Sweet 16 Birthday Party Planning Ideas

Since I just received an email from one of my blog readers asking me for sweet 16 birthday party ideas, here is what we did for our daughter’s party. And for my blog readers…please share your sweet 16 bday ideas in the comments section to give our reader even more creative things to do when the sweetest of birthdays rolls around, the 16th one!  We love this blog to be a place where manic managed moms share tips to make our manic lives more managed.  Let me start by saying that my girl asked to plan her own gig.  So these ideas were hers, which is helpful since she is the demographic our reader is planning for!

The birthday girl back in November…

Idea #1Big ballon birthday numbers.  Kids love these giant numbers and the 16 one is especially sweet since it is the sweet 16th birthday.  They come in different colors.  Visit Party City stores for prices and sizes.  They make great decor and are especially fun for party pics, too.

Idea #2 – Make your own photo booth.  Simply make a backdrop with a white sheet and string lights across the top like my girl’s friends did for her.  So much fun!  Sweet 16 themed party decor, paper cups, plates, props and more can also be purchased at Party City hereProps for the photo booth can also be purchased at Party City as shown in this picture from the Party City website below.  Or make your own for creative fun.

Ideas #3 – Use more (like we did for the photo booth) white (or use colors) string lights for added decor.  My funny girl wanted to make her own from-scratch birthday cake! I didn’t argue with her as she is a better baker than I am!  She decorated it with fruit, so no fancy decorationg skills were needed and her pals loved the vanilla bean flavored cake with cream cheese icing.  She placed the cake in the middle of white string party lights laid flat and it looked great!  The white strung party lights can also be found at Party City.

*Idea #4 – Have the birthday girl wear a sweet 16 crown and/or sash, also sold at Party City.  In this picture below, both girls are wearing the fun sweet 16 sashes.  Since one of Lexi’s pals also turned 16, we did a double birthday party and we Mamas also had a great time! 

Idea #5 – Rent a bouncy house!  Yep, our girl and her almost fully grown teenage friends asked for a bouncy house!  I couldn’t believe it, but that is what they wanted and it was a hit!  I think sometimes our teens miss being little kids.  The bouncy house company I rented from told me that they rent to teens all the time.  Who knew?!  We rented from Slide and Bounce Around, Inc. and they were terrific to work with from start to finish.  I do recommend checking with your teenager before renting this, though.  It was cool with my own sweet 16-year-old and her buds, but that may not be true for all teens.  Definitely check with your kid first.

Idea #6 – Let your teen pick the snacks and food that will be served.  My daughter picked the snacks and the main fare, which was spaghetti tacos!  I forgot to take a picture of this crowd pleasing funny fare at the party, but I found a picture on Pinterest to share…Apparently, that was a big hit when ICarly aired when this age group was younger.  So we put out pasta and tacos.  Most of the teen guests did assemble spaghetti tacos and others either had the spaghetti (we ordered from Buca di Beppo and included Ceasar salad) and/or the tacos separately.  Again…who knew?!  The kids loved this party dinner idea!  Another good one is to get sub sandwiches catered from places like Subway or Jersey Mike’s, a favorite eatery of the teens I currenty know around our neighborhood.

Other Ideas – Another friend of mine surprised her sweet 16 daughter with a party bus rental.  Yet another one asked her to daughter if she wanted to invite several friends to stay at a local resort for one night.  Still others had a dinner party at Buca di Beppo, which is a good one to accomodate dinner parties.  And other pals took their newly 16-year-old to a quick trip to California, either San Diego or one of the beaches in LA like Santa Monica or Manhattan Beach.

I hope these ideas answer my blog reader who wrote in and other parents reading this, please feel free to add your sweet 16 party ideas to the comments section below.  16 is a sweet birthday, so happy sweet 16th to any of yours turning that magical number soon!  These two girls had a blast celebrating their milestone birthday a few months ago!  So much fun! 



Party Supplies Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to all that entered the drawing to win the fab and fun party supplies!  All items come from Party City and I almost always find everything and every detail in party decor and more at that store.  This time around my daughter surprised me and did the shopping at Party City and I love what she came up with as these items are so fun to give away today!  So without further ado….our winner today (winner drawn through random.org) is…..


Carla Lief from Phoenix, AZ!!!!

Carla won over $50 worth of fun party stuff!  Here is what she won…

Funny hot pink old lady cane complete with horn and readers!


All kinds of fun stuff in this picture above that includes the age cones, old zone construction decor, a megaphone hearing enhancer, the 50 sash and tiara and more!


Five pretty balloon weights that can also be used as centerpieces.

Congrats to Carla!!!  Happy party planning season to all and stay tuned for more fun giveaways and drawings as we progress through the holiday season!  I can’t believe it is upon us again already!!

3TV Segment-Party Planning? My Top Local Rental Party Picks

Hard to believe but holiday party planning season is once again upon us.  Not to mention birthdays, showers or other events on the calendar. If you are party planning for this time of year or for any kind of celebration, check out my top local Phoenix party rental picks.  I have put several to the test several times now for my son’s big graduation party, a few other events and most recently, my own 50th birthday bash.  I believe that these suggestions below are the best of the best and I even found a company that will rent you Moscow mule copper mugs and that was actually not an easy find!  Two weeks ago I blogged about the cool and chic cocktail truck that I rented called The Duke and The Duchess.

