Sweet 16 Series 02b – Budget and Theme

Sweet 16

This article is continued from the previous entry.

Formal Dinner or Buffet?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with offering a buffet at a Sweet 16. Just make sure that your guests leave their tables to serve themselves in an orderly fashion.  You want to avoid having one hundred guests standing in a long line all at once.  You might like to have your MC or DJ announce, “Tables 2 and 8, please join us at the buffet!” or something like that.

The Invitations:

You can call printers in your area and arrange an appointment to view their catalogs.  Many printers will offer you samples, and it’s a good idea to hold on to these so that you can compare them and make a good decision about which one you’ll choose.

Alternately, you can search for Invitations on line.  I’d highly recommend that you view our catalog at Sweet 16 Invitations.   We’ve been happily serving Sweet 16 Girls and their families since 2000.

If you’re considering making your own Invitations, be sure that you’re experienced in laying out artwork and printing on your home computer.  It’s not nearly as easy as it looks, and you don’t want to invite a situation where you’re going  through one expensive printer  cartridge after  the next  in  the hopes of trying to get a good quality print.  On this count, I’ve heard too many sad stories  from customers who  tried  to do  it on  their own and wound up wasting money, only to end up at a professional printer.

Remember,  it’s  just an  Invitation.   You want  it  to be beautiful and  to make a good  impression , but  this  can be done without  spending $20 per piece for hand made and hand assembled papers.  As much as it pains me to say it, most Invitations wind up either on the floor or in the trash.  Only a few close friends and relatives will be pressing them into their scrapbooks.

Photos and Video:

After  you’ve  gone  to  all  the  trouble  of  selecting  the  perfect  venue, dressing  your Sweet 16 Girl  to  the hilt, and assembling all  your guests,  I believe it is absolutely crucial to have photos taken at this event, and video too if you can manage it.  The quality of the photos and video will be dictated by your budget.  But no matter what your budget, nearly everyone on earth owns some  form of digital camera  these days.   Encourage your guests  to take pictures and to forward their files to you.

If you are going to hire a photographer, make sure that he is capable of staying in the background of the party.  Posing for photos should not be the central activity of the party.  A good photographer will know how to capture the moment without intruding upon it.

Let  the  buyer  beware when  choosing  a  photographer!   Review  his portfolio!    You  may  even  want  to  consider  hiring  students  from  a  good photography school, as they’re probably just as dedicated to their work, own just as much equipment and are probably willing to work for a fraction of the price.

But beware!  A bargain may end up costing you in the long run.  I’ve heard stories from more than one of my customers whose parties were dampened by flaky photographers.  Some don’t show up for the party at all, or some turn in a CD of horrendous photos.  Just this week a customer sent me a CD of photos of a Sweet 16.  She’d chosen the photographer’s “economy package” without realizing that the “economy” photographer had no understanding of lighting and that he was using a cheap auto focus camera without a tripod. So the family now has an album of photos of their guests with red eye, sickly pallor from glaring light, awkward poses, bad composition and blurred focus. Their guests could have taken better photos on their cell phones.

The Gown:

Very  few  teenage girls have  to be  instructed about how  to  shop, or cajoled into visiting a department store or a mall.

If your budget  is an  issue, visit  the outlet stores first.    (My daughter needed a white floor  length gown  to be part of her best  friend’s Sweet 16 “court”.   She  found a  stunning designer dress, which began its life on the racks for $500, at an outlet  store  for $25.) Watch out for sales in your neighborhood.  A great time to look is right after prom season, when many designer party dress price tags will be slashed.

Make sure that the Sweet 16 girl LOVES the dress.  If she doesn’t love it in the store, and if she finds fault with any detail of it, chances are good that the fault will become magnified rather than diminished as she prepares for her party.  Do not buy anything that she’s not head over heel in love with.

Make sure  that  the dress fits  today and will fit at  this party.   To  this end, I’d recommended that you do not buy a gown more than four months in advance of the party.

If  your Sweet 16 Girl  is having a  “court” and  the budget  is  tight,  I’d suggest that the court girls each buy a dress in the same color, rather than insisting that they cough up $250+ to get measured for a custom “bridesmaid” dress that will coordinate with the Sweet 16 Girl’s gown.

Choosing a Theme

There is no limit to the variety of themes that can be chosen for a party. Even after ten years of designing Sweet 16 Invitations, I still receive calls from customers requesting yet another theme that never would have occurred to me on my own.

A  theme will  help  set  the mood  for  your  party.   Once  the  theme  is chosen,  it  can  be  reflected  in  the  venue’s  decor,  in  the  Invitations,  in  the favors, and sometimes even in the menu or the girl’s dress.

The Sweet 16 Girl can choose a  theme based upon something she loves (the ballet, Paris, Broadway, rock guitars, Harry Potter) or something to match the mood of the season (glittering snowflakes for a December affair, a beach party in August, or even a Winter-in-July theme to change things up.) If you run a Google search on “Party Themes” you will find many long lists with suggestions of motifs for parties.

Some girls  like  to choose a color scheme  for  their attire, as well as for their guests.  They may request that the guests do not wear any colors that are in the color scheme, or the Sweet 16 girl’s party dress.  Other girls like black and white attire exclusively.   Another asked her guests  to come dressed as  their  favorite film characters.   We even had one Sweet 16 girl who requested to have all her gifts wrapped in pink paper.  While the color scheme may create a festive decor, I don’t find it necessary to be absolutely consistent  throughout  every  detail  of  the  party.    For  instance,  there’s  no reason for the girl’s dress color to match the color of the Invitation, since your guests probably won’t be seeing both at the same time.

It’s not mandatory to have a theme or a color scheme, but no matter what your budget or  level of  formality, a  theme can give your party and  its decor just a little extra pizzazz.

Sweet 16 Series 01

Sweet 16 Series 02a – Budget and Theme

Sweet 16 Series 03a – Guest List and Invitations

Sweet 16 Invitations by IPV Studio

Sweet 16 Thank You Cards by IPV Studio



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