, be sure to rent a coffee urn and have plenty of non-alcoholic options on hand for the designated drivers.

Throw the party everyone will be talking about this year instead of the same old boring event. Let us help you get started, give us a call to get planning!

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Oct 28

6 Tips to Throwing a Holiday Office Party Your Employees Will Actually Enjoy

The holidays are coming— and with them comes the ever-expected, obligatory holiday office party. If the thought of planning or attending your holiday office party leaves you feeling less than enthused, you’re not alone.  According to one 2015 report, 54% of employees whose workplaces host office parties do not actually look forward to them! There’s some speculation about why the majority of workers are coming up short in the holiday cheer department, including (but not limited to):

  • They’re not having fun: A 2013 report on holiday office parties revealed that 70% of office parties forbade people from dancing (a la “Footloose”)— up 32% from the prior year— and 44% of parties banned booze— up 21% from the prior year.
  • They’re given lackluster food: In the article This is Why Your Company Holiday Party Sucks, one employee of a well-to-do company divulged, “…Our office party— which, by the way, is mandatory— is a conference-room table covered with platters of Costco veggies and dip and a few screw-top bottles of wine. It’s embarrassing for everyone.”
  • They’re just not feeling the love: David Adler, the CEO of BizBash, shared that “Employees want the opportunity to wind down with their co-workers and feel appreciated… People want a party.” But surprisingly, 36% of people surveyed said their employer “didn’t do anything nice” during the holiday period— no parties, no presents, no bonuses.

Interestingly (and perhaps confusingly), even though many workers do not like their holiday office parties, they still want them to happen, with 51% of employees claiming they’d be disappointed if the annual event was canceled. Maybe they’re holding out hope that this year will finally be better than last year. Maybe they’re taking bets on how much worse this year’s bash will be. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that most employees have a love-hate relationship with holiday office parties.

So… what can you, the employer and lucky planner of this year’s annual shindig, do to throw an office party your employees will actually enjoy this holiday season?  Here are 6 tips to point your planning in the right direction!

1. Choose a non-traditional theme.

 If you’re a fan of the beloved comedy “The Office,” you will have seen its characters cycle through several seasons of office Christmases, each bearing its own unique theme.  There was a Moroccan Christmas, a Classy Christmas, and a rather aggressive Secret Santa Party, just to name a few. While each fictional party did leave a lot to be desired, the quirky themes were actually pretty on point! Giving your office party a non-traditional theme leaves room for the unexpected.  Instead of overused holiday party reruns, like “Ugly Sweater Party” or “The 12 Days of Christmas,” opt for something fresher. Think outside the box to create unusual party themes like “Masquerade Ball” (dress up in costumes for Christmas!), “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (fill your menu with sweet treats like chocolate fountains, cotton candy machines, and more!), or “Absurd Ornaments” (where everyone brings an outrageous ornament to decorate the office). A non-traditional theme will make employees wonder what’s in store for them at this year’s celebration, and maybe, just maybe, look forward to the change of pace!

2. Offer a diverse menu.

At many (if not most) social events, people come for the food!  While many holiday party staples are probably expected on the menu— like homemade cookies or cheese and cracker platters— variety and quantity will be both appreciated in equal measure.  To serve up dishes that your employees will enjoy, let your theme and your budget be your guides.  Even on a small budget, you can get creative: skip veggies trays in favor of Asian-inspired hors d’oeuvres; replace store-bought cookies with pie and ice cream; offer Sno-Cones as part of a “July in December” party! If all else fails, you can fall back on the classic potluck option— just be sure employees are voluntarily, not mandatorily, bringing in dishes, and then supplement them with a few catered selections.

3. Consider serving some spirits.

With cameras and quick access to social media everywhere these days, it is understandable why some offices are scaling back on the booze at office parties; no one wants drunken office party antics splashed across Facebook for all to see!  However, a small selection of alcoholic beverages is also not out of line for an end-of-year celebratory event. Adult drinks will help loosen up stressed out workers, and also encourage a more relaxed, casual atmosphere that doesn’t smack of work, deadlines, and customer service. Instead of an open bar, try a more reserved approach to alcohol; consider offering one choice of drink, served in a fun way. Renting a margarita machine is a great example of how to serve up festive spirits without overflowing your party with alcohol.

4. Rearrange your office space.

 Sometimes no matter how many halls you deck with twinkling lights and paper snowflakes, an office is still an office.  To make a distinction between work time and party time, give your office space a quick rearrangement to create a more party-worthy atmosphere.  Depending on your office layout, you could clear desks and office equipment from the center of a room to create a large party area. Set up tables and chairs  around the space to encourage interaction and showcase the entertainment. Or, set up different party stations in different rooms, so employees can mill throughout, curious to see what the next room offers (Food? Karaoke? A tower of presents? Who knows!) If rearranging your entire office for one afternoon sounds like too much work, enlist the help of other department heads to get the job done. Employees might appreciate seeing their higher-ups doing some “grunt work”!

5. Plan for a few types of entertainment.

Not every employee is a social butterfly, while others may have been looking forward to socializing at this festive occasion all year. To plan entertainment for all personality types, choose to have 1 – 3 fun activities that adults would enjoy for a few hours. One “larger” activity and one or two smaller activities are a good guideline for planning your entertainment. Consider hosting a gaming tournament that teams of employees can join (don’t forget a prize or trophy for the winners!). Rentable equipment like giant indoor games makes for easy tournament set-up, teardown, and motility around the office. Smaller, sideline activities like a photo booth and props or cookie-decorating— who doesn’t love an activity they can eat?— complement the main event by letting employees make memories with any or all of the activities that best suit their personalities.

6. Remember to show your appreciation.

A 2014 study of Northeast Ohio companies found that businesses in the area spent an average of $75 per employee for their annual party. However, another survey found that spending only $25 per person for a holiday party was up 35% from the previous year. The point being, it doesn’t necessarily matter if your party is large or small, or if you blow out your budget on your yearend event. Your holiday party, at its core, should be planned as a show of appreciation to all the employees who have worked hard for you year after year. Your party should demonstrate pride in your employees and recognition of their accomplishments. Whether you plan a super-fancy affair with champagne and dancing, play Santa and hand out presents to each worker, or take the time to personally thank every employee at your party, the true measure of your holiday party’s success will be in how appreciated each one feels by your party-planning efforts.

A holiday office party doesn’t have to be over-the-top, outrageous, or expensive.  With some creative thinking and unique ideas like the ones shared above, your office party can have employees putting aside the “bah-humbug” attitude and getting into holiday spirit!

