Party Planning on a Penny

A hub for all the latest on event and party planning for the young adult lifestyle

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Party Planning 101 – Invitations

The Importance of a Formal Invitation

In today’s social atmosphere, it is so easy to forget to send out a formal invitation, and just send out a quick email or text message.

But sending out a formal invitation has its advantages.  Not only do they give out useful and important information about the party – like the time and location – but they also can set the stage for your event.  Unless you plan on throwing a mediocre party, you shouldn’t plan to send out mediocre invitations.  Your invitation is a declaration of what kind of party you are hosting.  Not to mention, everyone loves to get some snail mail every once in a while!

An invitation is a preamble to your party’s atmosphere.  It presents your guests with the theme, colors, and expected formality of the event.  Creating or purchasing detailed and enticing invitations show your professionalism as well as your creativity.  Once again, you want to WOW! your guests!

Formal invitations are also incentives for your guests to actually attend event.  Personally, I am much more likely to attend a party or social function when I get some kind of formal invite, rather than a Facebook message or email.

Above are some examples of the different types of invitations (and thank you notes) you might want to use.  Simple but colorful RSVP cards are attention grabbing and can be designed to coordinate with your party’s theme.  Patterned blank cards can be used as thank you notes or platforms for creating your own invitations.  Elegant invitations that have elegant typing or monograms let your guests know that this is a more formal event.

If you’re having trouble coming up with an invitation idea, browse on Etsy or Pinterest – there are tons of great ideas and inspiration.  And if you’re artistic or crafty, don’t be afraid to make your own!  If you’re still hooked on the technology spectrum, look into evites from or – they have formal cards and invitations that are sent via email.

Event Planning for Dummies

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Party Planning 101- What is Event Planning?

Meticulous planning will enable everything a man does to appear spontaneous.
Mark Caine

I guess you could say I discovered the event planning industry by accident.  In the summer of 2013, I interned at a major television network in New York City.  While I had applied to intern in their Marketing department, the Events team desperately needed an intern, and so I was assigned to shadow and learn from them for the summer.

I had no idea what event planning entailed; and even though I spent three rigorous months learning the ropes from some of the most dedicated and experienced events professionals, I know there is still so much for me to learn.

There is so much that goes into event planning; it’s not just calling up some friends or business clients and throwing a party.  Event planning includes budgeting, establishing dates and backup dates, reserving multiple venues, coordinating entertainment, staff, and guests, and so much more.  Event planning requires impeccable organization, leadership and management roles, communication skills to work with various people in various industries, and patience and creativity to create an exciting event that runs smoothly.

Below are some of the different components that are all a part of the event planning experience:

  • Budgeting
  • Establishing dates
  • Picking a location or venue
  • Sending out invitations & creating a guest list
  • Creating an event program/agenda
  • Choosing a theme & acquiring decorations
  • Creating a menu for food & drinks
  • Hiring necessary entertainment & other staff
  • Creating favors for guests
  • Working with social media & other departments such as Public Relations & Marketing
  • Sending thank you notes

These are some, but not even all, of the things I learned about as an events intern.   I loved the events industry because it allowed me to be a part of so many different experiences: planning an event involves communication and writing, public relations and marketing skills, and creative thinking.  I have always loved to plan and host things for my friends and family, and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to discover that I could turn that into a professional career.

I want to use this blog to share not only what I learned as an intern, but use it as a platform to gain more event planning experience and to share my interests and discoveries along the way.  Enjoy!

Event Planning Checklist

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Party Planning 101- Tips for Every Event Planner

No matter if your party is large scale or small scale, if you’re experienced or just a college student like me, here are some tips that will help every planner have a smooth, organized, and well-planned event!

Start planning early, and use your time wisely – come up with a timeline.

When I interned in events this summer, the number one lesson I learned was time management.  It is absolutely crucial to start planning for an event in advance so that you have enough time to prepare for bumps that may pop up: a venue change, exceeding budget limits, out of stock party favors, etc.  My head is spinning just thinking about all of the adjustments and changes that could take place in the planning stages of an event!  A small corporate meeting might only need two weeks of planning time, but an awards show after party could be planned up to a year in advance.   For events with my friends, I want to give myself enough time to order food, buy decorations, and give people time to put it on their calendar – we all know how floosy college kids can be.  Event planners are really busy, but it is important to remember that everyone you work with is really busy too.

I found that writing detailed lists of things that need to be done, items that need to be ordered, and people that I need to contact was a great way to stay on top of things.  Just be sure to keep up with your list as you go along the planning process!

Here is a great Event Planning Guide from Juice Marketing .

Set and follow a budget.

For every event, you need to consider how much it will cost to accomplish what you or your client wants.   I like to make an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of how much every single item costs – including invitations, food, hired staff, party favors, decorations, and so on.  If you are nearing or already over the assigned budget, decide what you absolutely need and what you would be willing to scratch.

