How much does a designer party REALLY cost?

Hey party peeps!

Last week on Hostess With The Mostess as part of my bi-monthly Look for Less column, I answered the taboo question:
I broke down how much every single item cost in my recent “Kitty-licious” party I designed for my daughter Faith’s 10th birthday.  I knew this would be a touchy subject as talking about money usually is, but felt it was necessary to show people how much these designer looking parties actually cost and how it is actually less expensive to just hire a professional party planner.  If you missed the original post, you can see it here.  Please be sure to leave a comment on that post letting me know what you think.

Pinterest Dreaming!
We all do it!  Sit on Pinterest for HOURS looking for fabulous ideas for our kid’s parties.  We look through magazines and admire the many styled parties and hope to duplicate them.  The problem is that almost NONE of them have price tags attached.  The average mom has NO IDEA how much these parties actually cost to produce and when they set out to duplicate them, they usually have sticker shock on when they are done with the party how much all those details add up and end up spending over $1,000!

Worst yet, as a professional party planner, I get potential clients who come to me and show me these gorgeous parties and want them for their child, but have unrealistic budgets to do it.  Hopefully this budget breakdown will atleast give people a more realistic idea so that when they sit down with their party planners, they won’t fall out of their chair when they are given the budget to make their dream party a reality for their child.

Yes, you can have a fabulous looking party for your child without spending close to what I spent.
Yes, if you are a crafty mom you can cut costs by making some of the items that I purchased.
Yes, you can do without some of the more high-end items I used and…
Yes, you can shave some money off of this by using some items you already own.

HOWEVER, if you dream of this type of party for your child and don’t have the time or know-how to re-create it, professional party planners is the way to go.  They have industry connections to get high-end items for less, they have relationships with vendors to get you the best products for less and they have the know-how to get it done way faster than it would take for you to do it and they have an inventory of party supplies that you can rent instead of purchase for your events saving you 75% off retail in most cases!  I mean…who really has a set of 6 LED crystal trees just sitting around and who wants to store all the decor after the party in their garages that they may or may not use again?

Realistic Budget including even Dollar Store items!
The budget below is an actual one.  The costs of every single item I used is accurate and in fact, I even shared with you where you can purchase all of these items right now.  As a party planner myself, I had most of the decor items already in my inventory—saving me TONS OF MONEY and there is a mix of high-end designer items and items I got from the Dollar Tree!

Today I’m sharing it with all of you with some PRO Girlfriend Tips for new party planners along the way!  Please leave me a comment below and let me know what you think.   You can also click here to see lots more KITTY PARTY PHOTOS. 

This party was a sleepover at my house for 8 tween girls. My living room was totally transformed into a fabulous party space!

DIY “Kitty-licious” printables package:  $55 (
Printing:  $25 (Staples)
fancy paper punch:  $17 (TomKat Studio Shop)
circle paper punch:  $17 (TomKat Studio Shop)
jumbo circle paper punch:  $18 (Michael’s)

Kitty-licious Glam Printables


1 table 6′:  $68 (Costco)
2 custom pink leopard velboa fur tablecloths:  $40 ($20 each:
8 pink folding chairs:  $80 ($9.99 each Target)
2 denim runners:  $42 ($21 each
2 led crystal trees: $180  ($90 each: Shop Wild Things)
1 plush Aurora stuffed animal $15 (
4 white plastic cat bowls:  $4 (Dollar Tree)
1 pack pink rhinestone stickers:  $3 (Walmart)
8 silver chargers with bling:  $29 ($3.60 each CV linens)
1 pack of premium plastic clear dinner plates: $10  (16 ct. Party City)
8  mini dessert glasses: $30 (Pier 1 imports)
8 bling sticks:  $8 (Made by a Princess)
300 pcs pink acrylic rocks: $15 (Efavor Mart)
3 packs of 12″ round pink leopard print cake boards:  $15 ($5/3: Michael’s)