If you want to beat the statistics this year and throw a holiday party your whole office will look forward to, give us a call to get planning!

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Sep 27

20 Games to Play at Your Halloween Party

Fall is officially here, and for many Fall fans, that means Halloween isn’t far behind! You may already be making your costume and buying up candy for all your trick-or-treaters. But Halloween is more than just costumes and candy… it’s also a great time to throw a killer party!

Get your Halloween party started with these 20 fun games— for kids and adults— that will get your guests in the Halloween spirit.

1.Bobbing for Apples. A traditional game often played in the fall and around Halloween, bobbing for apples is a game with a simple set up and a bit of a messy result! Without using their arms, guests try to bite into apples bobbing in a big tub or bucket filled with water. It’s a good idea to keep some towels handy for this game!

2. Bobbing for Doughnuts. Bobbing for Doughnuts is a little bit like Bobbing for Apples, but so much sweeter! Tie string loosely around a batch or two of doughnuts, and then hang them from tree branches in your yard. Bobbing for Doughnuts players will have to eat their way through the hanging doughnuts, hands-free!

3. Corn Hole. Corn Hole is a fun, easy game, usually for 2 to 4 people. Players toss bean bags or small bags of corn at cutout holes in raised platforms. A bean bag in the hole is 3 points, and one on the platform is 1 point, until the game ends with the first team reaching 21 points. So simple, but so addictive!

4. Pumpkin Carving Contest. A pumpkin carving contest is one of the most classic Halloween activities of all time! Pick some plump pumpkins and let your guests carve (or paint, if you don’t want any sharp blades around little hands!) a design in their pumpkin. Let an appointed panel of jack-o-lantern judges choose the winning pumpkin.

5. Costume Contest. Arguably the most classic Halloween game, you can’t go wrong with a Halloween costume contest! Whether you set a specific costume theme for your party, or let guests dress in their own creative costumes, everyone will love prepping their Halloween outfits and then coming to show them off!

6. Ghost in the Graveyard. With a really on-point name for a Halloween party, Ghost in the Graveyard is a fun combination of Hide-and-Go-Seek and Tag. The “ghost” hides somewhere— usually outside in the dark— and other players shout “Ghost in the graveyard!” when they spy his hiding spot. The ghost then tries to tag another player to play ghost as they all run back to a safe base and start again.

7. Guess the Pumpkin’s Weight. A game that’s simple and effortless— besides hauling the big pumpkin home! Weigh a pumpkin and then put it on display at the party so guests can guess its weight. The guess that comes closest to the actual weight is the winner, and hopefully snags a nice Halloween treat as a prize!

8. Candy Corn Guessing Game. Yet another game of guesses, Candy Corn Guessing Game is also a low maintenance activity to keep guests busy for a short time. Fill up a clear jar, Tupperware container, or vase with a pre-counted amount of candy corn, and let guests try to guess the actual number. Use as little or as many candy corn as you like, as long it gives guests a challenge!

9. Mummy Race. Mummy Race is a test of agility under pressure! With the assistance of a friend, players must be tightly wrapped mummy-like with toilet paper, then lined up to race! The mummy that runs (or hops or crawls or wiggles!) to the finish line first gets the prize.

10. Murder Mystery Game. A Murder Mystery Game is an entertaining Halloween party idea for both adults and kids. (It’s such a fun game, we even suggested it in another party post!) Buy a Murder Mystery Game package online, or try writing your own script, and give each guest a part to play. Trying to catch the killer will feel extra spooky when you play on Halloween night!

11. Pumpkin Bowling. Grab some small gourds and set up some decorated (and cleaned!) tin cans as bowling pins. Players will try knocking over the most “pins” with their little pumpkins to win a prize. Or, you can hide prizes inside the tin cans and players can claim the prizes in all the pins they bring down.

12. Pumpkin Ring Toss. Pumpkin Ring Toss requires a few pumpkins of various sizes, and long stems! Paint numbers on the pumpkins to indicate the number of points each one is worth, then let party guests try ringing the stems to win some goodies.

13. Pumpkin Hot Potato. Pumpkin Hot Potato is pretty self-explanatory— it’s Hot Potato, with a pumpkin! Sitting in a circle, guests will start passing a pumpkin as music (like “Monster Mash,” “Thriller,” or something else perfect for Halloween!) is played. When the music stops, the player stuck holding the pumpkin is out. The game continues until one person remains to be declared winner!

14. Halloween Mystery Box. Halloween Mystery Box is a chance to gross out some guests on Halloween! It’s also a chance for you to exercise some creativity while putting the game together. Stuff boxes— shoe boxes, tissue boxes, anything players cannot see inside— with all kinds of “gross” things: peeled grapes for eyeballs, wet cut up sponges for entrails, cooked carrots and ketchup for bloody fingers… let your imagination go wild! Players will then have to reach into the creepy boxes and try to identify the true contents without looking!

15. Eyeball Hunt. A little bit similar to Halloween Mystery Box, Eyeball Hunt is another gross game that kids will probably enjoy playing at a Halloween party! Fill buckets or large bowls with tons of cooked spaghetti (you always make too much anyway, right?!), and stir peeled grapes or marbles into the noodles— these are your “eyeballs.” Kids will have to hunt through the spaghetti to find all the “eyeballs” they can within a set time limit.

16. Horror Movie Quotes Game. Get your horror movie buffs together for this game! Print out the most famous quotes from horror movies, and have guests or teams guess which movie the creepy quote belongs to.  Use these 101 best horror movie quotes to get started.

17. Howl-o-Scream Contest. A Howl-o-scream Contest is a great game to try if you have no neighbors! Outside in the dark, have players share their best scary scream. Werewolf howls, horror movie screams, and monster roars are all fair game! Guests can vote on the best bloodcurdling noise to crown the Howl-o-Scream queen (or king!).

18. Poison Apples. Poison Apples is another elimination game that will leave only one player standing as the winner. Fill a basket or bucket full of apples, some red, some green. While blindfolded, players will draw an apple from the basket; whoever draws a poison apple— the green ones— is out. To up the stakes, remove a few red apples each round!

19. Witch Charades. Witch Charades are basically normal charades with a Halloween theme! Use a black witch’s cauldron (or a witch’s hat, if it’s easier to come by), and fill it full of Halloween-related charades that guests will have to act out.  Will you be the Bride of Frankenstein, a witch flying on her broom, or Dracula rising from his coffin? The Halloween charades ideas are endless!

