As I said in my previous post, my little girl was just so excited about her horsie party, I just knew I couldn't let her down! As with all my parties, the planning process starts very early. With her birthday party this year, the theme was probably changed more than I have for any other party. I was definitely set on a candy theme then changed it to a 'Sugar Plum Fairy' theme but nothing just seemed right. Finally I realized what it was. I wasn't taking Avalee into consideration; I was just doing the party I wanted. I hadn't really run into this as much with Zavion's parties, and I don't know why I was having such a hard tome with hers. I decided I needed to ask her what she really wanted. Now, I know you are laughing right now. Ask a two year old what they want for a birthday party?? You must be crazy! But, you will find that kids, even that young, have a strong opinion of what they want. And, sure enough, I no sooner asked her than she blurted out, “I want a horsie party!”
See, my little lady has loved horses every since I cam remember. We have two horses that live at the end of the street, and she practically adopted them as her own.
And, then there was getting to ride a horsie at her cousin's birthday party that I think really sealed the deal for her. ;)
So, a horsie party it was. One of the first things I do with any party, is research. I love immersing myself in everything related to my theme and just letting ideas, big and tiny, come to me. When I looked up horse/pony parties I found most had to do with farm, cowgirl or farm animals. They all had a very country feel to them, which is just not us at all. I knew I wanted something a little more modern, a little more glam.
I started out with the invitations. I saw this adorable idea on Pinterest months ago and when the theme was picked, knew it would fit perfectly!
I bought a piece of wood from Michaels (the same one used here for Zavion's Kindergarten photos) and painted it with chalkboard paint. Avalee and I raided her wardrobe and came up with the cutest outfit which she added lots of jewelry too to make it even cuter! Then I brought in the big guns...my mom's old rocking horse! This horse was made for my mom by her grandfather (my great-grandfather, Avalee's great-great...you get the point) and has been passed down the line of kids. I have very fond memories of just rocking away on that horse when I was a kid. Avalee already loves it, so was very willing to hop on and give me a little photo shoot. She did amazing (seriously, any agencies want to sign my kid??) and the photos turned out awesome. I picked my favorite (hard to do!) and printed them off then added the party info to the back.
I also used one for an electronic invite for all our friends on Facebook (big money-saver there; fewer invites to print, fewer envelopes, stamps).
For the planning stage, I set up my usual list:
One of the first things I do when thinking of decorations, is to assign a color scheme. Even though I always have a theme, I find it really helps solidify things if you have colors picked out. I think it also helps get everything organized; once I pick my colors, I can go to the craft store and buy the appropriate shades/patterns of paper (or in the case of this party, I was able to just raid my growing collection of scrapbook papers, leaving me to only have to buy a few sheets of paper!). For this party, I decided on a purple (Avalee's favorite color) and brown/black color scheme. I wanted it to look girly, but also modern and simple.
And,obviously, the decorations would consist largely of horses. I decided I really wanted a garland of just horses to go in front of the mantle. Using my Cricut, I cut out horse after horse and spent hours assembling. As I was working on the garland, inspiration struck and I thought it might look really cute to add tutus on some of the horses. Using my cache of tulle, I just cut tiny pieces and stuck them on the back ends of the horses, using glue dots (a must-have for any crafter!). I tried to tuck some under others, so they fluffed up a bit and when I was done I cut some more strips in them. I loved the way they turned out but didn't love the time-consuming aspect so decided to just alternate them on the horses, adding them only to the black horses.
They ended up turning out very adorable and got a huge nod of approval from my soon-to-be-three year old (who actually 'helped' with a couple)!
For the birthday banner, I knew I was going to use some fabulous paper I had found at Michaels. It was purple wood grain and couldn't have been a more perfect fit for the theme. I was trying to figure out what I would do with it, when I had another moment of inspiration. I had been working on a Thanksgiving banner, using a free printable from this site. I had fallen in love with the shape of the banner, but unfortunately my printer ran out of ink about halfway through printing. I never got my cartridge replaced, so was left with the pieces of the banner I had already cut out, on brown textured cardstock. Just for fun, I put the purple paper on top of the other piece and instant magic! The banner had this inside border that I knew I could use to layer the purple on top of. I just printed out more of what I needed, cut them out and using a piece of vellum, I traced the inside border then cut that out and used it to cut all my purple paper. I know, it sounds like a lot of work but since I already had about a quarter of the banner cut out, it wasn't too bad. For the letter, I just used some purple sparkly paper I already had and let my Cricut do all the work there for me. I added some glue dots to everything, assembled, strung it up on jute (another must have crafting item!) and done. I also cut out a couple of big horses, the same as the garland, in the same purple and had them on each side of the banner.