When it comes to event planning on a college student’s budget, this is key.  Know how much you and your friends want to spend, and look for cheaper or DIY options for the event.

Come up with a theme, and stick to it.

The planning process is more organized and cohesive when events have a theme.  Whether it’s a dinner party, a birthday party, or a meeting, the event looks more polished and visually appealing when there is a common theme.   Having a theme can help brand your entire event from invitations to decorations, food, and drink ideas.   Think of your audience.  What kinds of things are they interested in?  Who is on the guest list?  What decorations, entertainment, or menus go along with their tastes? Choosing a theme is also a great way to choose which items are needed while keeping within the realms of a budget.

Pay attention to the details.

Event planners need to be meticulous and receptive in all aspects of the event.  You want your event to be perfect, whether it’s for a group of your best friends or professional corporate clients.  If you notice that a sign is crooked, or the tablecloths clash, or the wrong genre of music is playing, chances are one of your guests will too.  They say to put your best foot forward – and your events should be an extension of that!

Use the telephone.

When I needed to contact different clients, vendors, or even my own teammates while in the planning process, I found that picking up the phone is ten times more productive than sending emails back and forth.  Emails and text messages can get lost in the shuffle.  Nowadays it is so easy to send a quick email or text message, but details can get lost and it can be much more time consuming.

Of course, sometimes sending an email is the only way to contact someone, but try calling first.

Delegate the workload.

As an intern, I saw how busy the eight event planners on my team were.  Especially for large-scale events, there is so much to plan and so much to do at the actual event to make sure it ran smoothly.  I noticed how for each event, tasks were delegated to each planner so that all of the work could be completed and no single person was too overwhelmed.  When they shared the workload with each other – and everyone pitched in to help – the planning process was less stressful and the event ran more smoothly!

Use social media to your advantage.

We live in an age where social media is a part of everything we do: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and so many other platforms are available to share our lives with the people around us.  Why not use these platforms to publicize your event?  If you’re planning on hosting an event for you and your friends, send little reminders via Facebook posts or tweets.  If you’re planning an event on a larger scale, work with other people to announce your event through customized hashtags, post pictures on Instagram and create a Facebook page or event link.  You can use social media to encourage guests to be interactive on a customized or personalized social media platform.   #Awesome!

Use this awesome social media infographic as a reference.

Be fresh and creative! Always look for something new.

People like to be wowed.  When planning an event, think outside the box!  While a birthday party with cake and balloons is classic and cute, why not step it up a notch?  How can you use technology or social media tools in your event?  What unique party favors can you give out that people haven’t seen before?  Don’t be afraid to try new ideas and techniques, and keep track of the one’s that worked and one’s that didn’t.

My personalized invitation

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Oscars Viewing Party – Inspiration Board

Extras: Here’s a great list of Oscars-themed DIYs. PopSugar also has fantastic theme ideas.

This infographic from Grazia is an awesome look back at all of the Oscar looks from Best Actress winners since 1929 – check it out!

On March 2nd, my favorite television event of the year begins at 7 pm – the 86th Academy Awards.

As I mentioned in my post about the GRAMMY’s, I love everything about awards shows.  When I was in second grade I was out of school for two weeks with mono.  And because I had nothing else to do beside lie in bed and eat popsicles, one day my mom turned on the E! pre-red carpet show for the Oscars, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I love the Oscar’s because it celebrates all of the amazing work of actors, directors, producers, and everyone else involved in the movie-making process.  I always make sure to watch all of the nominated movies; this year I’m expecting big wins from Twelve Year’s a Slave and American Hustle.  I’m rooting for Leo to win Best Actor in Wolf of Wall Street too.

For my Oscars viewing party, I’m inspired by the glitz and glamour of the red carpet and those famous gold statues.  I think it would be fun to host a pseudo-fancy party for my friends and I.  Because we are a little more preoccupied with the red carpet dresses more than any other component of the show, I created an invitation with the caption “Who are you wearing?” as an allusion to the famous red carpet question.  I think it would be fun for everyone to dress up, even if we just have dinner and gourmet snack foods in my living room.  I would decorate the room in a color scheme of black, white, and gold, imitating the traditional Academy Awards colors.   I think creating a buffet spread or snack table like the one pictured above is a great way to let guests pick and choose their favorite snacks throughout the show.

For those who need a little excitement during the hours long show, I found printable (free and easy!) rating cards for the red carpet dresses, and an Oscars Bingo game to play during commercials.

Don’t forget to fill in your own Oscars ballot here.


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Valentine Crafting Party

Here is my evite that I personalized, and some of my favorite valentines that I’ve seen this year – use these for inspiration at your crafting party!

Invite: I’m newly obsessed with e-vites – cheap, eco-friendly, and such a nice surprise among all the mundane daily emails! I created mine on

Decorations: We hung these adorable heart lights on our wall and sprinkled the table with heart shaped confetti.