20. “Monster”-Sized Games. Finally, if you’d like to have a bunch of awesome games with minimal effort, consider renting them from a party rental company, and playing on the “Monster” theme. NEO Amusements has giant indoor/outdoor games, like Giant 4-Across, Giant Jenga, and Giant Checkers, that can easily be called “Monster-Sized Games” that big and little monsters alike can play all evening!

With so many games to choose from, you may have a hard time deciding what not to play at your Halloween party. No matter which ones you pick, you and your guests are sure to have a happy Halloween!

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Aug 28

16 Ways to Celebrate Sweet 16

If you’re the parent of a teenager, you know that the teenage years are full of coming-of-age milestones— some great and some not so great! One of the greats is much anticipated (by your teen) and often feared (by you): the 16th birthday! Sixteen is the legal age of driving in most states, and marks only two more years until your baby is officially an adult. To commemorate this teenage occasion, here are 16 ways you can celebrate Sweet 16:

1. Get that driver’s license (or permit)! Depending on your state’s driver’s ed requirements, your teen’s sixteenth birthday may be the exact day you can take them to get their much-longed for driver’s license or driving permit.  If you’re ready to let them on the road, celebrate Sweet 16 by taking a trip to your local DMV office. If you’re not familiar with the license application process in your state, be sure to check out http://www.dmv.org/teen-drivers.php to get prepared!

2. Throw an outdoor movie party. A great idea for when the weather is mild, an outdoor movie party is a casual but unique way to celebrate Sweet 16.  Besides the birthday teen, a large movie screen is really all you need for the main event! Rent an outdoor movie screen and the necessary audio-visual equipment, fill the backyard with blankets and pillows, and let guests chill out while watching the guest-of-honor’s favorite flicks.

3. Go out to a fancy dinner. Keep your celebration exclusive: Commemorate this milestone birthday by putting on your formal wear and dining at a nice restaurant with only close family members.  A fancy dinner out is an intimate, mature way to honor the birthday girl or boy.  Depending on your venue, it may also be a less expensive option when compared to a party filled with dozens of hungry teenagers!

4. Have a pool party. If your teen is turning 16 in the middle of summer— or if you can rent an indoor swimming facility nearby— then you can’t go wrong with a pool party! A Hawaiian or beach party theme adds another element of festivity to a pool party, and many decorations following this theme can be purchased easily at a dollar store. Giant, fun pool rafts are also a big seller right now— from unicorns to flamingos to floating pizza slices— so make sure you have one or two on hand for guests to lounge on!

5. Have a “Remember when?” nostalgia party. Sixteen isn’t old by any means— but the days when your baby was actually a baby are long gone! On their 16th birthday, take a walk down memory lane by watching a marathon of home movies and looking back through your library of family photos. You can also ask family members to share their favorite memories of the birthday teen.

6. Go on a mini getaway. Most birthday budgets don’t allow for a “bucket list”-type vacation across the globe— but you can give your teen a mini getaway to celebrate their birthday in an out-of-the-ordinary way. Bring some family members, or a few of your teen’s closest friends, and book into a local hotel for a night. Order room service, hit the pool, and visit the spa.  A mini getaway is a special birthday treat and a great alternative to the traditional birthday party.

7. Stage a mystery party. You don’t have to be an amateur sleuth or budding actor to enjoy a mystery party! Based around a script where guests play characters, mystery parties are entertaining in more ways than one. Not only do your teenager and friends get to work together to solve the mystery, they can also dress up in costume, role play their parts, and bring their own props. My Mystery Party even offers teen mystery party boxes ready to go. Mystery parties are a picture-perfect activity your teen will spend the night Instagramming!

8. Have a gaming marathon. If your teenager is a video game junkie, feed their hobby a little bit this Sweet 16 by getting friends together for a gaming marathon. Whether they’re playing the hottest games of today, or going retro with old school systems, your teen may love the opportunity to plug in and veg out— for, say, 16 hours of gaming goodness!

9. Build a bonfire. Light up the night with a celebratory bonfire.   A laidback option, a bonfire lets friends and family gather around to roast hotdogs and marshmallows together. Teenage parties involve a lot of hanging out, and a casual group gathering around the backyard fire pit is a cool way to accomplish your birthday celebration. But safety first: keep a fire extinguisher on hand just in case!

10. Go Go-Kart racing! Even at the legal driving age of 16, you may not be ready to let your teenager on the road just yet! Plan a fun way to get them behind the wheel without the worry by taking them Go-Kart racing for their sixteenth birthday. A classic but still popular pastime, Go-Kart racing is an apt birthday activity for an up-and-coming teen driver.

11. Visit the amusement park. Is your teen a thrill-seeker? Set them loose in an amusement park! Whether they enjoy riding roller coasters, eating the concessions, or playing arcade games, there will be no shortage of things to do when your teen and friends spend Sweet 16 at an amusement park. Not sure which park is the best? TripSavvy will help you locate great theme parks and amusement parks by state.

12. Go to a concert. For music-loving teens, going to a concert may be the perfect birthday gift. Is their favorite artist going on tour? Can you find a local music festival being held on their actual birthday?  Get tickets and take in some live music for their Sweet 16! If no concert venues are taking place around your teen’s birthday, a quick alternative is a backyard “concert”: hire a live band, or set up the karaoke machine so teens can belt out their own hits!

13. Plan a “favorite” party. Does your teen have a book, movie, decade, hobby, etc., that is their absolute favorite? Plan a party around it! Guests can come dressed as characters from the book or in the style of the decade. Decorations, music, and even food can be tailored to suit the theme. Celebrate your teen’s big day by turning it into an homage to their unique “favorite” thing, whatever that may be!

14. Break out of an Escape Room! Escape Rooms are a hot trend in the retail-entertainment industry, and they just seem to keep growing in popularity! With the help of family and friends, willing participants are locked into a room and must complete various puzzles or solve clues in order to beat the clock and unlock the door! There are plenty of Escape Room themes to choose from, from crime scene investigations, to Sherlock Holmes’ plots, to “rescue missions” and many more! With over 2,800 Escape Rooms worldwide, a quick Google search should help you find the Room closest to you.

 15. Start a Cake War. Skip the birthday cake-baking for Sweet 16 and let your teen do the work! In the style of the many cooking competitions on TV, let your teen and their friends have a bake-off. Fill your kitchen with go-to ingredients, then let the teams of cooks bake their cake of choice, decorate it, and offer it up to a panel of “judges” before everyone digs in to enjoy. It may get messy, but it will be totally memorable!

