How to have a Bonfire Party on a Budget for Teens

Host a bonfire party on a budget

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!)

Bonfire party invitation DSC_0021 copy

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!

bonfire popcorn banner bonfire popcorn bags bonfire coffee cops

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!

bonfire hot chocolate bar

Hot Chocolate Bar

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…

popcorn bar at bonfire popcorn bar at bonfire popcorn bar at bonfire

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!

S'mores bar at bonfire S'mores Bar at bonfire party s'mores bar

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.

bonfire party ENO

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!

bonfire party signed picture matte

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.

bonfire hashtag sign

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!!DSC_0019

  • JamieMarch 19, 2015 - 8:28 pm

    Love these ideas!! We also live in TN (Manchester) and my son will be turning 13 on Oct. 31. A bonfire party is what I’ve been waiting for with him, but I think ours will not be as many people. But I love your ideas…thanks!!ReplyCancel

    • CandyMarch 20, 2015 - 11:41 am

      Hi Jamie,
      Thanks so much! That’s the great thing about a bonfire party…it doesn’t matter how many people you have they are always fun!! Let me know if I can help with anything for your party! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • ChristinaMarch 29, 2015 - 9:46 pm

    I was planning on hosting a bonfire party for my daughter’s Sweet Sixteen. When I came across this blog post, I was so excited because I had no idea where to start from. I can’t wait to start planning her birthday party!!ReplyCancel

    • CandyMarch 31, 2015 - 12:39 pm

      Awesome Christina!! So glad you found some helpful information! Please let me know if you need any help 🙂

  • SheilaMay 16, 2015 - 5:15 pm

    Love, Love, LOVE this! I’m hosting a bonfire high school grad party for my son. I have a tendency to over think and over complicate so this pin is a life saver! Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

    • CandyMay 20, 2015 - 2:11 pm

      So glad you found it helpful Sheila!! Congrats to your son and hope your party is amazing!ReplyCancel

  • Lucie gundlaChJune 4, 2015 - 11:52 pm

    I’m actually planning my 16th birthday party now for sometime in the next couple weeks. Your ideas were super helpful!ReplyCancel

    • CandyJune 11, 2015 - 11:08 pm

      Awesome Lucie!! I hope that you have a wonderful birthday!! Good luck with the party planning 🙂ReplyCancel

  • LeslieJune 10, 2015 - 3:41 pm

    OMG thank you so much…. I could really use some help on some details.. what is ur etsy store under? My daughter is turning 16 as well. Thanks!!!ReplyCancel

  • hannahJune 11, 2015 - 9:37 pm

    I’m so glad I found this…I was running out of ideas for my 14th birthday party…I was looking for something simple and this was just the thing…cant wait to get started! but I’m probably not having near as many people.ReplyCancel

    • CandyJune 11, 2015 - 11:06 pm

      So glad it was so helpful for you Hannah!! I hope your birthday is great! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • MattJuly 15, 2015 - 12:50 pm

    Fantastic ideas! Just was wondering if you could tell me what the s’more menu actually had on it. I can see the title of each one, but not what you recommend to put on them. It would be a big help! Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • CandyJuly 22, 2015 - 9:47 pm

      Thanks so much! Yes here is what I had on each Smore…so yummy!!! 🙂

      The GrassHopper
      graham cracker/andes mint/marshmallow
      The Mint Oreo
      graham cracker/andes min/cookies n cream/marshmallow
      graham cracker/peanut butter cup/marshmallow
      Tiger PAw
      Chocolate graham cracker/cookies n cream chocolate/marshmallowReplyCancel

  • MadEline keenJuly 28, 2015 - 12:51 pm

    Loving these ideas! I’m also from Tennesee! (Lynchburg) just shy of Manchester! I turn 16 in September! I have been at such a loss as what to plan for my party!! Thank you so much for these awesome ideas!!ReplyCancel

    • CandyAugust 6, 2015 - 1:22 pm

      Thank you!! I hope your birthday is awesome!! The bonfire party was such a fun way to celebrate and it was easy to include any number of guests! Good luck and HAPPY SWEET 16!! :))ReplyCancel