Treats: Rice Krispie Lollipops and Chocolate-Covered Strawberries – and this list of yummy cupcakes is great!

Supplies you’ll need:

  • Colored paper
  • Scissors and Glue
  • Sparkles/Glitter
  • Magazines for collaging
  • Markers, pens, crayons, etc.

Extra: I love this playlist and at our crafting party, we played this all-time favorite rom-com.

Budget: $30

On Valentine’s Day my freshman year of college, my doormmates and I gathered in one tiny room, turned on the latest episode of The Bachelor, I made valentines for our friends and family (and boyfriends too).  We had a blast with twelve girls crammed into a tiny dorm room, watching bad TV, and eating Trader Joe’s chocolates.

This year, our senior year, I decided to host a similar crafting party – but this time, with a little more grown-up taste.  I sent everyone an adorable evite, telling them to bring their favorite crafting supplies.

I decorated the room with twinkling heart-shaped lights, and made valentine-themed desserts that were just the sugary goodness we needed!

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 4.20.09 PM

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Super Bowl Six Pack and Apps Party

Invite: Keep Calm and Watch the Game invite from tiny prints.

Location: Any space with a big TV and comfy couches!

Party Supplies: Super Bowl XLVIII branded items from Oriental Trading

Food & Drink Menu: Everyone brings an app and their favorite six-pack of beer to share.  Dip, dip, and more dip (aka “dipner”).

Extras: Don’t forget to get a pool started for Super Bowl Squares!Budget: $20

This year, all of my guy friends decided to have a no-girls-allowed Super Bowl party (can you blame them?)  While I’m sure they will miss my amazing, homemade guac and salsa, I decided to host my own Super Bowl Party.  And while we maybe we understood the game a little less without our guy friend football gurus (thank you Google, for keeping us in the loop), we had a great time with great food.

I decided to make it a “Six-Pack and App” party – each guest brought an appetizer and a six-pack of their favorite beer.  We had a great turnout, and one of the best dipners (perfect way to phrase the inevitable plethora of amazing dips at Super Bowl parties) I have ever had.  I brought a six-pack of Bell’s Two Hearted (a Michigan favorite) and whipped up my mom’s authentic Mexican salsa.  We had all the classics – queso dip, wings, veggies and ranch dip, chili, and so much more.  If I had the time in advance, I would have run to any party or convenience store to pick up some Super Bowl-themed cups, napkins, and paper plates.  At home, I put in money for our family party’s Squares pool, for instructions or a template, click here.  This was a great way to host a cheap but delicious party with friends!

I wasn’t sure who to root for this year, so along with my Dad’s choice and went for the Bronco’s – unfortunately!  I absolutely loved the half-time show – Bruno Mars was a great performer and couldn’t have had a better collab than with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers!  As for the commercials,  I was a little disappointed this year, but how could you not love Budweiser’s Puppy Love?!


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GRAMMY’s Viewing Party


Location: Our living room with a big TV!


Music Note Balloons

Piano Keys Banner

Here are some great DIY decor ideas: DIY Colored Mason JarsDIY Sparkle Champagne Flutes

Food Menu: 

Strawberry, Brie Cheese, Honey, & Basil Crostinis

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Popcorn

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

Drink Menu: 

Moscow Mules

Champagne with Frozen Raspberry Skewers


Listen to the nominees from this playlist.

Follow popular predictions with Billboard Music’s Who Should & Will Win or create your own prediction chart!

Budget: $50

For me the GRAMMY’s mark the start of my favorite part of the year – awards season!  I love everything about the GRAMMY’s – starting with the red carpet and celebrities’ glamorous get-ups, to the awkward interviews with Ryan Seacrest, to the fantastic displays of talent on the stage, and to the happy (or sad) tears of winners and losers.

I think my love of hostessing and planning events started with my love for awards shows.  There’s something so fantastical, and a little bid ridiculous, and seeing so much talent in one room celebrating each other’s talents.  I love how much of a spectacle these awards shows are – and after having some event planning experience, it is so amazing how much work goes into these shows.

I especially love the GRAMMY’s because it ties in another one of my favorite things: music.  When I was little my parents would give me the official nominees CD with all of the award-winning tracks.  And now I can’t wait to see who will perform and who will  collaborate on that stage.

So this year, I decided to host a little viewing party for my friends.  I found these awesome balloons from Party City and then made a piano board banner, but you can buy one here.  I also sent them invitations as a reminder that the GRAMMY’s were coming up, and to come over for the pre-show.  I wish I had the time to make them, but I also found a great DIY from Martha Stewart for sparkly champagne flutes.  We had a great time rating dresses on the red carpet and watching Beyoncé strut her stuff while munching on some tasty snacks and sipping my favorite winter cocktail, Moscow mules.  We also kept up with ratings and expectations for the show with Billboard Music’s guide.

So, what did you think of the GRAMMY’s this year?