16. Play Laser Tag (or Paintball). Laser Tag and/or Paintball is an awesome idea for an active 16th birthday.  Teenagers can be occupied for hours with these activities, and will be ready for lots of easy, greasy party food (think pizza and fries) when they finish.  Most facilities for these events also offer a party room where you can eat and open gifts, so you’ll get the full party package when you make your booking.

Whichever way you choose to celebrate, make your teen’s Sweet 16 a sweet event! Which celebration idea is your favorite?

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Jul 28

3 Party Themes to Get Kids Ready for Back to School

Besides Christmas, the start of school every fall may be the most wonderful time of the year— at least for parents! But for kiddos, going back to school after the freedom of summer vacation can be a sad and dreary time.  They may not exactly be looking forward to getting back into the routine of early mornings, homework, and long school days. To help make the transition more fun and exciting, turn it into a celebratory event!  Back to school parties are an ongoing trend that many kids and parents enjoy as a way to close out the summer and open a new chapter in the year.  To throw your own back to school bash, try out one of these special party themes that kids will love!

PARTY IDEA 1#: Throw a “School’s in Session Party”!

This is a great party idea to help acclimate kids who are reluctant to go back to school or little ones who are about to go to school for the first time.

First, send invitations to fellow classmates.  Fill your child’s party with their favorite classmates, both the friends they’ve been hanging with all summer and students they may not have been able to see since the school year ended. If you know the roster for the school year, you could even invite guests your children haven’t met yet as a way to start new friendships early.  E-vites are a simple, fast way to get the word out about your back to school party. If you opt for paper invitations, Punchbowl.com offers cute academia-themed cards decorated with crayons, school buses, apples, and more. For an added touch, include a printed “lunch menu” (more on that below) just like they’d bring home from school!

Then get your “classroom” ready with some education-related decorations!  Back to school décor is easy to create. There are a number of standard school themes you can use to turn a room in your home into a do-it-yourself classroom for little party guests; maps, pencils, apples, books, chalkboards, and the alphabet are all gold-star options, and simple to set up. To set up your classroom theme, try these quick ideas:

  • Put “bouquets” of pencils or crayons on tables, either in vases or tied together with string;
  • Hang a large map on one wall, and alphabet banners across doorways and windows;
  • Cut large pencils or rulers out of cardboard and construction paper. Use them as wall decorations, or let kids take “school pictures” with these props;
  • Place globes and stacked books as centerpieces on food tables and other locations around the room;
  • Use small chalkboards to label activity stations and food items.

For even more clever ideas, check out iheartnaptime.com.

After your room is ready, plan a school lunch menu!  Set up your dining room or another room in your house like a school lunch room! Let kids line up and be served their choice of delicious a la carte items (which will probably be much better than actual cafeteria food!). In case it’s been awhile for you, “classic” school lunches can include:

    • Pizza
    • Chicken nuggets
    • Macaroni
    • Meatloaf
    • Fruit cups
    • Milk cartons
    • Chocolate chip cookies

Serve your menu items on divided trays or plates, available for cheap at most Dollar Tree stores, for an even more authentic cafeteria experience!

Finally, “play” the day away at school! Although your back to school party is education-themed, kids aren’t going to want to do homework the whole time! Having a list of fun school games to play will keep kids entertained and get their minds working at the same time. Organize your games like “classes,” with a specific class theme and a school bell to announce the start of each new activity!

  • English class: Print copies of this Back to School Word Search and let kids race to find all the hidden words.
  • Art class: Set up a painting station, or let kids draw on the sidewalk with colored chalk. Ask them to draw images of things they did over the summer, or what they’re looking forward to about the new school year.
  • Math class: Play a game of Bingo, letting kids match up the called-out numbers until they yell “Bingo!” (or a school word, like “Recess!”) when they’ve matched a corr3ec line of numbers.
  • Shop class: With crayons, glue, construction paper, and clean empty cans, let kids “build” their own pencil holders.
  • Gym class: Get outside with a physical activity like Red Rover, Dodgeball, or Capture the Flag!

For games that warrant prizes, or for fun party favors, hand out supplies to help kids get prepared for school. Small items like marker sets, notebooks, and erasers are both cool and necessary!

PARTY IDEA #2: Host a “Back to School Book Swap”!

A Back to School book swap is probably even easier to organize than a School’s in Session party!  The main premise is simply to let kids bring their old books to a central location, and exchange them for other books kids have brought to the swap.  Here are a few suggestions for making the book swap both fun to attend and low-maintenance to throw together:

  1. Send invitations with clear instructions about how the book swap will work. For example, each child brings X number books and can swap for X number of books; each child should bring X kinds of books to share, etc.
  2. Set up a large table or clear floor space where kids can sit in a circle and put their books in the center. Create name tags (just like they’d find on their desks at school!) and place accordingly so everyone has a clear place to sit and sift through books.
  3. Offer refreshments in the form of brown bagged lunches. Each child can receive a brown bag filled with a PB & J sandwich, brownies, apples or baby carrots, chips, etc. This way no one goes hungry, and food prep and cleanup is really easy on you! (And you stay in keeping with the subtle school theme!)
  4. Let kids take turns picking so everyone has a fair chance to go home with some great books.
  5. After the swapping is finished, offer up some comfy pillows and blankets so kids can get comfy and peruse their “new” library additions!

PARTY IDEA #3: Have an “End of Summer Extravaganza”!

The final party theme to get your kids ready to go back to school is a big one!  To close out summer with a bang, why have not have a huge “End of Summer Extravaganza”? This party is basically a final hurrah before the kids head back to school, giving them the opportunity to do one last fun summer activity— and hopefully get out some of their summer energy so they settle down for the classroom!

