Planning Ahead: Setting a Budget and Choosing a Theme
It should go without saying: The more time that you leave for yourself to plan the party, the easier it will be on you and the Sweet 16 Girl as the big day approaches.
I’d recommend that as early as a year and a half before the girl’s 16th birthday, you begin to consider your budget and options. I’d advise against making any purchases or putting down any deposits at this time, because a lot can change in a year and a half. But you’ll stand a better chance of making the best decisions if you’re not feeling pressured by the calendar.
Setting a Budget:
The cost of a Sweet 16 party can vary from approximately $200 to well into six ﬁgure sums, as we’ve seen courtesy of MTV’s My Super Sweet 16.
If finances are a concern for you and you are attempting to hold down the expenses of your party, do not feel ashamed or apologetic. Come up with a realistic affordable sum and once you arrive at that number, do everything that you can to stick to it.
Planning in advance can help you to save money. If you have time to shop around, you’ll ﬁnd the best venue, DJ, and gown at the most affordable prices.
If, while shopping, your Sweet 16 Girl becomes entranced with a party item that is way out of your price range, put the brakes on immediately. Do not buy on impulse. Give yourself a moment to breathe, and if you can, go home and sleep on it. Will this pricey item really make any difference in your daughter’s happiness or the happiness of your guests? (Because when it’s all said and done, the goal of the Sweet 16 Party is for the Sweet 16 Girl, her family, and her guests to enjoy themselves.) A week after the party, when it begins to fade into memory, will anyone remember or care about whether or not you had this expensive item at the party? Teenagers can sometimes be lured into believing that possessing material things can be a matter of life and death, but the adult holding the purse strings is responsible for doing a careful evaluation of the cost versus the beneﬁt of the item.
Weigh your options. I’ve seen teenagers at $75 per plate dinners who were bored stiff and uncomfortable with the formality. I’ve seen shabby VFW Halls transformed into gorgeous fantasies when a little ingenuity was enlisted. A family should feel under no obligation to go into debt over this event. No matter what your budget is, be assured that you can put together a beautiful party. The family must feel absolutely no pressure to keep up with the Joneses.
Almost every Sweet 16 Girl will spend a good deal of her High School years “on the circuit”, attending one Sweet 16 after another. There is a tendency, in some quarters, to want to outdo the previous party, or at least to maintain the same standard. Some parents may even believe that their daughter will be embarrassed if they don’t overspend for the party. I can’t even count the number of times when I heard a parent’s voice drop to say, “I didn’t want to have such-and-such pricey item at the party and I really couldn’t afford it, but Mary had it and Sue had it, so my daughter had to have it.”
No, your daughter didn’t have to have it. The original Sweet 16 rituals all focus around the fact that the Sweet 16 girl is stepping into womanhood. The sooner that a woman understands how to manage a budget, the better off she’ll be. The sooner that a woman learns how to stretch a dollar as far as it will go, the more creativity she’ll be able to develop. The sooner that a girl understands the importance of making responsible decisions versus being indulged by parents who can’t refuse her material excesses, the more powerful an adult she will become.
When it’s all said and done, the Sweet 16 girl who is being honored with a beautiful ceremony and party is liable to forget about that bank-breaking purchase that she wailed over a few months earlier.
The family must also remember that if the girl sulks over having to pick and choose what she can have as the budget dictates, it’s possible that she’s not even focused on the expensive item, but instead is troubled by about any one of the dozens of high school circumstances that I’ve outlined in Chapter 1. With womanhood comes pressure, and it is not the parents’ job to make the pressures go away. Rather, it’s the parents’ job to teach the child how to make the best decisions when under pressure.
Consider everything that goes in to the party:
Choosing the date:
Will there be any events that may wind up conﬂicting with the party date you’ve chosen? Consider events within your extended family, within the girl’s life and her circle of friends, and within the city or town where you live. Take a moment to check the calendar for school holidays and events, religious observances, out of town games, dance competitions, SAT prep classes and exams, etc. If you plan to host guests from out of town, consider any possible snags that could hold up their travel plans. If your Sweet 16 Girl has a summer birthday, consider whether or not her friends will be away at summer camp or on family vacations on your party date. You may want to consider moving the event to June or September. If your Sweet 16 Girl’s birthday falls near the Christmas season, when almost everyone is overbooked, you might want to consider having her party in January, when things tend to be quieter and people are looking for things to do to liven up a dark winter night.
Choosing the venue:
Consider the following:
What is your budget?
How long is your tentative guest list?
How big a place do you need?
Is your party going to be formal, semi-formal or casual?
Will this be a house party?
