Cost-conscious party planning

Colorfull tulips

Ellen Futterman

If planning a bar or bat mitzvah celebration seems daunting, consider the following tips from local event planner Jamie Vollmer of Inspire PR and Events, which are designed to cut down the cost but not the good time:

• Set your budget and priorities first, and stick to them. During the early planning phases take time to examine what you and your child’s priorities are with the day and the celebration. Then keep these in mind when creating a budget. Allow a little extra to go to your priority points and allow yourself to limit the budget on those areas that are less important to you and your child.

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• Look at venues that include tables, chairs and linens as part of the rental.

• Use light. One of the most inexpensive and dramatic ways to transform a venue is with light. Audio visual companies can provide colored uplighting or gobos (images cut on metal disks and then projected onto a floor, wall or ceiling) that can customize the feel without killing the budget.

• Buy items wholesale. St. Louis is home to two great wholesale markets – St. Louis Floral Market also known as Florist Row and Produce Row. Tap into friends and family with accounts or their own businesses that are eligible for an account. Consider using actual fresh citrus fruit purchased in bulk at wholesale prices from Produce Row for a centerpiece. Then donate it to a local food pantry. The possibilities are endless. Just be sure to call ahead to find out what will be in season and available.

• If your congregation offers them, consider a Saturday evening Havdalah service with a beautifully displayed dessert bar afterwards. There is this great company ( that creates custom stencils for around $15 to customize all the cocoa and coffee drinks. For the desserts, consider dressing up simple store-bought or homemade cupcakes with fun and gorgeous cupcake wrappers. (

• Potluck luncheons or even picnics that allow family and friends to contribute to the celebration are a great way to make everyone feel included and keep costs down. St. Louis has a tremendous number of parks with pavilions that can be rented very reasonably.

• If you want to give away something from the occasion, make it part of your décor. Personalized T-shirts can double as chair covers. Candy centerpieces can be taken apart at the end for the kids to take home.

• If a DJ or band is not in your budget, consider a karaoke competition or compiling favorite tunes on an iPod to be played at the celebration. Also look to local arts organizations such as Jazz St. Louis and college music departments for music recommendations that can be expensive.

Do you have a great cost-cutting idea for simcha celebration that you are willing to share? Please post them online under the article comments section with this story, available at