Your End of Summer Extravaganza can include whatever you and your children love the most about summer, but should of course include lots of friends and fun activities! Here are a few ideas for blow-out bashes that we love the most:

  • Throw a backyard party or block party with games, inflatables, and some delicious end of summer grilling! Bounce houses, concession machines, balloon animals, and similar entertainment ideas make it feel like kids have their very own carnival at home.
  • Spend the day getting soaked at a water park! Tackle huge water slides, ride the wave pool, and tube through waterways while you spend a last family day beating the summer heat. If you don’t live near a waterpark, bring one to you with sprinklers and Slip N Slides in the backyard.
  • Have a back to school fashion show. After all the new school clothes and supplies have been picked out, create a runaway in your living room or hallway, complete with runway lights (flashlights work fine!) and upbeat music so kids can strut their stuff and get hyped about their new school purchases!
  • Enjoy some end of summer sports. Whether you catch a late-season baseball game, or an early scrimmage of your favorite football team, take family and friends for a sporty outing. Fill up on hotdogs, popcorn, and other great treats while everyone hangs out in the stands!
  • Watch a movie marathon. Simple, easy, and stress-free— enjoy a final relaxing day before the start of school by watching everyone’s favorite movies. Remember to chow down on popcorn and candy during viewing! This is a great way to enjoy each other’s company before the hectic school schedule begins. For an even bigger event, rent a movie screen for an outdoor theater experience!

Whichever way you choose to celebrate the end of summer, give your kids an awesome memory to take with them when they head back to school!

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Jun 29

31 Things to Do with Your Kids During Anti-Boredom Month

Are you having an exciting, adventure-filled summer?!
Or is your summer hot, long, and, worst of all, boring?

For children and parents alike, summer days can become a tedious cycle of boredom and frustration. Even though kids love summer break, they can struggle to find something fun to do every day. Even though parents love their kids, having them home all day long for months can wear on anyone’s patience! So what are kids and parents to do?

It’s the month of July to the rescue! July is National Anti-Boredom month, and is the perfect opportunity to make the most of summer. Throughout the coming month, explore these 31 things you can do with your kids to beat boredom and have an awesome summer!

1. Practice your photography skills.
Grab your phone or your digital camera and see how many cool snaps you can take! Keep it interesting by giving the kids photo challenges: Take a picture of the weirdest face you can make! Photograph three different birds! Keep the list going, and then take a look at the awesome photo memories you’ve made by the end of the day.

2. Try a new recipe.
Search your Pinterest boards for a recipe you’ve been saving for a special occasion, or break out the old school cookbook to find a new dish. Get the family involved by letting them help you measure, chop, wash, and stir— then enjoy the meal you’ve prepared together!

3. Create sidewalk chalk art.
Let the kids cover your driveway and sidewalk with colorful chalk doodles. Ask them to illustrate creative scenes, or turn the pavement into a giant game board by sketching out hopscotch, Hangman, and other activities kids can play when they’ve finished drawing!

4. See parades and fireworks on July 4th.
Nothing says July 4th celebration like parades and fireworks! Take the family to the town parade in the morning and the local fireworks show at night— and fill the time between with a great Fourth of July barbeque! For more July 4th activity ideas, check out our blog “5 Family Traditions for the Fourth of July.

5. Make crafts.
Crafts keep minds active and hands busy! Use supplies from The Dollar Store, spread out on the kitchen table or back porch, and let kids craft to their hearts’ content! For specific projects to work on, check out some fun craft ideas from MarthaStewart.com.

6. Volunteer.
There are so many ways to volunteer in every community! Teach a lesson in helping, gratefulness, and kinship by volunteering around town with the kids. Check with local animal shelters, nursing homes, libraries, and food pantries for volunteering opportunities.

7. Play backyard games.
It’s summer— spend time outdoors! Your yard is the perfect place for getting out all the rowdiness that bored kids can develop! Play Frisbee or tag, or have a water balloon fight— anything to shake out the summer cabin fever.

8. Play indoor games.
A welcome idea when the rain traps you inside, play the day away with indoor games. Pull out your favorite board games like Monopoly, Twister, and Jenga, and have a championship playoff! For more cool ideas, check out our gallery of indoor games.

9. Grow your green thumb.
Work in the garden— it’s another great excuse to get outside and keep little hands busy! Even if you don’t have the greenest thumb, kids can have fun digging in the dirt and learning to take care of nature.

10. Show a movie marathon.
A movie day is an easy way to settle down and relax together. Whether you plan a day of movie marathons or a family movie night, make it a special event with buttery popcorn, movie theater candy, and a stack of family-friendly flicks.

11. Have a picnic.
Pack a picnic lunch and spend a few hours outside enjoying food and fresh air. Even if you don’t live near a convenient picnic area, you can have an impromptu one on the deck or the lawn. Just make sure to bring your basket and checkered blanket for that authentic picnic feel!

12. Build a LEGO empire.
LEGOs are a quintessential part of childhood. Put imaginations and design skills to work by building an epic LEGO empire! Work together to build the tallest towers and biggest buildings.

13. Host the summer mini-Olympics.
If you have a big family or want to invite over neighborhood friends, host a mini-Olympics in your backyard with classic variations of summer games: three-legged sprints, Frisbee golf, NERF archery… Hold an opening ceremony by lighting the grill, and hand out silly prizes for participants!

14. Take a walk.
It’s simple, it’s free, and it gets everyone moving: take a walk around your neighborhood for a change of scenery. If you live in-town, stop by some local sites to prolong your trip— take out some books from the library, visit the pet shop, or go to the park.

15. Get reading.
Reading books helps build character and occupy time on long summer afternoons. (And bonus: it’s a quiet activity!) Add some reading time into your days by setting up a cozy place for everyone to curl up with a good book. For extra engagement, let your kids act out their favorite stories for the family!

16. Participate in National Give Something Away Day.
On July 15, get in the spirit of National Give Something Away Day by looking for opportunities to do good deeds! Help kids give away toys they no longer use, take a donation to a food pantry, or prepare a meal for the neighbors. This day is a hands-on way for kids to discover sharing.

17. Celebrate National Ice Cream Day.
July 16 is National Ice Cream Day! Visit a local ice cream parlor and sample different scoops, or have a make-your-own- sundae party at home with all the fixings! It’s a great way to entertain the family and cool down on a hot summer day.

18. Visit a museum.
Museums aren’t just for field trips! Visit a local or national museum for an air- conditioned stroll through a variety of exhibits. Not sure where to go? Greatmuseums.org is an excellent database for finding museum info in your area.

19. Make forts.
Another great idea for a rainy day, building forts is not just fun for kids! Use sheets, couch cushions, and chairs to design forts around the house, then crawl inside to read or watch movies. Get creative and see how huge you can make your fort.

20. Do some summer cleaning.
When all else fails, get cleaning! Not only is it something you have to do anyway, but with the help of the whole family organizing and scrubbing, it can be quick and fun. (It’s also smart to schedule cleaning day for the day after you’ve torn your house apart homemade forts!)

