When it comes to planning a party for little girls, a Disney Princess theme is sure to be a home run. There’s just something special about princesses. Perhaps it’s the fancy dresses and the beautiful hair, but I like to think that it’s also because princesses follow their dreams, and little girls seeing that start believing it for themselves.
When it comes to dreamers no one does it quite like strong, determined Rapunzel, which is why Tangled seemed the perfect theme for my 3-year-old daughter’s recent soiree.
When deciding on a princess theme, I was partial to Tangled for a few reasons: 1) I really like the color palette. 2) I like the use of natural elements — like vines on the tower and flowers in Rapunzel’s hair. 3) I love that Rapunzel is fun and quirky, and has a mind of her own. When asking my daughter which princess she would like us to plan the party around, she wanted a “Rapunzel party” too, though her reasons were a bit different from mine. Here is what she said:
“I like Rapunzel because she has a dream. She goes to find her dream in a far away place. She makes friends with the ruffians and I like that. She thought they were scary for a minute, but really they were nice and they all had a dream. I like that Rapunzel is strong. She hits Flynn Rider with a cooking pan. That was pretty funny.”
When it came to planning the party I knew that I wanted to keep it within a tight budget, which meant using items I had on hand, repurposing some, and getting really creative. I knew that a Tangled party would be great for this, because my personal aesthetic tends to lean toward rustic, natural elements and I knew that our backyard with it’s huge trees and climbing vines would be the perfect spot to host.
Once we had decided on the place and the theme, my daughter kept asking me with excitement every day for a month when her “birthday” was coming. It wasn’t actually her birthday (that was in January), but since it happened to fall near her half birthday, we decided to call it that.
It was fun to have another chance to plan a party so different from her actual birthday. Instead of the crowded hoopla, this time around I wanted to create something small and special, with just a few of her friends and the result was magical. It was so much more fun (not to mention affordable!) to plan a party on a smaller scale. Which brings me to seven tips and tricks for making your party a budget-friendly, stress-free (and beautiful) affair.
1. Keep it small.
Having fewer guests means less food to purchase, less party favors, less supplies, and less stress. This is my absolute best tip for keeping your princess party (or really any party) affordable. I’ve hosted large parties and I’ve hosted smaller parties, and the smaller ones are almost always more enjoyable for everyone involved. In this situation I ended up being even more glad that I kept it small, since my daughter got a fluke stomach bug the morning before the party. It was a bit hectic, but it ended up working out and she was able to attend. If it was bigger though, it could’ve been a lot more complicated.
2. Plan your space.
When it comes to party planning, it can be easy to let the planning process become overwhelming as ideas start to snowball out of control, so I like to start by deciding what “areas” will be at the party. I knew that for our Tangled party, there would need to be a food table (also known as the focal area for decor), an area for the girls to eat, a couple of areas for activities, and a lot of open space for running around and dancing. Once I knew what areas I would have, it made the planning for how to fill those areas much easier.
3. Make things multipurpose whenever possible.
Any time you can make a party element multipurpose, you are saving yourself money and stress. A great way to do this is with the food table. Always, always make your food do double duty as decor. For our Rapunzel theme, I served challah bread and grapes in cast iron pans. The grapes played off of the color scheme, the braided bread was reminiscent of Rapunzel’s braid, and the pans were Rapunzel’s “weapon of choice” for defending herself against Flynn Ryder.
I also made a donut tower inspired by a Disney Family recipe, but swapped out the cupcakes for donuts. I played up the natural element in a really simple way, by adding a circular cut of fake grass (found at the dollar store) over the styrofoam block base and plate underneath. It made a big impact and ended up being my favorite part of the party.
Another way to double up is to make your party favors tie into the decor. I made these Rapunzel-inspired floral headbands as party favors for the girls and then used them as place settings at the table, along with printable Disney Princess-inspired appliqués. The appliqués were a great way to tie in the sunburst emblem from Tangled without having to trace or paint — just print and cut! Super easy. I also used them to add a bit of authentic Rapunzel flare to the “Best Day Ever” ribbon banner on my main table — glittered letters + appliqués + ribbon + hot glue gun = pretty statement-making banner!
