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Reader Question: Last-Minute Picnic-Themed Party?

24 August 2012 26,357 views 8 Comments

by heather

cute mason jar party ideas

Help us brainstorm with reader Amanda's urgent dollar store party planning request coming from our Facebook Page:

I need help! My sweet 16 is a week from tomorrow and we have NOTHING done! I need food and decoration ideas bad. We are on a low money and time budget, and we want picnic style food . Help!

I found some great picnic-themed party ideas to get you inspired:

mason jar centerpiece

Mason Jar Centerpiece by Bridget Ivey

This mason jar centerpiece by Bridget Ivey at The Ivey League is simple, inexpensive, and fits in well with the picnic theme.

I like the mason jar idea for a picnic party theme, and there are so many ways you can use them. You might already have a lot of extra mason jars (or just recycled jars) on hand, that you can use for these ideas. Or, you can buy them at the thrift store or grocery store. And when the party's over, you can reuse them.

Or, if you have time and you can't find them, you can also purchase them on Amazon: Ball Regular Mouth Jars with Lids and Bands

To make a similar centerpiece to the one shown above, use a couple yards of gingham fabric (you can get this for about $2 a yard at Wal-mart), or a checked tablecloth. Gather up to run the length of the picnic table, and top with mason jars filled with candles (or battery-operated tea lights if you are concerned about using open flame.)

I like the mason jar idea for this party, so here are some other cute mason jar party ideas. Everything's cuter in a mason jar!

strawberry shortcake in a jar

Strawberry Shortcake in a Jar by thepartyanimal-blog.org

Strawberry shortcake in a jar - better than birthday cake, if you ask me! Easy to make, too! Just layer in strawberry shortcake ingredients, and tie a piece of scrap fabric around the mouth of the jar.

cupcake liners on mason jars

Cupcake liners make adorable drink lids on mason jars by Setting the Mood

Cupcake liners are an inexpensive way to make a huge statement, especially when you use them as drink lids on mason jars.

Red Gingham Bake Cupsat Amazon.

Lastly, I love this glow jar idea by Intimate Weddings:

Glowing jars

Glowing Jars, a DIY by Intimate Weddings

Create glow jars at dusk with recycled jars and glow sticks (from the dollar store, of course!), OR, if you want to create reusable glow jars, try using Glow in the Dark Mod Podge to paint the jars before the event.

Get Glow-in-the-Dark Mod Podge on Amazon.

Readers, now it's your turn. Help us brainstorm amazing ways to throw a last-minute Picnic-themed Sweet 16 party on a budget in the comments!

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  • Danielle said:

    Just a heads up, not that it really requires a tutorial, but the cupcake liners link takes you to the Strawberry Short Cake blog.

  • heather (author) said:

    Thanks for the catch, Danielle! I fixed it!

  • Nessa the Procrastinator said:

    Hmm… picnic-style food? Why not do a end of the year summer party? You can set up outdoor games like croquet, corn hole… even a slip and slide! I’m sure you could even find some of the summer games on clearance.

    Go with a stereotypical party theme. Encourage your friends to wear hideous dresses/tuxes. Put up a billion streamers and balloon trees (you can find all the decorations at your area dollar store). Have a “photo booth” and take horribly stiff posed pictures. Serve a giant bowl of punch and finger foods. Don’t forget cheesy music!

  • Elle said:

    Maybe you could grill some hotdogs? Or make a meat and cheese tray with some assorted breads (from the discount bakery) so people can make their own sandwiches? A big bowl of potato chips, Sliced watermelon, A big drink dispenser of lemonade. A simple, easy, cheap picnic menu.
    I also have a whole board on Pinterest about picnics that might give you a few ideas:

  • Stephanie @ Henry Happened said:

    I didn’t realize there were so many things to do with mason jars. I love them all, but especially the glowing jars!

  • sunny said:

    Instead of the usual streamers for decorations, how about those tissue paper pom poms (tissue paper easy to find in many colors and inexpensive)…String a garland of them over the party area or hang several from trees for a festive look. Even paper lanterns can be found at the dollar store. Make cute centerpieces from silk flowers put into mason jars or you can even cover plastic drink tumblers with paper and ribbon and they’ll look custom and cute. They can double as take home favors. Cut the number 16 out of cardboard or chipboard (reuse old cereal boxes!) and use them to decorate everywhere.

  • Jan said:

    For a little take home treat, use 1/4 cup cookie dough to make monster sized cookies. Ahead of time you can decorate paper CD sleeves and turn them in to individual cookie sleeves. Here’s just one link of many on the internet for cookie sleeves from CD holders:


  • Fire said:

    Picnics always say red and white checks to me, so I recommend red and white checked tableclothes, napkins, blankets, whatever.

    Decorate the cake (or have it decorated) to look like a picnic basket? That might be too “young” for a Sweet 16, though.
    Still, I gotta say, I love the ants on this cake:
    If the picnic basket is too kiddish or complicated, maybe just (fake, edible or not) ants crawling across the cake?

    If you’re giving out favors, pile them in a picnic basket lined with red and white check fabric.

    If the party is being held indoors use lots of flowers and plants (real or fake) as centerpieces and around the room.

    And since she didn’t say it’s a picnic theme party, just that they want picnic food, some other ideas:
    When I was younger we took those round office tags like these:
    and punched an extra hole in the bottom. We then threaded paperclips into both holes and more tags onto the paperclips and so on to make a garland. Most of us hung them dangling down. If you used a large hole punch to make “tags” out of cool patterned or sparkly scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, or random paper on hand you could make your own beaded curtain for the entrance. If you used sparkly or shiny paper they’d look really cool in the windows or near lamps.

    Get a large piece of posterboard (yay Dollar Tree!) and a few photos of you or the guests. Glue them onto the posterboard, leaving plenty of space between and around them, and prop the posterboard up with a bunch of coloured markers. Have your guests sign the posterboard when they get there or before they leave. If you still have a Polaroid, leave the photos off and take photos throughout the party of the guests/you with the guests and attach with glue stick.

    Dollar Tree typically gets feathery boas in around this time of year (for Halloween). Those things have so many uses. Wrap them around chair backs, use them as centerpieces wrapped around or between (battery operated) candles, or make each of your guests wear one until the party ends!

    Wrap your front door or another door in the main party room with wrapping paper. Most people do this at Christmastime, but Dollar Tree often has cool holographic-type wrapping paper in all sorts of colours. Use your favorite colour, the party’s theme colour, or a random mix! Leave off ribbons and bows though, or it will look Christmasy.

    Hope we helped, Amanda. Happy Birthday!