I’ve decorated for lots of events from weddings to book release parties to outdoor parties to blogger slumber parties, conferences and birthday parties. And I’ve noticed a trend. Here’s how I decorated for our last event, a Barn Gathering, and what I’ve learned…
I forgot my camera for this event and I’m so grateful that a professional photographer, the charming Mary Anne Morgan came and took so many beautiful photos.
Last May our family walked into the small barn, The Granery at WinMock for the first time.
In November we walked into the small barn at the Granery for the second time. This time with a few hours to spare until 80 people showed up to hear my sister, Emily share about her new book A Million Little Ways: Uncovering the Art You Were Made to Live.
My role was to decorate the barn and of course, I gathered the smartest people I could for the job: my friends. Caroline, Jen and Reeve came and helped me create decorations for a little barn. Decorations that I had no idea exactly how I’d use them since it had been months since I’d actually seen the place.
big balloon in my house–I would be fine with always having a 36 inch balloon or two hanging around our place
I asked Emily what she wanted as far as festive decorating at the barn and she said something like: White but not weddingy, and not feminine because there will be men there.
That was a perfect starting point. Just enough direction with a hint of a Lovely Limitation. I agreed, white was the best choice because the inside of the barn was quite woody. And to give that white some sparkle we used gold and sliver and black along with it and focused on papers and balloons in a non-birthday party way to create a creative, party-type atmosphere.
If we could have had this party in my own barn that I could walk out to 100 times a day I probably would have done things differently and set up a bunch of detailed, layered items along with some show-stoppers. But since we had a party at a place I couldn’t visit again, I had to be intentional about the decorations I brought.
The biggest mistake we make when decorating for parties is focusing on the tiny details. Like gluing glitter all over 20 small photo frames to sit on each table. Glitter is WONDERFUL! and Glittering a small frame is a FABULOUS idea, but only once the major, eye-catching, breath-taking, attention-hog decorations are prepared for.
If you only have time and money for a few decorations, make them impactful! Spend your initial time, money and energy on the things that can have the biggest impact.
Here’s what we used to decorate:
36 inch round white balloons (here or here (how hilarious that they add a note that the balloons will arrive uninflated, as if! can you imagine?!)) we couldn’t have them filled with helium because then we’d have to fit 12 filled up balloons in my car which wasn’t humanly possible. Because, HUGE. Also, $3.99 a fill up at our closest helium place is pricey. So we brought a mattress pump and filled them with run-of-the-mill air once we got to the barn. We learned that helium balloons weren’t allowed inside the barn anyway because of their huge, tall rafters so that worked out perfectly! Chad tied the balloons from some high rafters and they hung down from the string over the tables. We hung six balloons and the rest were packed in front of the window right behind where Emily stood as she spoke. It made for a great little background.
Crepe Paper Garland (directions here) I’ve used them a few times in the past year. They are inexpensive, quick and easy to make and have a HUGE impact in a space–that is the KEY to the best party decor.
Whimsy I knew I needed some whimsy at this party, especially since we were opting out of cutsy stuff. So we googled how to make poodle balloons and set them in the window sills, on the tables and even made a poodle balloon garland at the food table. All in white of course, in keeping with the simple feel.
Free Flowers weeds from our property placed in our jars that we drink out of.
Big Christmas Lights two strands of C9s, the same ones I use for our tree.
Assorted Garlands we made paper strip garlands, paper airplane garlands, hexagon garlands (with a punch from Hobby Lobby) and I used gold and silver garlands that were Christmas decor from the Dollar store. Garlands are a great thing to have around because you can tape or tie them up anywhere, windows, mantles, rafters, you can just lay them on a table if you want. Garlands are one of my go to party decor items.
paper airplane garland at our house
Words I thought it was fitting to decorate with some of the chapter titles placed around the walls. They are technically a garland too but deserve their own sentence, don’t you think? We just cut them out of scrapbook paper (freehand obviously), punched a hole and threaded the letters onto string.
a paper garland that’s old and sat outside hanging in our covered pavilion for a few weeks still had some life to it
My steps to decorating for any party are:
- Decide on a theme (ours was white and rustic)
- Create a Limitation (or maybe you already have one) for me this time I wanted to use mostly white without being weddingy, for the last book party I decorated for, my limitation was that all decorations needed to be made from book pages.
- Focus on large attention getting pieces first
- Spend money on things you can use every day, not on a one time decoration that you’ll throw away
- Ask your friends to help
- Add in some whimsy, playfulness gets a good laugh, attention and creates a fun and lighthearted mood
the canvas from our room painted white with scrap paper letters hot glued, not to worry, I’ve already popped off the letters and glue and have a blank canvas ready to use in our house
You can read the real post about the Barn Event at Emily’s place read about how it started, why we did it and what it was. Hopefully, it’s the first of many Barn events our family will host. Do you know this is one of the main reasons we purchased our property? Our dream to invite you to come to The Barn (hopefully our barn soon) and gather together to laugh, learn and be encouraged.
Related Reading about No Stress Party Decorating: