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5 Tips for Event Planning on a Budget

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hey there! I'm monica 

I pride myself on making amazing style and design accessible for everyone, regardless of location, budget, or ability! My design philosophy is rooted in authenticity + attainability - If I can do it, you can too! My work has been featured in countless publications, but I take the most pride in homeowners that have been personally inspired by my DIY ideas and have tried something in their own homes!

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Event planning on a Budget

Throwing a big event, whether it’s a fundraiser, wedding, anniversary party, you name it… can be really expensive.  Since I’ve kind of branded myself as a budget savvy DIYer, I get asked to help with large events with tiny budgets quite often.  After doing a wedding and a charity gala this year, I thought it was time to share some Tips for Event Planning on a Budget.

Budget Event Planning Tips

Tip # 1:  Don’t Rule out an “UGLY” Venue

Yes, everyone loves the idea of the most amazing dream locations, with loads of character, abundant natural light, and even powder rooms that are totes adorbs, but there is a reason we call them “dream locations”… they only work within a tiny budget In Our Dreams!! #Truth

There are a few things I look for when choosing from the “less dreamy” locations…

1- Physical Space: Think about how many people you need to accommodate, what the purpose of your event is, how much will people be moving around etc…  Then, consider whether or not this “ugly” space would accommodate your needs.

2- Neutrals: After determining that a space will work for me spatially, I move toward considering the style.  You might not find anything that fits your desired style, but that’s okay- Look for neutral spaces.  My goal is to find as much of a blank slate as possible.  For example, for the charity gala, the first year it was in a large room that at first glance would seem much better than a gymnasium with carpet, but there was a huge 2 foot floral boarder around the entire room that really set the style tone.  Even though the gym had hoops and super high ceilings, it had neutral walls and “potential”… even if it was hard to see at first glance.


 Tip # 2 Control the Light

This is one of the most important aspects in my opinion.  There’s a strong chance that you’re not looking a places with amazing natural light, it seems like little money equals little light.  BUT, if you look at how you can control the  artificial light, you might be in business.  Shadows can hide a multitude of sins…  you know how sometimes it’s just gotta be a lights off kind of night in the bedroom??  Yeah, it’s kind of like that.  The A game slacking a bit, so dim the lights and voila, it’s Go Time.   At a venue, I always make sure the lights are on a dimmer, so I can control the ambiance.

 Tip # 3 Create Memorable Vignettes

Budget Event Tips 3

In a rented space, you most likely can’t paint, replace the lighting, etc… so you need your guests to focus on the areas that you choose.  Put your creative efforts into creating some really memorable areas that your guests will love.

We used a vintage globe as our guest book at the gala.  It now resides at the safe house for the woman freed from human trafficking.  Guest really loved the idea, and we thought it was pretty special too.  
Creative Guest Book Ideas

The unique table centerpieces we created from thrifted items were so fun and guests loved going around to all the tables to see the different variations.  It totally took away from the fact that we were really just dressing up round, church tables.

DIY Centerpiece Ideas East Coast Creative

DIY Wedding Photo Backdrop East Coast Creative Blog

Event Planning Tips 4

Tip # 4 Gather a Varied Team of Helpers

Now, this might seem like kind of a weird tip, but it’s something Jess and I have learned from years of experience.  It takes a village to transform a space on a tiny budget, so don’t turn away people that might lack design skills or not have an ounce of handy in their body.  We’ve found that having some helpers to focus on pure manual labor (moving furniture, unloading cars, setting up chairs) is essential.  We also try to gather some helpers that are cool doing mundane tasks… for example tying 2000 fabric strips onto rope, or attaching 1000s of book pages to make a wall divider.  I recommend gathering a group of helpers for this that are friends, because then they can chat and have fun and won’t hate you! ha!  Then, it is helpful to have a few helpers that have a good eye for design- depending on your event, just one or two should work, but it’s nice to be able to hand off a project and know that you can trust that it will be completed and styled well without you have to oversee it.  We transformed the gym for the gala in 24 hours, so Jess and I acted as the foremen… having a diverse team and being able to delegate will help you stay sane and not let your tiny budget make you hate your life… and the event!

Event Planning

Tip # 5  Remember What Ultimately Matters

This is hands down the most important tips… Remember what matters.  For this event, yes, we wanted the gym to look beautiful and reflect positively on this amazing organization, but what really mattered that night was the work being done to fight human trafficking.  So, even if you’re limited with a small budget, at the end of the day the purpose of your event will shine through, not matter what your decor looks like!

I love the challenge of budget event planning and love helping make amazing organizations like Worthwhile Wear raise awareness and make a positive impact on our world!  Hopefully, these tips will help you plan your next event on a budget!

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The comments +

  1. Some great tips here! We are in the wedding and shower planning process and love many of the ideas you have here. I think creating your own photo booth backdrop is brilliant!

  2. Selma Harris says:

    Hey Monica,
    Thank you for the great tips. The atmosphere at the event looked great. You always do a great job.

    On another note, I just wanted to say my girls and myself miss you and Jess on Knock It Off! We watched every week and my oldest (4 years old) loved to watch each one! If my youngest was cranky, I was able to show an episode online and she would be quiet while watching. I first began following your site after seeing you both on Nate Berkus (miss terribly!!!) and was excited when you both were on a show that helped me to think outside the box. I look forward to hopefully soon seeing you on a new DIY show and seeing what you do here on the blog. God Bless.


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