I loved how it turned out and I think it is my favorite birthday banner of all time, so far. :)
Another element I knew I really wanted to incorporate into the party décor was hay. It was one of the few rustic elements I used, but even glam horses need hay, right? ;) I saw some large bales of straw at Michaels before Halloween and decided to patiently wait for them to go on clearance. In the meantime, I found some of the smaller bales of straw in the floral department I just knew I had to have! I got the next size down the the big guy to use on the mantle and the next size down from those to use on the food table (more on that later). I put the medium straw bale in the middle of the mantle and decided to add some pictures around it. I raided Avalee's room (remember, sometimes this is the best way to find decorations...look before buying!) and found the prefect purple frame. A trip to Walmart garnered me two more frames; the perfect complimentary brown and under $2 each. Then, a quick search and I found a few of my favorite Avalee photos and sent them off to Costco (another quick and easy decoration; photos, photos, photos! They're cheap, easy and very personal!). I played around with the arrangement a bit, and decided to add my most fave pic on top of the straw bale. I used the purple frame for this and the brown frames next to the bale, to offset a bit. I thought it would be cute to use the chalkboard I used for the invitations, and it fit perfectly against the straw bale. Next to those I added a couple horses that my little sister handed down to Avalee (again...totally free!).
I knew I wanted something else, so searched my house and found my stash of couple mason jars (the kids have been chowing their way through our homemade pickles!). I decided those would be cute on each end of the mantle with some flowers. Trader Joes had some beautiful bouquets with purple flowers for only $3.99, so I was set on that. I then added some submersible lights and some water beads (I picked out all the purple ones from a bunch Zavion got for his birthday) and a big 'A' to one and '3' to another (cut out with my Cricut and backed with a cereal box for support, haha).
Underneath the horse garland, across the front of the mantle, I added a banner using pictures from Avalee's invitation photo shoot. This was one of those last-minute additions (and I was literally throwing it together at about 1AM the day of the party) but it came together pretty quickly and easily.
My hubby and I brainstormed (and by that, I mean he talked me down from my big, no-way-it's-gonna-get-done idea, hehe) for something to go above the mantle and decided on this.
I was going to put the entire horse verse, but my hubby convinced me this was not very sensible. He sometimes has a point (he won't read this, so don't anybody go telling him I almost said he was right). This ended up being a very quick and easy decoration, and again, since I used what I had, free. I covered the frame in the kids' craft paper then cut out the letters on the Cricut and glued them on. As Zavion would say, “Easy peasey lemon squeezy.” ;)
In my entry ways, I added some simple balloons in the party colors (purple and brown polka dotted). I already have hooks up there (just the 3M type, but they were added for a party years ago and when we repainted, I just painted over them, so you can't even really see them anymore) so it was quick and easy.
For my door sign (you may remember this from other posts, but I always put up a 'welcome' sign on the door. I think it's something nice for the guests and sets an expectation for the party), I used the Cricut to cut out a barn then added the wording to the top. I had plans to have a little picture of Avalee peeking out from the barn window but didn't get around to it.
I just noticed I have no pictures of the door sign...oops! I really need to hire a photographer for my parties!
For my food table, I again incorporated some things I already had. I used a toy barn and horse stables that used to be Zavion's and a few more horses. The small bales of straw were used to hold mini popcorn balls on a stick (thanks, Mom for making those!). I wrapped a strip of tulle around each one to give it more of that glam feel. On each end of the table I hung some latex balloons and one adorable mylar balloon. I love the look and ease of balloons! In this case, I found some adorable latex balloons that had horses printed on them. They were even the perfect color (not really any pictures of those either. Darn...where was my photographer??).
For the food, I made mini macaroni and cheese bites (found these on Pinterest and they were a huge hit!), a veggie tray and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (I used my Pampered Chef sandwich sealer to cut them). We also had the mini popcorn balls.
And instead of cupcakes I made mini pies (big, big thanks to my friend Brittanie at Cupcakes Kisses 'n' Crumbs for loaning me her pie-maker!)!
I also added this sign next to the pies. I made it in about 10 seconds on a site that lets you generate your own 'Keep Calm...' signs. Made it, saved it and sent it onto Costco with the other party pics. I loved how it looked and it added a nice bit of whimsy.
The birthday cake was a one-of-a-kind creation by your truly, hehe. Now, I will say I can bake pretty well and can make pretty things, but when it comes to cake decorating it's always a big fail! This time however, I was pretty proud of myself. I used more pieces of that farm set, including a horse (actually her favorite one that has a permanent home on her dresser), fence and food trough. I added some actual oats to the trough (which I think all of one person noticed, but it made me happy) and a couple little hay bales in front of the fence.
