In my experience, bouncy balls are a universal crowd-pleaser. My first purchase was 10 large, red and blue striped balls for only $2.50 each and 4 smaller balls for only $1.00 each. Some of the balls were grouped together as "buoys" and the rest were spread throughout Lake Ben.
These red and white hula hoops were only $1.00 each! They became our "life preservers".
|$1.00 Hula Hoops as Life Preservers|
The great thing about the balls and hula hoops is that they can be used for another event. For example, they fit well with an Americana theme because of the colors. For a Candyland theme, the balls can become hard candies and the hula hoops, peppermint rings. Between parties, Ben and his friends can enjoy playing with them - bonus!
|Trampoline as the Boat Deck|
Here is an overview of the activities:
|Inexpensive Nautical Activities|
The menu was actually the first thing to be chosen because I needed to know how much money would be left in the budget after the food and beverage expenses for decorations and activities. As much as decorations add to the festivities, food is the most important element. Hungry guests are likely to leave a party pretty quickly if there isn't a nice spread. If you have a modest budget, I suggest scheduling your event between mealtimes so that you can provide less hearty provisions.
My downfall for personal parties in the past has been that I offer way too many options. I spend the morning of the party stressed out about preparing the food, and then I have tons of food leftover. This time I decided to make things easy and offer just two entrees, two sides, and two snacks. It is more cost and time efficient to make a few items in bulk than it is to make a dozen items.
The entree items were Meatball Subs and Macaroni & Cheese, well, Seashells & Cheese to go along with the theme. For the submarines, I just used frozen meatballs and some doctored up Prego. :) For the mac and cheese, I used a recipe that I found on Erin's DC Kitchen. The portions listed on her site filled one 12 3/4 x 10 3/8 aluminum steam table pan. I made 6 total pans and wound up with two pans leftover after the party.
|Mac & Cheese for the kids and Bacon Jalapeno Mac & Cheese for the adults|
Modifications from original recipe:Plain Version: Instead of Lactaid I used 1.5 cups of 2% milk and a 1/2 cup of Fat Free Half and Half because that is what I already had in my fridge.
Bacon Jalapeno Version: I added a half package of Hormel Real Bacon Crumbles and 1/3 cup of Mt. Olive Diced Jalapenos (with the liquid strained).
Our healthy sides were a fruit bowl and a tiered server of crudite.
|Seaweed & Ruffage|
For the cake, I really wanted to have a 3-tiered, nautical, fondant cake. In order to have that I would needed to sacrifice a lot of the decor. I was not willing to do that. I mean, let's face it, this was a baby's birthday party not a wedding. I have a galvanized, tiered stand from Pottery Barn that worked well as a cupcake tower and gave a similar visual impact as a 3-tiered cake. Baking the cupcakes was 75% less expensive than purchasing them premade, and my wonderful mother volunteered to do the baking. She matched the icing to a ship steering wheel that I found at Marshall's. The stand was placed on a vintage sewing machine table that I purchased at a local thrift store for $7.00 (!) and in front of a screen that I already had.
It was very inexpensive to gussy up the stand, I added a 2" grosgrain ribbon along the edges. If you hot glue the ribbon together where it meets at the back of the stand for a tight fit you'll be able to easily slide the ribbon off the stand after the party. For the "cake" topper, I painted a $5.00 unfinished birdhouse that I bought from Michael's. Then I made a decal out of craft paper and hot glued it onto the front of the painted birdhouse. Finally, I cut a large hole in the bottom of completed lighthouse so it would fit over the top of the stand (I should say "hacked" instead of "cut" because it was not pretty...).
|Customized Pottery Barn Tiered Stand|
All in all, I was happy with the results of the event plan. And I think Ben's guests had a lot of fun. Thanks for stopping by - I hope that you were able to find some ideas for your next party!