Decorate Smart, NOT Hard

I love to throw a party. So much so that being almost six months pregnant, rushing my parent’s dog to emergency surgery (she’s ok now!), and breaking a gas line in our home an hour and a half before company was due to come didn’t stop me…

chinese new year decorate sign

It’s a funny story, actually. Since we have a gas stove, we needed the gas fixed and turned back on in order to feed the 30 people that were in our home. The food was supposed to go on the stove at 5:50. At 5:48, we got the gas turned back on.  That, my friends, is a success story!

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today… Today I wanted to use my recent Chinese New Year party as a chance to share some tips for decorating SMART, rather than hard. I envy those who have huge budgets and hours of time to spend decorating for every shindig, but I. just. don’t.  That, however, has never stopped me from hosting everything from crazy craft days to a wedding at my home. And here is what I’ve found helps create a fabulous party for as little cost and effort as possible:

#1 Use BIG, inexpensive eye-catchers

chinese new year chandelier

These paper lanterns were only $17 for 10. I hung three in the entryway, five from the chandelier in the dining room, and two outside on the porch. It was EASY (seriously, it took about 10 minutes, and my boys thought it was so fun!), and no one could miss the effect.

#2 Group things for impact

chinese new year pom poms

I spent 10 minutes (and $1.24 on a package of red tissue paper) making some pom pom flowers. I piled most of them in a basket on my table, making a huge, red, textured centerpiece. And I added a lone one on the entry table for some continuity and color.

chinese new year red flower

#3 Limit yourself to a few specific locations

In this case, I opted for the entryway (first impressions, anyone?), the dining room (though obviously everyone did not fit in there, it was a dinner party, after all!), the back porch (where we have another big dining table) and the drink bar (more on that to come next). I could have worked much harder to scatter decorations throughout, but by limiting myself to these few areas, I was able to make less (time saver!) and concentrate the decorations I did have for greater impact.

chinese new year entryway

chinese new year dining table

#4 Make the most of any special decor by putting it in prominent places

I was given these beautiful tassles from China by my international student, and I wanted to use them, but they are a little small to make much of an impact. So I hung them at eye level, right over the drink bar.  They were prominent enough to earn comments (and to show my student how special they were to me!), and they livened up an otherwise functional party space.

chinese new year coffee bar

I was also given these gorgeous cut-paper bookmarks representing the 12 animal signs. I used them right on the entry table to add color and authenticity to my otherwise rather American red decorations.

chinese new year cut paper

#5 Have something thematic and interactive

chinese new year entry table

This can certainly be taken too far… but just a touch of cheesy goodness can go a long way. Here, since I was hosting a Chinese New Year party for a combination of Chinese exchange students (who are in the US for the first time this year) and Americans (who happen to be largely unfamiliar with Chinese customs), I included a simple chart of the years for each sign and asked the guests to include their signs on their name tags. It was a fun way to start discussions by allowing people to find others who shared their signs. (By the way, do you like how my red TOMS made it into the picture? At least they were the right color for this party!)

So… how about a few more directed tips?

  1. pick a clear theme (this time: red)
  2. have at least one major-impact item (this time: lanterns)
  3. add a little cheap and handmade, preferably with great texture (this time: pom pom flowers)
  4. group things in prominent places
  5. highlight your most special items
  6. have something a little fun and silly for guests to do

These tips have helped me for numerous parties to make a big impact with little time and money. Do you have any other great tips for low-cost, low-effort party decorating?

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  1. I love the idea of having a theme (color or otherwise), sometimes it can be overwhelming trying to plan a party, think of creative foods, clean the house and decorate. These are AWESOME tips!

  2. Great suggestions and I love your theme. Perfect. Thanks tons for linking to Inspire Me. Hugs, Marty

  3. Lovely decorating!! I am sure the party was a lot of fun too! I am glad everything worked out with the gas line!!! That is something that would totally happen to me!! 🙂

    Visiting from the party at the diy dreamer!

    Shelley @PaperCharm

    1. Thank you so much, Shelley! Glad to know I’m not the only one who experiences crazy days like that!! 😉 So glad you stopped by; hope to see you again!

  4. Great tips, I like the idea of just decorating dedicated spaces (on the cheap or handmade too). Keeps it less from being overwhelming.

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