How to Host a Tastefully Frugal Reception + A Tutorial!

And now for the fourth and final post about my Anniversary Party! (Are y’all sick of this yet?? :P) For those of you considering planning a similar event in the future, I thought you might appreciate a few details on how I put this together and what it cost.

First, a bit of background. As I mentioned earlier, my husband and I got married on the fly back in 2013 – we literally planned the whole thing in about two weeks! We had a lovely, tiny ceremony in the church I worked at at the time, with a few family members and friends (twelve people total). Since I wanted to make that day as special as I could, I did splurge and spend money on a few things.

After the obligatory online research I conducted, I decided that, for this event, it was best to leave any floral endeavors to the professionals. Center pieces are one thing, but a full-on bouquet and boutonniere was not something I wanted to attempt. My other two priorities were photography and cupcakes. I originally wasn’t going to bother with a photographer, but a friend convinced me to at the last minute, and I’m so glad I did – I love looking back at our beautiful wedding photos! And the cupcakes were delicious.

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My parents also got some wraps and other food for a informal reception at my apartment afterwards, so that event totaled around $1,000.

For the anniversary reception, my parents had told me that they has a specific budget in mind, and that whatever I didn’t spend on the party would go towards paying off my grad school debt. So that was a no-brainer – obviously, I wanted to be frugal! But tasteful, of course. So, my priorities this time were:

-renting a tent, since this was an outdoor event
-nice finger foods
-tasteful, simple decorations
-cupcakes (duh)

We were able to hold the party in my in-laws’ lovely, spacious backyard, which was an amazing way to save money – renting a venue can be incredibly costly! So, money saving tip #1: hold your event at home!

The tent rental was one of my biggest expenses, and I was reading that rentals could be in the thousands. Oy! However, I managed to get mine for around $800 – I rented the smallest tent available (20×30), and didn’t include any of the “fancy” extras like a dance floor. That price included tables, chairs, and linens, which was an awesome deal! Oh, and also – money saving tip #2: – I didn’t use the word “wedding” when making my tent reservation. That one little word can change a LOT price-wise. For example, we originally were going to print invitations through a wedding-specific site, but then realized that if we printed them through a regular card printing site (we went with Shutterfly), suddenly we were paying half the price! So, as exciting as a wedding is, if you can avoid the word when talking to vendors, do it.

We ended up still having a pretty small crowd – just under 30 people – so I knew we could get nice food without spending too much money. I ended up getting most of my food from a local caterer that ended up being truly fantastic. The desserts I got from my favorite local bakeries in Boston, and I even convinced a friend of mine in NJ to pick up some of the cupcakes we had at our wedding from a Princeton bakery! Even with those little luxuries, the food totaled around $800. We even got fun little favors – chocolate mice truffles from my favorite chocolate shop!

For decorations, I wanted something simple and DIY. I had been eyeing mason jar vases for a while, and thanks to Pinterest, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted – mason jars covered with burlap and lace as vases and burlap and lace table runners. With the help of my mom and younger sister, we managed to put together the decorations the night before! Here’s how:

A Super Simple, Snazzy Centerpiece Tutorial

1. Gather your supplies – I used quart-sized mason jars, bought burlap by the yard, lace in spools, and a big spool of hemp, and used a hot glue gun for construction.

2. Cut the burlap to the size desired – mine were about 4″ wide by the circumference of the jar plus about 3″ to overlap.

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3. Cut your lace to the same length as the burlap.

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4. Using a hot glue gun, apply glue to about an inch of one end of the burlap. Place on top of the jar and overlap with the other end, creating a circle of fabric around the jar.

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5. Repeat step 4 with the lace.

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6. Use the hemp to tie a bow around the mason jar, centering it in the middle of the lace. Add a dot of glue to secure.

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…and you’re done! These super-simple center pieces took only an hour or two to make, and the materials cost about $100. We got our flowers from Trader Joe’s – I called ahead to make sure they would have enough! Flowers cost about $150, and drinks were around $150 as well. So, we managed to put together a very nice celebration for under $2,000!

Here are a few visual highlights:

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(…and in case you were wondering, my grad school debt is now paid in full!)

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2 thoughts on “How to Host a Tastefully Frugal Reception + A Tutorial!

  1. You are absolutely right that a great and lovely party doesn’t have to be that expensive. I’m sure everyone enjoyed it just as much as if you would have spend twice as much.
    That backyard looks absolutely amazing btw!

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