2 tables (4′):  $60  ($30 each Walmart)
2 custom pink cheetah tablecloths:  $40
1 denim runner:  $21
2 led crystal trees:  $180  ($90 each Shop Wild Things)
1 directors chair:  $50  (Pier 1)
1 fuzzy pillow $10 (Michael’s)
1 full length mirror $80 (HomeGoods)
1 5×7 pink shag rug $30  (Walmart)
1 mirror on front of display cosmetic case: $15 (Michael’s)
8 black cosmetic cases:  $160 ($20 retail…..actual:  $2.50 each from local surplus store)
1 stemmed pillar candle holder: $8 (HomeGoods)
8 packs glow in dark necklaces:  $7 ($1/pack Michaels)
8 pink striped paper cups:  $6 (20/pack Creative Kids)
1 bag of starburst:  $3 (Target)
8 pink cosmetic bags: $8 ($1 each Michael’s)
8 bling compact mirrors:  $8 ($1 each Dollar Tree)
8 black headbands with cheetah bows:  $24 ($3 each Halo Heaven)



1 pink plush cat bed:  $30
2 plush Aurora stuffed animals $30
1 silver 8×10 frame:  $10  (Walmart)
2 white ceramic trays:  $10 (TJ Maxx)
3 glass carafes:  $3 (Dollar Tree)
3 fancy stemmed glasses: $12 ($4 each TJ Maxx)
2 boxes frozen pancakes $4 (Target)
4 packs frozen smoothie mix:  $7 (Target)
2 packs mini muffins:  $4 (Target)
1 pack plastic cups:  $2 (Target)
1 pack pink striped paper straws:  $5  (TomKat Studio Shop)
1 pack plastic reflections silver cutlery:  $2 (Target)
1 pack white paper plates:  $1 (Dollar Tree)
3 containers of Jelly:  $6  (Target)

Click here for my JELLY SYRUP RECIPE!



1 round resin table:  $20 (Walmart)
1 custom pink cheetah tablecloth:  $20
1 crystal tree $90 (Shop Wild Things)
1 plastic riser $21 (eFavor Mart)  $6 + $7 + $8
1 black cosmetic case:  $20
8 cotton candy bags with labels:  $32 (
6 custom cookies:  $24 ($4 each: Sugar Cravings)
1 pack cello bags:  $3 (Michaels)
2 white serving trays:  $16 (TJ Maxx)
1 round glass bowl:  $1 (Dollar Tree)
1 sparkly pink frame:  $6 (online)
8 shimmer Gumballs in 8 Clear Candy Tubes:  $24  ($3 each: TomKat Studio Shop)
8 pink lollipops:  $2 (Dollar Tree)
8 pop rocks:  $2 (Dollar Tree)
1 pack of Jolly Rancher lollipops $2 (Target)
8 pink striped paper cups:   cost already accounted for above
1 pack Jolly Ranchers:  $3 (Target)
2 glass square vases $6 (Ikea)
2 styrofoam disks $1 (Dollar Tree)



1 wire 3 tiered stand:  $40
2 wire frame dress forms:  $50 ($25 each)
1 table (4′):  $30  (Walmart)
2 fancy stemmed glasses:  $8 ($4 each)
1 silver 8×10 frame:  $10 (Walmart)
1 plush Aurora stuffed animal $15
1 pack Color Freedom fabric markers:  $10 ($10 for a pack of 10 Creative Kids)
8 white tank tops:  $40 ($5 each Target)
8 cheetah tutus:  $32 ($3 each Halo Heaven)
Kitty Collar Activity: Click here to see HOW TO MAKE DIY KITTY COLLAR NECKLACES
1 spool ribbon: $3 (Michaels)
4 packs of bling buckle sliders: $6 (Hobby Lobby)
16 velcro tabs: $2 (Dollar Tree)



2 silver tables:  $50 ($25 each Target)
1 sunburst mirror:  $25 (Michaels)
1 free-standing shepherds hook:  $10 (Michaels)
1 glass horizontal vase:  $10 (Michaels)
1 5×7 sign holder:  $8 (Staples)
8 denim bags:  $16  (Oriental Trading)
8 notebooks:  $8 (Dollar Tree)
Custom monogrammed buttons:  Cick here to see HOW TO MAKE CUSTOM BUTTONS
8 plastic buttons:  $3  (Michaels)
printable favor monogram labels:  $20
1 sheet scrapbook paper: $1



