My Little Girl's Pony Party

I've always dreamt of two things: having my own daughter one day and having a pony at my birthday party. My dreams came true when my daughter was born five years ago and although I never personally had a pony at my birthday party, I got to plan a party that my daughter and I would remember forever.

Before I go on and share about this party, I have to thank a fellow teacher I work with for introducing me to her pony, Dugan. She is an amazing teacher at my school and she brings her love of horses to her students. She shares how riding horses and caring for horses can empower girls. It teaches them life long lessons like respect, having perseverance and grit, becoming independent, accepting failure, and sharing success. Thank you, friend, for sharing Dugan with my little girl on her special day.

For those of you who have checked out parties I've planned before, you know that I recycle EVERYTHING. I try to find ways to reuse decorations to save money because birthday parties nowadays can get out of control. I keep my decorations simple like reusing table cloths and mason jars or using wrapping paper for table runners. I even incorporate my children's toys in the party theme. It's really hard to not go overboard or overspend. There are so many cute ideas you find on Pinterest. But being a mom and teacher means I have to budget a lot.

For the table, I used brown packaging paper (also called kraft paper) as the table runner. It added to the rustic look of the party. Another bonus to using this paper for the runner is easy clean up! Just roll it up at the end of the party and recycle it. It's also great for our little guests to color pictures or write messages to the birthday girl. The turquoise mason jars were filled with baby's breath which is easy to find at any grocery store and cheap. The paper doilies are from the dollar store. It simply adds to the look of the party!

Here's a pic of the table. I used a carafe for the carnations center piece. Pink carnations, of course! The pony plates and napkins were a Target find. Love Target!

I set up the drink station and food outside on my patio. I created an L-shape table using 2 foldaway tables. The pink pompoms are from the dollar store. I always have cucumber water at my parties and adult beverages for parents. That is always appreciated!

You can see here a wooden crate that I have reused over and over. It adds height in the corner for decorations or food. I put my daughter's pink horse in it to tie the theme and colors together. My daughter loves when I use her toys as decorations. I spray painted a blue bucket I already owned gold. The jar next to the pink horse is recycled too. It's just an old ginger beer bottle that is wrapped in turquoise ribbon.

Here's the menu and utensils. I like having buffets at my parties to allow friends and family to eat when they'd like. My daughter picked out the menu items and it was all barbeque! Just perfect for this party! Since most of the party was outside, I set up two tables to create one long one. I borrowed pink table cloths from a friend. I have found that most people don't sit at parties. Therefore, I never get concerned with having the exact number of chairs and tables for guests. They stand around, talk, and eat. That's ok with me!

I love having fun with words and naming things at parties. For example here's the "watering hole" which are just water bottles. I put a sign outside the restroom and called it the "outhouse" and I made food labels, too.

Here's some of the food labels:
-rice krispy treats = hay bales
-trail mix = horse feed
-cookies = cowboy/cowgirl cookies

Here's her cake and party favor table. Again, I reused table cloths. I put a ribbon banner from Target on top of a table cloth on the wall. I used an old wood crate to add height to the cupcakes. The treats are labeled using black construction paper and chalk. There's another horse that belongs to my daughter on the table! The sign with my daughter's name was painted by my son as part of his birthday gift to her. I traced her name with pencil on a scrap piece of pallet wood and he painted over it. He added a heart to the end of her name and painted a bird and clouds above her name. His own touch!

The treat bags were so simple. It's just brown paper lunch sacks filled with candy and favors. I folded a doily over each bag and punched a small hold in the middle. Then, I tied brown twine at the top of each bag. Looks like a million bucks but it didn't cost a lot!

The picture timeline was my favorite part. My daughter loved looking at pictures of herself when she was little. The grandparents loved it, too!

Here's the sign that led the guests to the party. I had handkerchiefs for her friends to grab and wear.

I put up a simple photo booth outback. I tossed a table cloth over the fence and had some props from the dollar store. It took me about 5 minutes to create a photo booth. I saw parents taking pictures with their kids, aunts and uncles taking pictures with the birthday girl, and the birthday girl being silly with friends. This photo booth is not as fancy as ones I have seen on Pinterest but it did the job!

Dugan needed his own space, so I had my daughter paint his name on a leftover piece of pallet wood. She loves to paint and help, so it was worth the extra time.

There are a number of important people in my daughter's life, so I love to have them be a part of her special day. I planned a story time before the kids rode Dugan. Here's my daughter's aunt reading her favorite book about a pony to her friends. This took zero dollars! Just the willingness of a family member.

And finally, here is my daughter hanging out with Dugan! Happy Birthday, my little girl.

Here are things I learned about planning birthday parties. I hope you can take away something and plan a special day for your child. 

1. Reuse things. It's okay to reuse items from other parties. Borrow things from friends and decorate with your child's toys. You can save lots of money by doing this!

2. Go to the dollar store. There are a lots of ideas that are on Pinterest that can be created with things you buy from the dollar store. The secret is don't tell people you bought it from the dollar store!

3. Food and drinks matter. Guests seem to remember the food from my experience. This might be where you consider spending a little more money on food and drinks than decorations.

4. Create birthday experiences that don't cost a lot of money. Photo booths are easy to create and people like taking pictures on their phones. Do a story time with your child's favorite book. Have a grandparent read or a special guest. Kids love this! You can also bring back classic games that don't cost a penny like hide and seek, freeze tag, limbo, etc. Kids have so much fun running around together. Have a dance party in your backyard!

5. Have your kids help you. Even the birthday kid. Let them paint signs or assemble party favor bags. Have them help you set up the tables and clean up. You do not have to do this all on your own!

6. Go simple. If you aren't in a situation where you can spend a lot of money, then do simple decorations. Sometimes those are the ones that look the best. Pick your party's colors and stick to that. When you coordinate colors with simple decorations, the results are awesome! Create height on your table by using wood crates or printed boxes. You can also put boxes under your table cloths if they don't match your theme. There's so many ideas for setting up your table on Pinterest!

7. Store-bought cakes are ok! You can dazzle them up with fun candles or small toys that go with your theme. To save money, I always buy a plain cake and have the bakery write the happy birthday message on it. Then, I add my own personal touch and place it on a nice cake stand. My favorite store-bought cake is the chocolate cake with buttercream frosting from Whole Foods bakery. They always have them available. No preordering required because sometimes, I do things last minute! I also like to create a small candy and dessert buffet. Just a few candies in jars and cookies on plates. Even when I do a sweets buffet, I never spend as much as I would on a gourmet cake!

8. Enjoy your party! I make sure to stop being a hostess during the party to enjoy time with my child. As much as I would love for my guests to be absolutely comfortable and all their needs met, I just accept that I have to let things go and be in the moment. I make sure to spend time with my child because this is what I hope they take away from their special day.