The Great ‘how to host a big party on the cheap' Hunt

Whether it's a wedding, engagement, christening, retirement or big birthday bash, it's great to be able to celebrate with all your family and friends in style. But the bigger a party gets, the more the costs can mount up with it ending up costing the earth to put on your perfect party.

So I want to tap MoneySavers’ expertise to find out how you hold big do's on the cheap. Whether it's ways to make your own decorations, party nibbles or home made cocktails, what are the best ways you've found to keep down the costs of your special occasion?

Please post below to share your experiences with other MoneySavers.

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  • JimmyTheWig
    JimmyTheWig Posts: 12,199
    Name Dropper First Post Combo Breaker First Anniversary
    We did our wedding reception pretty cheaply.
    Had a small ceremony (about 50 guests) in the venue we wanted (council owned) and then hired another hall from the council (200 yards from ceremony) for the wedding breakfast and reception.
    We invited pretty much everyone we knew to this, including the breakfast.

    Got quotes from a few caterers, and they were all charging silly prices for not much. Plus all the caterers' food was "posh-nosh". Was not paying over-the-odds for food half the guests wouldn't eat.
    So we ordered (well in advance) a load of pizzas from Perfect Pizza. Arranged for a few family members to dish them out, three per table of 8.
    Then for desert we had those Taste the Difference chocolate cakes that are quite cheap (a couple of quid each) and again dished them out.

    The whole thing went down really well. Was the first time my Nan (80+) has had take-away pizza, and she loved it.

    It meant we could invite everyone we wanted to be there without it cost a fortune.

    Was the best day of my life.
  • rainmac
    rainmac Posts: 7,063
    Home Insurance Hacker! Cashback Cashier
    One way around avoiding a lot of the cost is to ask people to bring a dish of something with them and hold the event somewhere with a bar so you aren't expected to provide all the drink.

    I think people don't expect to drink as much at lunchtime or afternoon so if you hold your party then you can get away with less alcohol.

    If you are making the food yourself, go for big dish salads. Things like homemade coleslaw, potato salad, cous cous salad, mixed salad leaves. Lots of bread with cheeses and cold meats. Job done!

    If you're having a cake, make it yourself. Iced cupcakes always look lovely, are really easy to make and there's no cake cutting up to worry about on the day.

    Pound shops are great for things like napkins, plastic cups/glasses.

    Ebay is great for kids party goods - decorations, party bag toys etc. There's loads on there so you really have to search to find the bargains.
    :wave: If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain :wave:
  • coxy07
    coxy07 Posts: 327 Forumite
    My daughter got married Christmas week. This saved money as the church and hotel were already decorated for Christmas so no extra flowers required, also by fitting in with a menu the hotel were already doing for a Christmas do they reduced the cost of the reception. We made all the stationery using Christmas clipart & tiny artificial holly leaves.We bought crackers for the tables, bridesmaid gifts,dark red bridesmaid dresses, fur stoles etc in the post Christmas sales the year before. A good time of year for an MSE wedding!!
  • Mum_of_5_2
    Mum_of_5_2 Posts: 43 Forumite
    I did virtually everything for our wedding, we spent our money on hiring a farm in a village near us - an old farm with a beautiful garden. we had a humanist wedding in the garden outside, but a fairly traditional wedding. they provided good food at only £20 for 2 courses.

    I think made all the invites, there's card shops called the Papermill at most shopping outlets. i made each person a bookmark in black card with a small photo of some spring flowers that i had taken stuck on. i think printed on white card a made up meaning of their name which suited our relationship. so my sister who i ask everything i put 'oracle', people LOVED them. I also made all the place cards on the computer. I made the table names on the computer and printed them all off on a slightly shimmer card i had got from the papermill. I named each table the name of somewhere we had stayed in australia and on each table was a photo of us there and a diary of our time there, again people loved it.

    the tables had candleabras - provided by the venu but i'm sure you could borrow them. i bought about 10 meters of a gorgeous pink shimmery fabric, seethroug almost and put it on top of the white tablecloth under the candleabras, around that i had just 3 large pink gerberas, then lots of tealights in glass holders. it saved a fortune on flowers. I carried a single stem of pink lily's which was differernt and nicer than a huge bouquet. i ordered 50 gerberas and and 6 stems of lily's direct from the retail branch of our local interflora - just ask your florist about ordering direct. i paid about £40 for all our flowers. We used 4 gerberas and my sister just wrapped raffia around them about 10 minutes before the ceremony, people kept asking where we had had them done! So i saved a massive amount on flowers and table decorations. peole commented how personal the wedding was as we had done everything ourselves.

