Father / Daughter & Mother / Son Dances :: Tips and Tricks to Save Money

How to decorate on a budget and pick a theme that is easy and fun.

Last summer I agreed to chair the Father / Daughter Dance at our kid’s school. I have a background in wedding / party planning and coordinating so it kind of fits. I didn’t realize what I had gotten myself into, but it ended up being a lot of fun. So, I would like to share some tricks and tips I learned to save you money and still have a theme filled event.

1.  The first thing I did was research past themes used so I could make sure I was not duplicating. Once I eliminated previous themes, I wanted to have something that I could easily decorate a room with. I wanted to have a theme that I could easily purchase decorations for without to much hassle. My 3 final options came between:
a.) Under the Sea
b.) Candyland
c.) Luau

Each of those themes seemed easy enough to get decorations for and parents and kids could easily match their costumes to the theme. We ended up going with Under the Sea, and I was so happy with the final product.

2. Once the theme was decided, I mapped out the venue space. You go into the room and scale it to a sheet of computer paper and draw where doors, windows, stage, etc. are. It will make it easier to see what you need and what spaces you will need to decorate. Areas you will probably need room for: dance floor, buffet/ snack table, picture backdrop area, tables for seating, DJ space, craft area, and game area or activity.

 3. Budget: Most schools will have a very strict budget for any event. Ours was about $1,300. Once you have your budget, then you have to decide what is most important. Since the dance was at the school, then the venue was free. Almost all photography studios will come to the event free of charge because they will make money off the packages parents purchase. Most of our parents go out to dinner with their kids, so we just needed a small snack buffet with finger foods and drinks. With not a ton of expense on food and venue, most of my budget went to decorations, disposable tableware, and a face painter/balloon artist.

4. Decorations:
a.) Picture area: As you can see in the picture above we had a themed backdrop/picture area. The backdrop of the little mermaid ocean floor was $19.99 on Amazon. I had a ballon artist do the balloons that went around the backdrop.

b.) Tableware: I ordered all of our plates, napkins, and cups from Party City. They had the best deals for bulk orders in the theme I wanted. That total cost was about $175.

c.) Large Area Backdrop/Coverup: Our gym has bleachers that close up and take up an entire wall, they are brown and not very picture friendly. So, I ordered bulletin board paper from Jo Ann’s in ocean floor theme and I was able to cover 90% of the bleachers and string some lights to make it twinkle. I also added a pop-up Ariel poster that I purchased from Party City for $44.

d.) Centerpiece Decorations: This is where I had the most fun. Every table was different but still geared to the theme. I purchased every single item from Amazon, Walmart or a thrift store. Seashells, nets, and jewels came from Amazon; basically, find the biggest pack at the cheapest price and purchase it. The shells and nets will be scattered around the table, so they do not have to be high quality. I went to my local thrift store for glass candle holders. I purchased electric candles and sand from Walmart or the dollar store. The sand was placed at the bottom of the glass candle holder and the candle was placed on top of the sand. I also used plastic table cloths as table runners, all different colors were used and it was a cheap colorful touch to all of the tables.

My final decorating idea was to have some kind of colorful coral on the tables, but purchasing fake versions of it was expensive. So, I grabbed fallen sticks out of my yard, spray painted them bright pink and put them in a vase with sand. It was cute and CHEAP.

E.) Activities: Our school rangers from Pre-K to 8th grade, so we have kids from 4 – 14 attending this dance. I wanted to make sure I had something for everyone. We had the DJ for dancing $250, a face painter doing mermaid scales (she was also the person that did the balloon backdrop) $300, and I did a cheap craft table. I had popsicle sticks, stickers, markers, paper and magnets for the kids to make picture frames with their dads to put on their refrigerators at home. The last and probably most popular activity was a guest appearance by Princess Ariel. It went with the theme and I had just enough left over to include a princess from Petite Princess Company to come to the dance for one hour and take pictures and dance with the kids. This was a huge hit with everyone, including my eighth graders and the cost was about $190.

I hope my easy and cheap decorating tips were helpful and I have a few other theme ideas listed below. Just make sure you pick a theme that is easy for parents and kids to get costumes for and you aren’t having trouble finding things to match your theme.

1.) Dinosaurs / Jurassic Park
2.) Super Heroes
3.) Fairy Tales
4.) Masquerade
5.) Wild Wild West
6.) Alice in Wonderland
7.) Ties and Tiaras
8.) Ninjas
9.) Knights and Maidens


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