Since the toys took of most of the cake, I decided to make a cake banner (which, really, is one of my new favorite ways to jazz up a cake) by cutting diamond pieces (using that same purple woodgrain paper) and adding some purple sparkly letters (Halloween clearance at Michaels!) and stringing it on more jute.
It was supposed to say 'Happy Birthday Avalee' but I ran out of room for her name, haha.
When Avalee first said she wanted a horsie party, the first party activity I thought of was a old fashioned hay hunt. I used to love hunting for pennies in the hay at our town's annual festival, and it seemed like the perfect activity. However, it seemed like a daunting task to bring hay inside (December in Oregon=no outside activities). Then, it occurred to me that we could use the kids' sandbox! I bought a bunch of those larger bales of straw (they ended up going on clearance for $2! Let's just say we ended up with much more than we needed, haha!) and dumped it in in the sandbox that was set up in the living room. I added some mini horse toys and lots of pennies.
The kids went in a couple at a time, according to age, to hunt for their treasures. It was pretty fun and cute to watch them digging around!
The birthday girl and her bff went in first...
It became a kind of free-for-all!
I'm not sure I'll get any of the moms to bring back their kiddos to the next party though, after they ended up taking home a bunch of straw!
And, I always try to include at least one craft activity so the kids can take hone something with them. I decided on hobby horses for this one.
I knew it would have to be something simple, for all the various aged kids. I used a template of a horse head (just Googled it) and traced it (over and over!) onto white cardstock then cut them out. I also gathered up a bunch of cardboard wrapping tubes (thanks to everyone who donated!) for the stick part of the horse. I gave the kids crayons, stickers, jewels ad yarn (for the manes) to decorate their horsies. When they finished, we (adults) stapled the heads to the tubes.
They turned out great and the kids seemed to really enjoy making them!
The party girl with her finished hobby horse.
I also had some horse masks the kids could color and decorate, but I think only one kid actually did (the hobby horses took up a lot of time), lol.
I went very light on party favors, since the kids were already taking home their horses and the prizes they found from the hay hunt. I made up some trail mix (hit up the bulk section of my grocery store for all the ingredients and put it together myself), put about a cup each in cellophane bags and tied it with a ribbon.
And, there you have it! I think this was one of the least expensive parties I have thrown (I don't have any exact figures, but definitely under $100, maybe close to $50) but I didn't have to sacrifice anything.
Again, here are some of my party-planning money-saving tips:
Use what you have! You might be surprised at what you have laying around that would be perfect for your party. If you are a scrapbooker or crafter, you may have all the paper, stickers, glue, etc you need. You really can save a ton by simply checking your supplies first!
Decorate simply! You don't have to spend a fortune to make your party look nice. One of my favorite decorations are pictures. Pick out some faves and send them to your favorite printer (I like Costco, because they're cheap and fast) And, I guarantee everyone loves looking at pictures of the party gal or guy! Use two, 20 or 200; make them into a banner, put them in frames, make some posters. Be creative!
Make your own! You don't have to spend a fortune at the party store (do you know what I bought at the party store? The balloons and some clearance napkins. That's it.) buying all kids of decorations. Get out your scissors, tape and paper and make your own. Even if you don't have a Cricut, you can still make some great stuff (but, maybe check around, because you might have a friend who does have a Cricut you can borrow or even trade services!) by hand or using your computer. Raid your kids' coloring books and reading books for pictures you can use. The decorations are so much more personal when they're done with love, by hand. And, of course cheaper!
Do it at home! It really is so much cheaper to host a party in your own home. Renting a place is expensive, plus you usually have to add food into that too (pizza, etc). You can also control everything much better in your own environment. If you can have it at home, do it!
And, finally a word to those people who scoff at my attention to detail when it comes to planning my kids' parties. People will often hint, or downright say, that I'm going overboard. They say it's silly to plan parties like this for kids because they can't remember them later or that they really couldn't care less. To them I say, look at my girl.
She is happy. That's it. It's all that matters to me.
I don't spend a fortune on my parties, and in fact, I've just shown how you can save money. I do put a lot of time into them, but I also put a lot of love too. It's personal to me and I consider my kids in every aspect of my planning (from how may people to invite so they don't get overwhelmed to food appropriate to eat for them and their similar-aged friends).
Will she remember her 3rd horsie party in five, ten, 25 years? Probably not. But, she can look back on those pictures and say, “Wow, I looked really happy. I looked like I was having fun.” And, I'll tell her, “You were. You did.” :)
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