Tips for Throwing a Unique, Affordable Birthday Bash

When Amanda Adamson and her husband, Derek, got married and then pregnant with their daughter, she knew the first birthday was going to be a big one. They went all out with an English Tea Party theme with fresh flowers, lace and other delicate details, thinking she wouldn’t do another big bash until Zoe’s fifth birthday. 

“After I did the first one, [Derek] said, ‘You can’t stop here!’” she says, laughing. “My husband is big on every birthday being a big birthday.”

Though Amanda admits having one child makes a big birthday bash easier to afford, parties don’t have to cost a fortune to be meaningful and memorable. Plus, incorporating your child’s interests and ideas make the process special for the whole family.

The first step is gauging the theme, and for Amanda, it’s always connected to where Zoe’s interests lie at that particular moment in time. The parties are always a reflection of Zoe’s current age and stage. For example, when Zoe was approaching 2 years old, she was a fan of Maya the Bee, so bumblebees were the inspiration for her second birthday party. This year, Zoe requested a rainbow unicorn party, a theme that proved somewhat challenging for her creative mother.

“You’d think this year was easy because she wanted rainbows, but it was hard to find the unicorn theme without being all pastels. Those colors don’t mix very well,” she says. 

Amanda pieces odds and ends together from scratch, never choosing boxed sets of decorations. Once the theme is selected, she chooses a location that best suits their needs and takes to Pinterest to start idea boards. 

“I want every detail to fit together like a puzzle—cake details, color scheme, flowers. I look at decor pieces and food ideas, all of which depend on the time of day and venue,” Amanda says. “I have an idea board just for invitations, which three of the five years I’ve ordered from the same girl who runs an Etsy shop from Oregon.” 

To stay on budget, Amanda decided to from day one to look for neutral serving pieces that could be reused each year and modified to fit the current theme. For five years, she’s been building a party decor stash, a decision that will hopefully prove fruitful in years to come. The long-term goal is for Amanda to leave her job as an underwriter for long-haul truckers and plan parties full-time. It’s a hobby she hopes to turn into a career. 

“I think birthday parties are so fun because every age is different. For me, it allows me to capture the essence of who my daughter is or has been over the last year. It is exciting to see that vision come to life and hear all of the guests’ favorite aspects afterward,” she says. 

Tips: 

  • Use ordinary household items to maximize your budget. When buying new pieces, purchase neutral items that can be reused each year. Clear and white dishes can be dressed up in countless ways.  

  • Pinterest is a starting point, not a standard. Instead of trying to mimic full parties posted online by other people, use Pinterest to organize your own ideas. Create specific boards for cakes, table decor and so on. Build on those boards each year so you have jumping-off points when the next birthday party rolls around.  

  • Teach gratitude. In the days leading up to the party, role play with your child how to say thank you and be happy with the gifts they’re given. This helps set the tone for a happy occasion.