  • […] Budget Bonfire Party from Sweet by Candy 12. Glow in the Dark Party from B Lovely 13. Vintage Football Party from […]ReplyCancel

  • KathyAugust 9, 2015 - 7:45 am

    Great ideas- I’m throwing my daughter a surprise 16th! Could you tell me what ENO is? KathyReplyCancel

    • CandySeptember 30, 2015 - 11:27 am

      Hey Kathy,
      Im so sorry I’m just now seeing this message eek! lol… An ENO is like a hammock but can be put up anywhere…we attach ours to a tree and to a wooden post from our swing set. My son also has but hooks on his wall in his room and can attach it to them as well. They fold up into a little pocket and are super portable and easy to take anywhere. My kids all love them and they are pretty popular around here! Worth the money for sure. Just an FYI if you buy one. They do not come with the straps to attach you have to buy those seperate lol…found that out the hard way 🙂 I hope your daughters party was amazing!! Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Ange BurnettAugust 15, 2015 - 7:00 pm

    This is an awesome page. Just came across it by accident and we are planning our daughters 16th party about 6 weeks from now. What a find this is! I was sharing with my hubby and he said save to your favorites right now before you lose that page.. lol

    Thanks so much for sharing with us!ReplyCancel

    • CandySeptember 30, 2015 - 11:24 am

      Thank you Ange!! Glad it came in handy for you! Hope your party is awesome! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • LoraAugust 25, 2015 - 8:15 pm

    Thanks so much for all of your great ideas! I’m stealing a few! Having a Bonfire Birthday for my 14 year olds party!ReplyCancel

    • CandySeptember 30, 2015 - 11:22 am

      Awesome Lora! 🙂 Hope your party was or is a big success!! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • JenniferOctober 14, 2015 - 12:04 am

    Exactly what I was looking for to celebrate my son’s 16th! Thank you!! We are also in TN(Lascassas):)ReplyCancel

    • CandyOctober 21, 2015 - 3:23 pm

      Awesome Jennifer! We are neighbors! 🙂 Hope your son has a wonderful birthday!ReplyCancel

  • CarleneNovember 3, 2015 - 5:06 pm

    This has helped me shape our ‘Boniversary Party’ night this November. My wife and I are married a year and the same people are being invited back, this inspired to get out all of the things that go into storage from the ‘big day’. Our wedding book of messages is coming back out for the guests to leave messages in for ‘a year later’ for us and all of the same bunting and colours. So we are more set up and good to go than we thought. This log of your own night reminded me for some reason and inspired me to go with it again.
    Thank you x
    Carlene & KatReplyCancel

  • Dawn GoreeJanuary 12, 2016 - 8:10 pm

    These are really great ideas! We are also TN folks, Fairview 🙂 Planning my daughter’s 15th. Thanks for all the help.ReplyCancel

  • BeccaJanuary 13, 2016 - 9:56 am

    Great ideas! I also tend to overthink things when planning parties. What would you suggest for very small backyards? Moving locations?ReplyCancel

    • CandyMarch 21, 2016 - 4:21 pm

      Hi Becca,
      I’m so sorry I am just now seeing this…ugh! Yes I tend to do the! I would say just modify your plans to fit your yard. You could even utilize the front yard, side yards, driveway and garage if you have one. A garage door makes a great movie screen! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • DawnMarch 21, 2016 - 9:27 am

    Thank you for this article- I needed a party idea for kids that will span the needs of both high functioning autistic kids and their neuro-typical friends. I think this will provide the freedom to just be kids while also making it easier for the autistic kids to slip off to the background for a stress break- not unheard of to have kids staring into the fire!
    I plan to have games like horseshoes, cornhole and a few others available to help the kids who are more physically active and maybe large size yahtzee, jumbo size jenga and a chinese checker board for those who want more along that line.ReplyCancel

    • CandyMarch 21, 2016 - 4:17 pm

      Hi Dawn,
      I’m so glad you found this helpful!! Love your ideas they sound great! I agree it will def. be a great laid back party that should make everyone feel comfortable! Good luck and have a blast!ReplyCancel