CAKE: $66
1 Strawberry Passion ice cream cake $28  (ColdStone Creamery)
3 bling sticks:  $3 (Made by a Princess)
1 lb bag of large pink shimmer gumballs $7 (TomKat Studio)
2 pawprint custom cookies: $8 ($4 each: Sugar Cravings)
white cake stand:  $20 (Target)



8 white plastic cat bowls:  $8 (Dollar Tree)
2 pack pink rhinestone stickers:  $6 (Walmart)
24 custom cookies:  $96 ($4 each:  Sugar Cravings)
1 gallon strawberry milk:  $3 (Target)
12 glass mini dessert glasses:  $30 (Pier 1 Imports)
pink striped paper straws (cost already accounted for above)

Kitty Cookies & Milk Bar


NAIL BAR: $197
1 storage trunk:  $44 (Walmart)
1 custom pink cheetah tablecloth:  $20
4 pink floor pillows:  $84  ($21 each Walmart)
1 white serving tray:  $10 (TJ Maxx)
1 5×7 sign holder:  $8 (Staples)
1 round black bowl:  $3 (Target)
6 bottles of nail polish:  $12 ($2 each Walmart)
2 packs nail stickers:  $6 ($3 each Walmart)
assorted manicure supplies:  $10



Glitter Tattoo painter:  $65
1 hour



Cost to purchase all the decor items:  $2000 ** does not include shipping or tax
Cost to purchase all the consumable items: $700
24 hours of time @ $7.25 min wage:  $174

This comparison is only based on the party planner already owning all of the decor items.  If the party planner does not own the items already, their fees may increase to cover purchase of additional items. The party planner fee is only an estimated average and may be higher or lower in your area.

Cost to RENT all the decor items:  $500 25% of retail
Cost to purchase all the consumable items: $700
Party planner’s average fee to cover time:  $600 8 hours @ $75/hour


I hope sharing the real cost of a designer party was helpful in seeing just how pricey some of these featured parties you see all over the web actually are and to give a realistic picture of the value in hiring a professional party planner when you want to achieve some of these high-end looking events for less. There are many other ways to get a Look for Less alternative like making some of the items yourself or using some of your own personal decor. But for those busy moms out there who don’t have time to craft or the space to store all the decor after the party, hiring a professional party planner to do it all for you and take it all back with them allows you to actually enjoy your party, let the planner do all the work and save you money! WIN-WIN-WIN!


• DON’T waste time trying to save money in your budget to craft or bake designer items yourself if that is not your thing!  I do not bake and always hire out for that. Develop relationships with your favorite vendors and arrange a wholesale price on these items.

• DO charge accordingly for custom items.  Clients will pay for custom designer items if they really want them!

• Consumable items are items that walk out the door with the guests or are disposable and thrown away after the party is over.  As a pro party planner I make sure most of my decor is NOT disposable so I can reuse them for multiple parties.

• BE SMART about what decor items you purchase to include in your inventory.  Make sure they are generic enough to resuse again and again for multiple party themes.  As an example, the LED trees were a GREAT BUY!  I can use them in many, many party themes over and over again.  The leopard print tablecloths were not a generic decor item but were custom to this party theme but were so important to me in pulling off the overall look of the theme.  The finished look of this theme was so popular with the tween girls, that I now have added this theme to my signature parties so now the custom leopard tablecloths have now become a smart expense 😉

Are you a new party planner just starting out or do you want to start your own party planning business and want a REAL LOOK inside the world of party planning?  I’m giving up DETAILS in my new Ebook:  “The Girlfriend’s Guide to MY Party Planning Biz!” available now in my shop.  Want to know more?  Click here for all the details of what’s in the book and what people who have read the book are saying about it!

