I have a friend who is a whiz at party planning. She makes them come alive and captures them with some pretty stunning pictures too. Her ability to throw a beautiful celebration based on an idea in her head is simply amazing – and she does it all on the smallest of budgets!

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Photos by Imago Dei Photography – Jessica Howard

Use containers you already have and dress them up with ribbon.


So, to give us hope, I asked Jessica Howard to share tips for making a splash on that special day.

1. Plan in advance – way in advance. If you don’t have a set “theme” or know exactly what you want, start thinking and “pinning” ideas on Pinterest. The more you rush, the more you will spend. If you plan far enough in advance, then you can watch for sales or have plenty to time to borrow from family and friends.

2. Borrow, borrow, borrow. Most of what I use at my parties for decor, I borrow. I think about things that I have around the house, or things that I can easily get my hands-on from someone I know. (Just make sure you write down what you borrowed and from whom so it all makes its way back to the right person.)

3. Barter. I have a friend who is an incredible baker, so we recently bartered. I took pictures of her family and she baked for my party. With another friend, I also traded photography for design work on invitations. You may think ... “I don’t have anything I could barter with someone.” Sure you do: babysitting, set up or a homemade dinner. Remember social media for resources: post your request on Facebook.

4. Make your own/use what you have. Whatever you see on Pinterest or a party blog, make it yourself. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be perfect or last for years. It just has to stay together for a few hours!

5. Discount options. Pass on the expensive, decorative paper products and opt for simple solid colors.


When it’s time to decorate for the special day, here are Jessica’s top tips to get that WOW factor:

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Embroidery hoops make a novel impact.

Big Impact –

• Drag in a fence to use as a back drop.

• Look for things that will be unique. Try to use things that you wouldn’t find at a typical party and see if you can blend it into the decor. For example, you’re not going to find embroidery hoops at the party store, but they make for interesting party decor. Use a dresser or a buffet and open drawers, placing things in cubby holes.

• Hang items from the ceiling (tissue-poms, garland, etc.)

• Layer (fabric bunting over a door)

• Big blown up pictures can make a huge statement. People spend tons of money on professional pictures ... USE them. Don’t just let them sit on your computer or Facebook. Put it in a poster frame or hodgepodge it to a board.

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Big blown up photos and a snapshot banner make a great display.

• Elevate or frame out cool things you want people to notice. I really wanted people to see the cake — it was elevated, centered, and framed. Have a place that draws people’s attention.

• Placement is important. I try to put things at different heights and not have things too symmetrical. I feel like it either needs to be 100% symmetrical or completely askew. I personally like it all askew ... different heights and different angles and different areas on the table. It’s great when the food corresponds with the decor and it doesn’t “stick out” next to the decor items.

Let these tips get your wheels spinning as you plan your next party. You can put together a beautiful celebration with thought, time and a small budget.


About the author: Simri Davis lives in McKinney with her husband and three children.