    I had a friend who made necklaces make 6 bead necklaces for my bridesmaid and she only charged me for the beads as she was so honoured to be asked.

    i had 6 bridesmaids, mainly due to 2 daughters and then lots of good friends who wanted to be bridesmaids. i picked pink as my main theme as all shades of pink match each other. then i said i was really happy for people to be bridesmaids but they had to buy their own dress, but there was no code of dress so they all used it as an excuse to buy something they liked but that they would wear again. we had someone in pink prom dress and others in a short summer shift dress, all of them looked great together and again made it really personal.

    It was really nice doing it all myself, if a little stressful the day before, i was lucky that the venue let me decorate it all the day before.

    we also had a friend who put together a website with all the info on it, travel accomodation etc so we were lucky.

    look around and there's loads you can do. remember that something that is personal will mean so much more to people that something that you had spent loads on but just bought. we've had countless comments that people normally felt weddings were a bit samey and you could just lift up the bride and groom and put another in their place, but with ours it was different and very personalised.

    if you want to ask any questions please leave me a message and i'll rely!

  • chilligirl
    chilligirl Posts: 11 Forumite
    We organised our wedding six months ago and decided not to spend a silly amount of money on it.

    Instead of spending £600 plus on a dress (plus the cost of alterations - quoted at least £100 for these by bridal shops!), I wore my Mum's wedding dress and had a new coat made to wear over the top by a local dressmaker - the alterations to the dress, the material for the coat and having it made up came to just over £100. Shoes and tiara (both brand new) from ebay - £20 for the two. Husband bought a new suit, shirt, cravat waistcoat and shoes in the sales - his outfit cost c£200 (would have been £150 to hire a good quality morning suit, and he can wear his suit and shirt again and again). The other men all wore their own suits.

    Our bridesmaid bought her dress from Monsoon in the sale.

    We had pots of flowering plants wrapped up in tissue paper on the reception tables rather than flower arrangements - cost about £4 each instead of at least £15 for flowers, and people could take them home afterwards, and I went to a florist out of town so got all the flowers for about the cost of one bouquet in a town centre florist because her overheads were so much lower. Also put candles on the tables - used tealight holders from asda at 14p each (3 per table, 8 tables) and a pack of value tealights which cost £1 for 100.

    Shopped around for a hotel for the reception that didn't charge room hire or a silly amount for dinner - paid £20 per head for three courses rather than £35-£50 per head plus room hire charged elsewhere, simply because the hotel isn't an 'in' place for weddings at the moment. We had costed a village hall plus an outside caterer and this came in as more expensive than the hotel we chose. The best advice I can give on this is don't even look at the 'in' places - they'll be too popular for you to be able to negotiate a good deal with them and they often aren't that nice anyway and you'll feel part of a wedding production line. It also helps to get married slightly out of season.

    We saved a lot by not having an evening do - a lot of hotels insisted that you had to have a minimum no for the wedding breakfast, followed by a minimum no for a buffet at an evening do, plus a DJ etc etc. No no no no no! You don't have to have what the venues are trying to sell to you. So many people commented that it was lovely that the wedding didn't go on and on, they could go home the same night if they had travelled some distance and for us it was bliss being back home with our feet up on the sofa by 8pm. It meant all our guests could talk to each other without loud music blaring at them and everyone from the oldest to the youngest felt equally involved.

    To get people talking at the reception we put a box of modelling balloons on each table with a challenge from us to make the best model. This kept the children (and the adults) entertained and we judged the results, giving the best table a bottle of champagne. It cost about £3 per table for the balloons and we bought the champagne from the supermarket.

    Our best bargains:
    Favours - I used the left over material from my coat, and lavender from my garden, to make lavender bags for all the ladies. Cost = £0.00! Ok, maybe a few pence for the thread but I already had that.