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  1. Bravo! I was impressed by your openness of the business. As you mentioned in your article, many clients are not aware of all the savings and time they get from party planners. As for Parties to go by Jo we want the same thing our clients do; an awesome party without breaking the bank. They surf the web and want the web. By you breaking down the actual prices of a party and posting them for the world to see, shows what party planning really is in the “real” world. Party planners are sometime seen as money machines and yes, it is a business but I’m sure most of us want what any parent wants…wonderful memories of good times. For all party planners pro and not, keep it fun and realistic. After all the cake is gone and the presents put away, all that is left are the memories. Make them happy ones. Jo

  2. You can do ALL that for only $1800 to the customer??.. WOW- What a gift.. to have all those items already and be able to offer all that neat stuff… I actually thought a party like that would cost over $5,000- I would bet a regular person could not come up with all that like you did for 2700, not unless they followed your list exactly, theyd end up spending a lot more. – We do $400-500 partys that people probably think are $150 parties. We dont use ANY kind of luxury items at all like you do. Even our candy Buffet Jars are from the Dollar Tree. But your right people have NO CLUE how much time, effort and Money goes into these parties. They ask us to help them as if its no big deal and they have like $50.. its funny.. so I can just imagine when its on your kind of scale.. Anyway just OUTSTANDING deal! I would never think something so great could be done FOR You for just $1800!!

  3. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    That is way out of my budget, so I will just stick to the bouncy house and pizza that I get for my boys every year 🙂

  4. I am so glad you wrote this post, I was so interested how much these cost.

  5. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Your designs are so cute! You think of every detail and I’m sure that is what makes your parties fun.

  6. WoW…
    {picks jaw up off of the floor}
    I love how much attention to detail you put into planning this party. It was actually a lot cheeper than I expected it to be. Do you think you could re-use most of the party stuff for another party?

    • Hey Heather, Oh yes! I re-use almost all of my party decor unless it has a specific character on it. Otherwise, I reuse all the time!

  7. Thank you for so generously sharing all of this information. It seems so much more worth it to hire a party planner than to attempt all of this yourself.

  8. As much as I love to browse Pinterest for fun DIY ideas, I don’t have the confidence to even remotely pull off something so lavish looking! I love that you have outlined everything. My daughter would love this for her next birthday…just maybe I can pull it off!

  9. Wow great to know! So much work goes in to it and I never really knew the cost bc we haven’t ever done a party as amazing as yours! Thanks for the info!

  10. Debbie Denny says:

    That is a great price for what all you did. Great budget ideas also.

  11. I always better to hire a professional who know what they are doing instead of trying it for yourself. So much money was saved and the party looked really ..upscale

  12. This theme is gorgeous! I love all of the pink and cheetah!

  13. I do event planning as part of my career and I know the amount of time and detail required – fun ideas here.

  14. So girly and fun! I love it. Sassy and fun. Stunning as always!

  15. I love that you broke this down. I have found that the dollar store is a great place to save cash for some of those disposables!

  16. What a nice theme. I think it is perfect for elementary to teenage girls. My daughter is 6, she would love this!

  17. Love this theme for girls. I’m an event planner as well and I know how to work a budget!

  18. Your parties are amazing – Isa would love this party design. Black white adn Pink are her favorite colors along with animal print!

  19. I try to get as much as I can from the dollar store first or the clearance rack at Target. The good thing about party planning for me is that I kind of have built up a party supply closet! I try to grab fun things when I see them on sale.

  20. Oh my goodness, so much money! I did not realize how much it would all cost either. But that’s what you get when you go professional and personalized!

  21. WOW!! That is quite the party. I don’t think I could ever spend that 😀

  22. I enjoy putting together all of the details. But there are times I’d rather pay someone else!

  23. Wow what a great party! I use the dollar store for our parties.

  24. I had a feeling it was expensive but had no idea that it was this expensive. Luckily I have a preschooler who doesn’t care what kind of party she gets. She would much prefer to have one at Chuck E Cheese where she can play all she wants. 🙂

  25. Wowza! I had no idea they were that expensive! I’m sure your parties are worth every penny!

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