21. Go camping in the backyard.
You don’t have to rough it in the deep woods to have some family camping fun. Pitch a tent in the yard, roast S’mores over the grill, and stargaze in your sleeping bags as you enjoy a family getaway just a few feet from home.

22. Explore a local landmark.
Do you know how many adventures may be waiting just around the corner? Plan a family outing to a local landmark or interesting attraction. Search your zip code in Google or Atlas Obscura to find a fun location. You never know what your family may see or learn!

23. Eat your meals in reverse.
Yes, it’s silly, but sometimes silly is just what the doctor ordered to beat the doldrums! Change up your daily routine with a menu reversal: have your waffles for dinner, your PB &J sandwiches for breakfast, and your casserole for lunch! This quirky change will keep your kids guessing about what’s coming next.

24. Have Christmas in July.
What do kids love more— summer vacation, or Christmas morning? Give them both with a “Christmas in July”-themed day! Play carols, watch Christmas movies, cut out paper snowflakes, and bake your favorite cookies together. It’s a merry break in your summer routine!

25. Celebrate National Merry-Go-Round Day.
National Merry-Go-Round Day is July 25! Spend the day at the park or playground. Free entertainment is built right in with swing sets, slides, sports courts, and of course, merry-go-rounds!

26. Play video games.
Too many video games may rot your brain, but spending time playing as a family can be a treat for the kids! Set up a video game tournament and take turns playing everyone’s favorite game. Need some extra audio/visual equipment for your tourney? Check a local rental place!

27. Go to the zoo.
Zoos are entertaining and educational! Everyone in the family can visit their favorite animal while also learning about species and habitats. Check your local zoo’s calendar for special upcoming events and exhibits.

28. Take a virtual staycation. You don’t have to leave your home to take a vacation. Instead, try a virtual staycation that is both scholastic and entertaining. Ask your kids where they want to explore and let them plan out an imaginary itinerary for their trip. Then Use Google Earth to planet-hop to amazing locations!

29. Do a little dance on National Dance Day.
Break out your dancing shoes on July 29— it’s National Dance Day! Clear away the living room furniture and have a family dance party on the carpet. Start a dance battle to crown the best dancer in your family!

30. Have some Inflatable fun.
We’re all about inflatables, so we highly recommend giving kids the unique experience of renting a bounce house! Not only do your children get to bounce away their boredom, but the big colorful inflatables will have them feeling like they’re at a carnival in their own backyard!

31. Throw a party.
Close out Anti-Boredom Month with a bang! Host a summer party for your family and friends— you’ll have plenty of food and activity ideas to choose from after 31 days of beating boredom! Share your experiences, and relive the amazing memories you’ve made this month.

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May 31

5 Family Traditions for the Fourth of July

Fireworks. Flags. Food. A day of celebration. The Fourth of July is a little over a month away, and we’re already ready to celebrate with our families! July 4th is our most patriotic holiday, and marks the anniversary of our nation’s independence.  Every year families and friends get together to commemorate July 4th in all kinds of ways. Have you made your Independence Day plans yet? It’s not too early or too late to get ready for a fun, family-friendly Fourth! Here are 5 traditions that many families enjoy every Fourth of July:

  1. Fireworks.

Besides the American flag, there’s probably nothing else that says “Fourth of July” like a fireworks show! A longstanding tradition, the first July 4th fireworks were set off on July 4, 1777. John Adams was the person responsible for the start of this tradition, writing that he wanted the day to be celebrated with “Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” Americans have definitely upheld this request for over the last two hundred years, with picnics, games, and fireworks taking place every year. In fact, Americans used 285.3 million pounds of fireworks last July 4th!  One event that uses a bundle of these firecrackers is the largest fireworks display in America, held in New York City, where about 3 million spectators gather annually to watch the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Show. Whether your family will be watching fireworks on TV or attending a local show, these booming light displays never disappoint.  To find a venue near you, check out http://find.mapmuse.com/interest/fireworks and keep the fireworks tradition going!

2.  Parades.

Parades commemorate celebrations throughout the year— Halloween, Mardi Gras, Thanksgiving, and also the Fourth of July! The oldest Independence Day parade in the country is the Bristol Fourth of July Parade in Rhode Island. Originally held in 1785, the Bristol parade draws over 200,00 people worldwide to celebrate.  Another notable parade is the world’s shortest Fourth of July parade in California. The spectacle takes place over just two city blocks, but the events last more than two hours!  The most patriotic parade may be the one that takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. More than 5,000 participants from a dozen states come out to march in this parade.  If you’re considering taking the family to a July 4th parade this year, take a look at a list of America’s Best 4th of July Parades to find out if any of them are taking place in your area!

  1. History lessons.

Fourth of July history lessons probably don’t sound nearly as exciting as fireworks and parades, but July 4th is a great day to remember, and learn about, the nation’s heritage. We probably all remember from our elementary school days that the nation’s official Independence Day took place on July 4, 1776.  But did you know that it didn’t become an official federal holiday until 1941? Fourth of July activities in the early years following July 4, 1776 included concerts, bonfires, parades, the firing of cannons, and public readings of the Declaration of Independence. Since the late 19th century, July 4th has become a day of leisurely family get-togethers including fireworks and barbecues. To learn more about the Fourth of July on the actual Fourth of July, consider a few of these activities: Create some American flag crafts with the kids, read the Declaration of Independence, or visit a national museum near you.

  1. Barbecues and picnics.

Americans love outdoor food parties! July 4th is full of barbecues and picnics for friends and family.  It’s probably not a coincidence that July is also National Hot Dog Month.  It’s estimated that 64.5% of Americans attend a picnic or barbecue on the Fourth of July, and consume 155 million hot dogs in a single day! Whether you’re grilling or picnicking, food is most likely the centerpiece of your Fourth of July event. Make sure your menu is plentiful, and suitable for the whole family! If you want a more balanced diet that isn’t just hot dogs, there are amazing recipes available for July 4th! Try some great cola ribs, pulled pork, or brisket with these barbecue recipes from the Food Network.  Salads are another featured food on this day, from potato to macaroni to broccoli.  Mix and match a variety of side dishes, so guests have ample food to sample, with these top 15 sides for the 4th of July.  Finally, try some adorable Fourth desserts that are decked out in red, white and blue! We also suggest saving yourself some time and renting some concession machines to feed your family on the Fourth.  NEO Amusements has popcorn machines, cotton candy machines, margarita machines, and more to serve up tasty treats. In honor of National Hot Dog Month, we even have a hot dog roller machine!