    Photos - we got professional photos for just the travelling expenses of the photographer, as she was starting out (had joined her husband's business, he was already a professional photographer) and wanted to use our photos for her portfolio etc. Cost us £60 plus the cost of printing the photos ourselves from photobox (about £30 for 200 photos), and we have the CD for over 400 fantastic photos which we can print as many of as we want. It is worth checking out whether there are any budding photographers out there you can do a similar deal with!
  • I run a company called bliss productions and we specialise in parties on the cheap. We usually save people anywhere between 35-60% of the "Usually" cost of throwing a party by using local, homemade or if we do have to hire specialist equitpment, ensure we are using "best value" suppliers. We have seen a recent boom in what I descibe as value events and clients have started coming to companies such as mine knowing we can save them tremendous amounts of cash. All we do is add 10-15% to the total bill for us. But when your saving 50% its really handy, especially if you haven't got the time......
    We only profit from the overall event and produce recipets for every cost line to prove we are not adding premiums.... I have not posted links, but if you or a friend are interested then give me a shout via the message service.
  • Our wedding was cheaper than most as we worked to do a lot of the things ourselves. Main areas of savings we found were:

    Wedding date
    Wedding cars

    We had a long list of wants for our reception with extras like a Jazz band and chocolate fountain that were big spends. As we set a budget we didn’t want to - and couldn’t exceed, we tried our best to save money elsewhere.

    We held our wedding on Bank Holiday Monday, which is not a popular date and as a result cheaper for us. It was also the only date in August available for the next 2 years!

    My Dad is in haulage, so we used his trucks for our wedding cars. They were a great talking point, and a focal point for the photos, and we saved an absolute fortune on cars, which can be in excess £500 for a morning! I would recommend asking friends to borrow a nice car of theirs for the wedding, or failing that use a black cab.

    The venue was our local town hall, which saved a lot of money, as it wasn’t wedding oriented and as a result it wasn’t wedding money weighted! The local park immediately behind it was in full bloom as it was the end of August and was beautiful. The venue worked out like our own private exclusive hotel, we were really happy with it. We also as a result saved money as we used our own caterers, which worked out about £10 a head. don't discount local village halls etc as they can often be just as beautiful for less money.

    Flowers were bought at our local flower market wholesalers which proved to be so vastly cheaper its unbelievable, I was quoted £2,000 for the flowers I wanted, and they cost me £300 from the wholesalers, I collected antique bottles and glassware from Ebay and junk shops and used them for table decorations, which friends of mine did on the wedding day. We also made tape measure rosettes for the men, and this saved money on buttonholes, and meant we didn’t have to worry about the flowers on the day.

    As mentioned previously, we used an up and coming photographer and only had to pay her mileage. The pictures were fantastic, and not copyrighted as they usually are.

    Other areas of saving were wedding cake – made by a friend and we bought a cake topper from Ebay, which was fantastic, cakes are an area where you can really save, as the normal price is in excess of £250. Our friends helped us make the invitations and place cards with paper bought from an online retailer. We bought extras like a piñata online, and used sweets for favors from Macro. We had soap made in America and shipped over for favors, which worked out so cheaply. We got great ideas from sites like Cox and Cox and worked cheaper ways to replicate them!

    The more you do yourself the more unique your wedding day will be, the more your friends will feel involved and the more you will save! A personal day is worth all the money in the world you could ever spend.
  • As far as venues go, think outside the box. A farm near us has a beautiful barn and courtyard that I admired every time I drove past, I told all my work colleagues about it and it turned out that someone knew the farmer and they had hired the barn for parties before but they kept it fairly quiet - they didn't want the hassle of too much business but we got it for peanuts for our wedding and it was great. Also our local lido can be hired out for next to nothing - cheaper than the leisure centre pool and great for a summer pool party. Bit weather dependent I know, but they might be receptive of you choosing an alternative day if the weather is bad.
    Self employed and loving it :D

    Mummy to Natasha 25/09/08 :heart:
  • halia
    halia Posts: 450 Forumite
    find out if there are local attractions/ events you can 'hijack' for part of the do.

    For our wedding we arranged to go for a ride on the local steam narrow gauge railway with all the guests. It made the weekend really special.

    think outside the box for decorations, fairy lights look fantastic and you can beg or borrow quite a few sets in summer from people's Xmas box.
    DEBT: £500 credit card £800 Bank overdraft
    £14 Weekly food budget

  • anjybabes
    anjybabes Posts: 10 Forumite
    look into village halls,town halls & guildhalls. if there council owned there usually cheaper.
    you can get some stunning council owned hall's ideal for event's.
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