Have you even thrown a formal party besides your wedding?

posted 1 week ago in Parties
Post # 2
1059 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2018 - Esplanade Lakes Ballroom, Downers Grove IL

That sounds amazing! I helped my mom plan my dad’s 50th birthday party at a large community center with what seemed like half the town invited, but that was many years ago. I recall that we hired a magician to entertain the kids, got blue and gold table cloths/paper products from Party City, and bought $1 glass vases from the dollar store as center pieces with a rose in each one. For us, formality was not as much of a priority as quantity of people invited lol.

Your party, however, sounds much different (and lovely!). A few things to keep in mind that I learned from recently having planned a seated brunch engagement party for 15 people.

1) Most people will not bother to come from out of town for anything other than anything other than a wedding. I learned that the hard way – my guest list got cut from 30 to 15. So just be prepared for that and stick to expect local people only to attend.

2) Like weddings, service charges creep up. My 15 person brunch at a small neighborhood cafe cost $1600 just for venue charge, food and drinks. That was definitely sticker shock.

Post # 3
1059 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2018 - Esplanade Lakes Ballroom, Downers Grove IL

Sorry for some reason it didn’t let me continue writing. Anyway – because of this cost, we decided to DIY all the decorations. Our total decoration costs came to ~$200 (combinatin of Target/Etsy/JoAnn Fabrics). Originally I really wanted to hire a decorator, rent a dress from Rent the Runway, and maybe rent speakers for some light music (and have it on a rooftop lol), but I had to come down to reality and pick only what really mattered to me. So I cut all those things and it was still a lovely event.

My advice to you is if you want all the things you mentioned (i.e. cool venue, DJ, drinks), then I would cut food budget as much as possible and just do a couple of apps. Maybe opt for a table instead of passed service? No one will care and it might save you a lot of money.

Have fun! Happy planning and happy early birthday!

Post # 4
3103 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

I do it all the time. We host a fancy cocktail party or brunch (or both) just about every year and we’ve already hosted one formal anniversary party. Because you’re not buying a thousand dollar dress or a bunch of bouquets and stuff, you usually have a little more flexibility in your budget for food and extras (like rented chairs, a photobooth or what-have-you). There’s also no real need for speeches and other things that take up time, so the entire evening can be a big party. For me, the most important thing is finding a venue that allows self-catering so that I can stick to the food theme I want (and using my own restaurant catering is always far cheaper than using the venue). The last fancy party we had, we hired no DJ and just made a playlist and brought in some speakers and people still danced all night. I second a PP’s comment that a lot of people don’t take non-wedding events seriously. I had people blow off RSVPs and show up in jeans all claiming they didn’t realize what “kind” of event it was.

Post # 5
844 posts
Busy bee

I do it all the time, for work, for personal and for family. I love parties and I love organizing them. I have found that the more notice, the better the price. I also pick one thing that is important to be the majority of the budget. For example, when throwing a birthday party for Foodie Hubby, French food and wine was incredibly important and therefore dictated the chef and venue choice. For a work party, the most important aspect was the activity (broadway show), so the other stuff was somewhat secondary. BFF loves flowers and wine so went ALL OUT on the decor and wine selection for her bday party. Sis’ pre-wedding brunch, she and her wedding party are passionate about locally sourced, farm to table food so I flew in local meat and produce from their preferred butcher. I do proactively communicate to guests the overall plan of the event so they know what to expect, how to dress, etc so everyone is comfortable. Hope that helps, best wishes!

Post # 7
45763 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 1999

chrissybee :  Hosting a formal birthday party is fine. Hosting that same party in your own honor for your own birthday is not. Adults don’t host gift giving parties for themselves.

Post # 8
598 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

Oh no a PP suggested cutting the food budget.  If you don’t want people grumbling about how hungry and drunk they are after the party please have more food!  If you’re only having apps (which can be great!) have plenty of them!  


Cut back on the DJ and maybe the decor and have plenty of good food and drink.  Sounds like such a nice idea for a party! Impressed!

Post # 9
6831 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: January 2050

chrissybee :  I love getting dressed up too! This would be a great idea to do for someone else though. It’s not cool to host a big event for your own birthday because it comes off as a gift grab. Having a formal dinner party or cocktail party (or whatever party) that is not associated with any gift-giving occasion is best, but if it has to be for a gift-giving occasion, it should be for someone else’s, not your own. 

Post # 13
6094 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: August 2014

chrissybee :  in the UK it’s pretty common to a host a birthday party for yourself..

Anyway, I guess it depends what you mean by formal. For my 21st I had a cocktail party at home with unlimited cocktails, proper bar tender and glass ware, marquee, food, etc. Helped my parents host a party for their 40th wedding announcer at a village hall with live band, sit down meal etc.I’ve also hosted lots of more informal parties at home (finger food, no wait staff, that kind of thing) for up to 70 guests.

It isn’t much different to hosting a wedding IMO: you need to consider the venue (temperature,seating, ‘flow’, ambience), provide enough food and drink, have good music, etc.

Post # 14
1059 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2018 - Esplanade Lakes Ballroom, Downers Grove IL

At least on the east coast/in large cities, from my experience, no one has the time or cares enough to plan a special event for any one else (except maybe an SO). If you want to have a special birthday, you gotta do it yourself lol.

Post # 15
8878 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

It’s common to host all kind of self celebrating parties in the US too, but that doesn’t make it any more proper. If you want to throw a big party, do it for your guests and make no mention of yourself. 

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