Planning a 16th Birthday Party for a teenager can be challenging! My son really wanted to celebrate in a laid back style with as many friends as he could squeeze into our backyard with a bonfire. The plan was to make it look simple and laid back but still ultra-cool enough for teenagers to love and cheap enough for me to love…lol. Unfortunately with a November birthday planning an outside party always comes with a risk of bad weather! We usually have pretty mild nights still here in Tennessee in November…certainly wouldn’t be too cold if you had some blankets and a bonfire. Well…Saturday brought blustery conditions!! Low in the 20’s with a 25 mile per hour wind gust now and then…ugh! The weather kept about half of the kids that we invited away but the ones that braved it had a great time!
If you are looking for a budget friendly party my friends this one’s for you! I planned on about 40 kids coming and only spent $175 on the entire thing! If you were doing this for a smaller number it would be even cheaper!
The invite- Make it special!! I get the whole ease of emailed invitations trust me I do but I still think there is something magical about going to your mail box and finding an actual invitation waiting for you. There is something exciting about wondering who it’s from and what it’s for as you rip open the envelope to reveal it. Let’s face it all my mailbox is filled with is bills and junk! I would love to get a printed invite or hand written letter now and then! I mean that’s why I really sign up for Pottery Barn Catalogs, so every once and awhile something exciting and pretty shows up in there lol! (Just a disclaimer since he is a teenager I just printed out the invites and let him hand them out at school. There was NO WAY he could have collected all of those addresses for me!)
I created my own…that is what I do but you can find cute invites everywhere and anywhere! Don’t skimp on this detail. If you like mine click on one of the pictures above to go to my Etsy shop.
The Decorations- This was a teen party so minimal but cool was the name of the game. I created some pintables to match my invitation. Banners, food signs, wraps for the cups and printed popcorn bags. Find an awesome design you love on Etsy and your set! You can even have a custom set made inexpensively. Pick a few pieces to print and use…you don’t have to be matchy matchy on everything. Unless that’s your thing then go for it!
The Food- One thing I’ve learned about teenagers is that they love to eat but you don’t need to give them a ton of options to make them happy! They love cheap stuff, pizza, popcorn, candy, etc. So don’t think you have to serve a 5 course meal to be cool. Keep it simple and stuff that they can snack on the go because they never sit still! I kept things simple with a hot chocolate bar, s’mores bar and a popcorn bar. These were both HUGE hits and pretty inexpensive!
The Hot Chocolate bar- I made a large pot of hot chocolate on the stove and transferred it into a coffee carafe that I borrowed from a friend to keep it warm and make serving easier. For toppings I offered white chocolate chips, chocolate chips, crushed peppermint (a great use for leftover candy canes), mini marshmallows, whipped cream and sprinkles. To make it a little fancier I placed the toppings in martini classes. Everyone loves fancy!
The Popcorn Bar- I wanted something that they could carry around and snack on as they moved from the fire to the movie area to inside. I purchased Kroger brand natural microwave popcorn and popped and popped and popped until I had enough to fill the awesomely huge basket I found at Hobby Lobby. This was my favorite thing ever! The popcorn looked so cool cascading out of it and my dogs loved the fact that every time someone walked up to the table to get some it started raining popcorn onto their little heads lol. Just a tip…line your basket with saran wrap really well before putting the popcorn in so that you don’t stain the basket with grease or get pieces of basket in your popcorn, yuck! For toppings we had chocolate chips, M&M’s, Reese’s Pieces, Sprinkles and flavored cheese shakers. Be creative and use your imagination…raisins, nuts, etc…
S’mores Bar- No bonfire is complete without the S’mores! Kids love to be creative and try new things so we offered several different flavors of chocolate as well as chocolate and regular graham crackers. We made up some S’mores combinations and printed out a suggested menu to help fuel the creativity. Everyone loved trying different things on their S’mores!
Entertainment- Kids pretty much entertain themselves however if you don’t offer a little bit of structure things can get out of hand quick. This lesson I have learned the hard way working with the youth at my church lol. So we borrowed a projector from my nephew and draped a large white sheet on our screened in porch to play a movie on. All of the kids brought their ENO’s and chairs and blankets. By the way if you don’t know what an ENO is you must educate yourself now! Totally the coolest thing ever and if you surprise your kid with one of these you will indeed win the coolest parent of the year award TRUST! And no I am not a paid spokesperson for ENO’s…although I could be ENO Company if you’re listening! Anyway, we offered the movie; some music and the bonfire and everything else kind of took care of itself.
That’s it! I only wish our weather would have been nicer! We are going to try it again during a little earlier in the season next time.
A few cool things we did. I had a white matte available for everyone to sign and leave messages for my son on. Before the party ended I took a group shot and was able to frame that using the matte and hung it in his room. It’s a cool keepsake from his 16th birthday!
Another awesome idea was to create a custom hashtag for the party. Kids are all about their social media! I made a simple sign that said Snap, Tag and Share with the custom hashtag below. For those of you who don’t know what a hashtag is a hashtag is something you use to categorize a picture on Instagram or a Tweet or message on Twitter. Basically you take a picture upload it to Instagram and add the hashtag (#jishbonfire for example) then everyone who was at the party can search that hashtag on Instagram and find all of the pictures that people took that night. It’s super cool and allows your guest to share their images with everyone and gives you the ability to have great pictures from your party that you didn’t have to worry about capturing yourself.
There are many great ideas that can be used for bonfires of any age or size and if you search around on Pinterest you will find a gazillion more ideas! The most important thing that I cannot stress enough is to do what’s manageable and set your party up so that you can enjoy it! They only turn 16 once don’t be stuck filling food trays and running games…be present, soak it up and spend some time with your guests! It’s your party too!
Love this kid!!