Are you familiar with the catering hall or restaurant you’re considering? Have you dined or attended a party there before? Is the food and the service good? What guarantee do we have that the place will be clean and beautiful on the night of your party? I’d advocate choosing a hall with which you’re familiar. The fewer surprises that you have while planning your party, the better.
Will you be adding to the decor?
Will the decor and the menu have a theme?
What ideas do you have about appetizers, main courses, side dishes and desserts?
Will you be serving alcohol? Please think very seriously about this. The Sweet 16 girl knows her under age guests and she will know if they’ll behave themselves properly and abstain from alcohol if it’s served to the adults at the party. If there’s any doubt that the young guests will observe rules about teenage drinking, consider eliminating alcohol from the party completely. If that seems too drastic, you can offer a cash bar, or give your bartender a very stern warning about who can be served and who can’t.
Is the dance ﬂoor large enough to accommodate all your guests?
Are you considering hiring a DJ? What will this cost? Is there room for him to set up? How much set up and break down time will he need before your guests arrive and after the guests leave? How does this fit in to the amount of time for which you’re contracting the venue?
Will there be a buffet? Is there room to set it up?
Will you be given a discount if you book way in advance?
WARNING: Avoid putting down deposits for venues that have just opened, recently changed management, or are located adjacent to any huge capital improvement or construction project that’s liable to be noisy, dusty and drag on for years. These are all possible danger signs that the hall may not be able to stay in business long enough to host your party.
Will your guests be able to park their cars? Will there be valet parking available?
Will you be having elderly or disabled guests? Will the venue accommodate them?
Will you be indoors or outdoors? An evening cruise on a yacht can provide an idyllic setting — that is if it doesn’t rain. If you choose to have your party outdoors, take a moment to consider what will happen if fate hands you a thunderstorm that night.
Make phone calls to get prices on local venues, caterers and entertainers. Raise some of these questions. Collect brochures and make notes from the information that you gather, and keep the notes organized in a ﬁle. When you make phone calls, ask for the name of the person giving you the information and make a note of it, so that you can speak to the same person when you call back. Speak to your neighbors who have recently had parties and see if they can recommend local vendors.
The web provides an inexhaustible source of party ideas, no matter what your budget. Take the time now to become familiar, not only with the sites of party planners, but also with sites of people who design the layouts for the food magazines and television shows, people who dress windows, or any kind of designer. Many people in the business publish blogs five days per week. It’s all available at your fingertips and it’s all FREE. When you begin bookmarking web pages, create a separate folder just for Sweet 16 Information.
Going forward, I will be using this blog to link to the work of designers and stylists in hopes of giving readers a few ideas to use for their own parties.
Hiring a DJ or any kind of entertainment:
A talented DJ can make a party come to life. Before you hire one, be sure that you’ve seen him work and that you’re comfortable with his style. He should be well organized, prepared to set up and break down in an efﬁcient fashion, and willing to take direction from you.
He should have a varied catalog of dance music and he should be prepared to play something other than the top hits of the day. Your elderly guests will be thrilled to hear a couple of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett songs, and your middle aged guests might like to hear a few hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s.
He should be charismatic without being overbearing. You want to be sure that he is entertaining your guests without getting “in their faces”. Be sure that he can control the volume on his music. Avoid seating your elderly guests anywhere near the DJ speakers, for they may ﬁnd this annoying, if not painful.
Hired dancers can make a very big difference when it comes to getting your guests on their feet and on to the dance ﬂoor. If your budget allows, I’d consider this a good investment.
See to what extent the DJ can help you in preparing a video screen should you want to show a video of the Sweet 16 Girl’s childhood memories. Many of them are outﬁtted with this equipment. Check prices in advance.
If your budget doesn’t permit hiring a DJ, you can take matters into your own hands. If your hall has a sound system, then you can provide the music. If it doesn’t, perhaps you have a friend or family member who is a musician or an audiophile who can help you to set up a sound system in the hall. Is there a charismatic family member or guest who can play the part of the host and make the announcements for the party? Do whatever you can to have a microphone available to you, because it will be nearly impossible for a room full of guests to hear you without it. Again, I’d advise you to think ahead. Take a few hours to consider how a DJ may choose the music he plays, what type of announcements he might make, or how he’d supervise games for the guests. If you think that your guests would like to do the standard party dances, like the Electric Slide or the Limbo, be sure that you have the music available. Plan the four hours, just like a DJ would. With a little forethought, you can put together a good series of sets.
This article will be continued later this week. I’ll add the link as soon as it’s up on line.
Click here to read Part 01 of the series.
Sweet 16 Invitations by IPV Studio
Sweet 16 Thank You Cards by IPV Studio