  1. Backyard parties.  

Food is an important part of picnics and barbecues, but that’s not the only thing that makes families look forward to July 4th.  This day in the middle of summer is a great opportunity to be outside, relax with friends, and throw a backyard party that everyone can enjoy.  Celebrate the freedom symbolized by July 4th by getting outdoors in the fresh air!  Make your backyard as inviting as possible with tents, tables, and chairs where guests can chill out from the sun.  Get the kids in the game with a ton of backyard games, from Giant Checkers to Hover Ball to Ladder Golf. Or pump up the excitement with an inflatable bounce house!  With a grilling station, games and activities, and places to sit down and relax, your family and friends will relish the tradition of the backyard party on July 4th.

Whether you engage in one or all of these five family traditions on the Fourth of July, there’s nothing like a festive holiday to make some memories and enjoy family togetherness. From big booming fireworks to tiny sparklers, and huge parades to intimate parties, celebrate Independence Day in all sorts of traditional styles- and start some traditions of your own!

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May 01

Quick Tips to Throw an Awesome Last-Minute Graduation Party


Brace yourselves— graduation is coming!  After years of doing homework, taking tests, and running from one extracurricular activity to another, it’s all about to come to an end, as a new chapter begins. After all your struggles and accomplishments, graduation is a time for celebration!

On the other hand, graduation is also an overwhelming time. Late night study sessions, eleventh-hour cramming for exams, taking the SATs, applying for jobs, saying goodbye to friends you’ve seen every day for years… the list of stressors goes on! As exciting as graduation is, it also includes its own particular blend of stress and sadness.

So, if you haven’t gotten around to some important graduation details yet, like planning a swanky graduation party, don’t worry! It’s still possible to throw together a last-minute graduation party that’s fun and memorable, so no one has to know you just started planning last week.  Try some of the following ideas to plan your party from start to finish.

  • For invitations:

If graduation is coming up fast, you probably don’t have time to order custom-made, printed invitations. Don’t waste time waiting for your cards to arrive (and then addressing them and shipping them to all your friends and family).  Sending e-invites is a fast alternative to snail mail.  Sites like www.evite.com and www.paperlesspost.com offer trendy online invitations, many of which are free and customizable. For a more laidback approach to invitations, create a Facebook event for your grad party, and invite everyone on your friend list! If you’re new to Facebook Events, you can easily create one and add the date, time, and party details under the Facebook “Events” tab.  And if you’re really pressed for time before your party date, there’s nothing like an old-fashioned phone call to courteously invite your loved ones to your special day!

  • For venue:

             Where to host your graduation party is one problem to solve quickly, since the rest of your party— food, décor, and entertainment— may be influenced by your venue location.  If you have the space available, hosting the party in your own home is the quickest— and cheapest!— solution.  If your home isn’t large enough to accommodate a lot of guests, maximize your available space by putting tables and chairs in the yard.  Party rental companies, like those of us at NEO Amusements, have catalogs of rentable chairs and tables available, which you can often reserve on short notice if you give us a call!  In case of rain, tents of all sizes are also an option. If your own home isn’t your ideal location, get your phone ready again and start making calls to local venues to check out availability.  Try reserving a pavilion at a public park, or a room at a local hotel, favorite restaurant, or country club. Pro tip: Ask a local caterer for venue suggestions if you run out of ideas!

  • For food:

             People come to parties for the fun, and stay for the food!  When it comes to serving up the menu for your graduation party, your options are endless— it just comes down to a recipe of time, budget, and number of guests! You can certainly order out for pizza at the last minute, and your guests will still be content (who doesn’t love pizza?)! But if you have a week or so remaining before your grad party, start planning for some tasty-but-easy dishes you can put together without fuss.  Don’t feel like you need to serve your guests a three-course meal! Plan your party for a time of day that falls between meals, so guests will be ready to graze on finger food, but not hungering for a full lunch or dinner. For menu inspiration, Pinterest is loaded with appetizer recipes that are quick to make but delicious to eat.  You could also serve up a buffet of the graduate’s favorite foods, or opt for a dessert-themed party with cake, brownies, and other sweet things. And if you’re able to reserve a restaurant for your party venue, you’ve already got the food covered!

  • For décor:

When pressed for time, go simple, and make your party decorations all about the grad! Photo memories add a personal touch and give friends and family the chance to walk down memory lane. Here are a few of our favorite, quick graduation decoration ideas:

  • Make a banner composed of all your grad’s school pictures;
  • Cut “2017”out of poster board and hang on the wall (if you have the time, decorate the numbers with more photos!);
  • Use wide ribbons instead of streamers for a more sophisticated feel;
  • Match your color scheme to the grad’s school colors;
  • Set out one basket for cards, and another to collect quarters for a “Laundry Contribution Fund”;
  • Grab some balloons from the Dollar Store and tie in bunches to line the sidewalk or decorate the food table.

Décor for your graduation party is another area where the wide world of Pinterest comes in handy! You can find more clever ideas, printable poster templates, and DIY guides to throw together a great looking party. 

  • For entertainment:

Last but not least, consider having some entertainment available for the graduate’s friends and all your guests.  Does your grad have any friends in their own band? Let them play a set! Have some old board games in the basement? Pull out your grad’s favorite ones from childhood and place them around for playing.  For some bigger fun, call a party rental company like us at NEO Amusements to check last-minute availability of inflatables, backyard games, and photo booths, so your guests of all ages will be kept busy and happy for hours.  Finally, as another personal touch, and a celebration of the graduate, play old home movies for your guests so you can laugh (and cry!) together as you watch your grad grow up all over again.

Graduation is an exciting, emotional time that a whole family can experience together. The party afterward is a way to cap off this celebration of achievement and possibilities!  Even if graduation is right around the corner and you’re pressed for time, your celebration can still be fun and unforgettable. By using a few of these quick tips to put together invitations, venue, food, décor, and entertainment, you and your grad will be ready to celebrate this momentous occasion even at the last minute!

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Apr 18

One Thing About Your ‘Dream Wedding’ That Isn’t So Dreamy

Congratulations! You’re engaged, ready to get married, and about to plan your dream wedding.  When it comes time to choose your venue, decorations, entertainment, and guest list, you want to make sure everything is perfect. But, there’s one part of a wedding that may not be so dreamy: the wedding budget.