And to make the headbands, I simply hot glued faux dollar-store blooms to gold glitter elastic I bought by the yard at the fabric store. I tied them in a knot and voilà! Easy and inexpensive party favor AND place setting.
4. Create paper crafts.
Creating paper crafts is a great way to make focal points really inexpensively. In addition to the Rapunzel sunbursts, I also printed off a pretty Tangled quote and popped it into a frame I already had. I tied a strand of purple ribbon to it and hung it from a tree (along with a bunch of leftover flowers that I clothes-pinned to branches). This created such a great focal point for one of my activity areas. There are so many wonderful paper craft options out there — simply print and display to add instant visual interest to your soirée.
5. Work with what you’ve got and outsource.
I was actually able to put this party together for right around $100 ($104 if you want to get technical), but the main reason was that I started out working with what I already had and built on that. Items like the lace tablecloth, Christmas lights, cast iron pans, and vases were things I already had on hand. The kids table was made from a piece of plywood and a couple of saw horses my husband had lying in our garage. We didn’t have enough kid-sized chairs, so we used pillows as seats. I used cuts of wood from my sister-in-law’s backyard as platforms for serving and displaying. I stuck fake blooms in the hop vines in my backyard. I asked neighbors if I could cut a few flowers from their yards, and the Queen Anne’s lace was picked from an empty field near my house. Queen Anne’s lace is a flower that is prevalent here and known as a weed, but amidst the other more refined blooms, it was a great (FREE!) addition.
You might surprise yourself with how you’re able to make it work with very little, and I honestly find that I come up with my best ideas when I’m limited by budget — that’s when it’s time to get creative!
6. Hunt for bargains.
There is absolutely no way I would’ve been able to stay anywhere close to my budget if I hadn’t hunted for bargains along the way. Almost all of my craft store purchases were bought using a 40% off coupon I waited to use, and before I purchased anything, I hit up my local dollar store.
Of course a dollar store isn’t always going to have what you’re looking for, but I was able to find plenty of things I needed (some that were quite unexpected) for a fraction of the cost. The fake flowers were key. If you’ve ever purchased them, you know they aren’t cheap, but for my purposes, I didn’t need the super realistic kind, so these were perfect. I simply cut the blooms off of the stems and used them EVERYWHERE: in the girls’ hair, scattered on the tables, in my giant DIY Rapunzel braid, in the hop vines behind the main table, for the headbands … fake flowers for days! They were definitely the main statement for the party and it was so great that I was able to get them so affordably!
7. Don’t overthink it.
When it comes to activities for kids, there are some really great ones on Pinterest, but don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes the simplest things turn out to be favorites for kids. I brought out a wireless speaker and played “princess music” and it ended up being the best part of the party. The girls had a blast, just dancing around. And the best part? It was free! We also set up “Rapunzel’s Braid Station,” where the girls could get their hair braided (complete with faux flowers), and a station for their nails to be painted Rapunzel purple. I recruited one of the moms in attendance to paint nails and I braided hair, and the girls loved it!
The other activity was cupcake decorating. I set up Rapunzel-inspired cupcake paint palettes and let the girls unleash their inner artist. Who knew some sprinkles and frosting could be so much fun?
I love hosting parties and I’ve planned quite a few over the years, but this was hands down one of the best parties I’ve ever planned. Everyone had a wonderful time (myself included!), it was stress-free, and it didn’t break the bank! It just goes to show that a great party isn’t about how much you spend; it’s about fun and thoughtful details and the people you celebrate with!
Now how did my little 3-year-old enjoy her “birthday” party? Well…
“I liked that I got to put sprinkles on the cupcakes. That was the best part … I also liked eating the tower and that Grandma came to the party. My friends really liked getting braids and flowers in their hair. Can we have another party tomorrow? Maybe it could be an Aurora party!”
Mission accomplished!More On