“Budget” is not a word that suggests thoughts of celebration and fun. You’re probably thinking of an accountant’s visor and spreadsheets instead of gorgeous dresses and wedding dances.  Nonetheless, budget is a necessary word when it comes to planning an event that could, potentially, end up costing thousands (or eeek, tens of thousands!) of dollars when all is bought and paid for.  It may seem like a no-brainer, but starting your wedding planning with a budget will save you a lot of headaches and regrets.  You want to start your marriage in love, not in debt. So, when wedding planning gets underway, make sure you ask yourself these questions:

1) Why is starting with my budget important?

Having a budget for this momentous event is going to save you time and, literally, money. By setting up strict financial parameters from the get-go, you can determine exactly where you want to scrimp on money, and on what areas you want to splurge.  Not every part of the wedding or reception needs to break the bank. Besides the budget, what is most important to you and your significant other: Pretty location? Inviting everyone you can? Great food and music? Decide together what top three to five items you’re willing to go “all out” for (you can decide for yourselves what “all out” really means to your wallet). Then work down your list of wedding necessities in descending order of importance. You might even find that some items you think necessary just aren’t— so you’ll have more money in your budget to reallocate, or save for the honeymoon!

When you’ve decided where you’ll be splurging and scrimping, your budget will also be able to direct you to the vendors that fit in your financial range. Search for local vendors that can accommodate your budgetary needs, and eliminate anyone who can’t right away. If you’re determined to stick to the budget, don’t be tempted to blow it by pining over a vendor you can’t afford. A larger vendor like Event Source may look attractive, but if they’re above your budget, are they really worth the financial (and emotional) strain it’ll take to secure them? You may be able to find a competitor of your idealized vendor at a cheaper rate than the big box name, and with better service. You followed your heart to your fiancé— now follow your budget to your wedding vendors.

Finally, if you have a general idea of the costs involved, you can also plan how long you (or your parents) would need to save to cover the tab.  Don’t just guess; know what you want, lay out a realistic timeline, and get budgeting. Then adjust accordingly until your budget, your top wants, and your timeline join in perfect unity.

2)  What should I include in my budget?

 If you’ve prioritized your top three to five wedding splurges, you should already have a pretty good idea of what you’ll be including in your budget. But generally, the “big” things traditionally included in a wedding budget are: venue (for wedding and reception, if not in the same place), dress, music/DJ, catering, decor, photographer, cake, and flowers.  According to a 2015 survey by WeddingWire.com, the average cost of a wedding is now (brace yourself) $30,000! That’s a total yearly income for a lot of Americans. Even more startling is another figure included in the survey which states that 74% of couples end up going over budget anyway.

To avoid being one of these couples, first know that wedding costs can vary wildly depending on a number of factors, including where you’ll be getting married, how many guests you’ll be inviting, and even what season it’ll be when you have your wedding. It pays (no pun intended) to review the big-ticket items you want in your budget and see if you can’t find a few ways to lower cost right away.  For example, if your heart is set on a specific local venue, or you want a destination wedding, you may find expenses are less if you get married during the venue’s “off-season” when the demand isn’t as great.  Invest time in researching the bigger cost items in the area where you want to have your wedding; it’ll give you a realistic picture of what your budget should look like in order to accommodate both your desires and your location.

Second, keep in mind that there are other expenses that will accrue, but if you go for the big ones first, you’ll splurge where you planned to, and not end up overspending on smaller-cost wedding needs— they add up too if you’re not careful!  Some things to consider are: limo rental, invitations plus postage, wedding favors, tux rentals, dress alterations, the marriage license, beauty treatments…the list goes on! When you realize just how many wedding items there are to take stock of, the need to make a budget — and stick to it!— becomes a lot more credible.

3) How can I cut corners?

In today’s DIY Pinterest world, there are plenty of ways to cut corners— again, it just comes down to what is most important to your wedding wants.  Depending on your tastes, here are a few ideas to consider if you’re looking to cut out some costs:

  • Choose intimate over inclusive: There are certain people you may feel obligated to invite to your wedding, but don’t fall into that trap or you’ll end up with an expensive wedding full of people you barely know or barely like. If you parse down the guest list, your day can be enjoyable because you 1) get to enjoy it with those you love most, and 2) won’t overspend for the sake of accommodation. Plus, you can simply tell anyone who doesn’t receive an invitation that you’re just having a close-family-and-friends event.
  • Have a ceremony at home or outdoors: Renting a building for your wedding and reception can be very expensive depending on where you live. If your home or outdoor space can contain your ceremony, you can still have a tasteful wedding without needing to offer your firstborn as payment to book The Plaza. Local vendors like us at NEO Amusements can provide tents, tables, chairs, and audio equipment at much lower costs than renting out an entire facility— and you won’t need to plan your wedding date around another facility’s availability.
  • Use less flowers: Flowers are traditionally part of weddings, but you don’t need to turn your venue into a greenhouse to be beautiful. Minimal is still magical. Use single-stem bouquets, or small arrangements on reception tables for little pops of color. And if you get married outside, you may already have flowers available free-of-charge!
  • Contact a local college for music and photography options: A local college or university may just have a very talented group of students available at a very agreeable discount. Contact the music and photography departments for suggestions, and schedule a preview. You may feel leery of hiring students for your special day, but keep in mind, these students are pursuing careers in music and/or photography, and will be eager to show off their very best abilities.
  • Go paperless: This is probably the least traditional suggestion for cutting corners, but in a digital world, it’s not outrageous to consider sending e-vite invitations. The benefit is threefold: 1) You won’t have envelopes to stuff, lick, and mail; 2) you could potentially save several hundred dollars by ditching the traditional printed invitations and RSVPs, and 3) e-vites are more environmentally friendly. As long as you have email addresses for everyone you want to invite, there are many stylish e-vite sites available for little to no cost.

It isn’t exactly romantic to have to consider financial responsibility with every wedding decision you make.  “With this budget I thee wed” does not make for the most loving of wedding vows. But setting your budget early and following through on your plan is going to remove a number of stresses along the way that would otherwise steal the ‘happy’ from this happy occasion.  By considering these three questions— Why is starting with my wedding budget important? What should I include in my budget? and How can I cut corners on my wedding?— you can make decisions for your wedding that will be both Informed and satisfying. No matter what budget you settle on or what style of wedding you choose, your special day is just that— yours.  Make it as elegant, nontraditional, or epic as you want it to be.  Just decide early on what it takes to make your dream day a reality.  As long as you and your significant other are happy, then it’ll be a dream come true!

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