The lovely Duchess parked in my driveway ready to party!

If you missed that article, you can find it here and I highly recommend that fun feature that will make your party truly unique. Read on to see my other party rental service/supply picks that will have your guests saying what a pal texted me the morning after my latest party….that I had the party of the year!  Woo hoo!  Here are my Phoenix greater area party stuff recommendations:

*Party Pick 2 – Moscow Mule Copper Mug rentals — American Mule

Hubs and I…and a ton of our guests…ordered and loved the Moscow Mule drinks, so we had to have the copper mugs. My son is one year too young for a mule drink. He will be 21 next year…otherwise I am pretty sure he would be holding one, too.

We almost gave up on having the cool copper mugs that chill the Moscow Mule drink so beautifully because the only local rental company we could find quoted us $12 a mug for rentals and we needed 50 cups, so there was no way we could do that!  I got lucky and typed in copper mug rentals on Google and American Mule came up, but I thought the company was out of state, so I left an email inquiry.  To my pleasant surprise, the company emailed me back 24 hours later and told me that they would rent me the mugs for $3.20 a cup!  Yay!  Then I discovered that they operate out of Mesa.  So awesome!  So they delivered two crates of the lovely mugs and picked them up the day after the party dirty…they told me not to clean them.  They would happily do that for us after the party.

Ready for pick-up after the party. So awesome and convenient!

No problem there!  The one thing to note is that if any of the mugs go missing, the cost to replace them is $30 a cup, so I made sure that all were returned to our cocktail truck!  Our guests loved the mugs and the drink making our party so fun.

The copper mugs looked so cool at the bar and were enjoyed by many.

So I highly recommend American Mule for your Moscow Mule copper cup cocktail party needs!

*Party Pick 3 – Outdoor Cooling & Heating Needs – Hacienda Rentals

I was a bit stressed having my party on August 18th in hot Phoenix and during monsoon season, but that is my actual birthday and it fell on a Friday, so it was too perfect!  I searched a lot of websites and asked some friends, and all of the best recommendations were Hacienda Outdoor Comfort Rentals. A lot of resorts, hotels and special events use Hacienda, so I gave them a call.  They do charge a fee to come out for an on site inspection, but I paid it because I really wanted a specific plan of how I would cool our backyard and part of the driveway since the drink truck was going to parked there.  Hacienda told me that they could easily give me a game and price plan by looking at Google Earth, so that is an option for folks wanting to avoid the inspection fee.  I can tell you that the inspection fee, the rental charges and all of it was absolutely worth every penny!  If you want the best, most professional, nice looking and operating equipment that will cool your yard down close to 30 degrees, go with Hacienda!  I have used other cooling companies in the past and they don’t compare, which is why I am sure Hacienda is the top pick by the resorts.  Not only did the equipment cool my outdoor spaces perfectly, but the units looked nice, too.  Guests were comfortable and asked me about the cooling rentals.  I had a big white revolving fan that looked nice and cooled perfectly, plus two ultra modern units that are like the stand-up winter outdoor heaters, but instead are coolers that are called misting towers.  Marc Maples with Hacienda, was professional and perfect to work with from start to finish.  He recommended that we not use the hanging misters across the sky in my yard because monsoon season combined with that type of a misting system could make my outdoor climate humid and sticky. I did not want that!  So I took his advice and his recommendations and my backyard was perfect!

*Party Pick 4 – Classic Event & Tent Rentals

To save on money and space, I decided not to rent full size tables and instead I rented cocktail tables that people can stand around.  My pick for these rentals is Classic Event & Tent Rentals.  Classic has an extensive selection of pretty linens and bows to customize the cocktail tables. The tables were set up perfectly by Classic’s team and I appreciated that because I had used a different company for my son’s graduation party and the bows fell to the ground during the party.  That company didn’t tie them down right and they looked sloppy.  Not so with Classic.  Plus when Classic misquoted me a few dollars due to the wrong  linen size for the table size, she discounted the order for his mistake without me having to ask.  I will always use Classic from here on out.

*Party Pick 5:  Robert’s Catering

For over 20 years, I have worked with and used Robert Richter and his longtime delicious catering company, Robert’s Catering.  Back in the early 90s, I was a marketing manager for Southwest Airlines so he would cater flights to new cities with that destination’s themed food, like Cajun fare when we started serving New Orleans.  For big and small events nationwide, Robert never disappoints and always exceeds expectations with his large assortment of menu items, incredibly tasty appetizers, main fare and his specialty, beautifully adorned and luscious cakes.  Plus he provides servers that are professional, top notch and friendly.  They put the class factor in the event.  Robert’s food is all good and my faves include his Chiptole mac and cheese, mouth-watering grilled teriyaki chicken with toasted sesame seeds and chive garnish. That is part of the Robert’s Catering Hawaiian Luau Buffet, which is the theme I chose for my recent 50th birthday bash.  That included the teriyaki chicken, roasted pulled pork served with Hawaiian dinner rolls, honey hot maple sauce and Hoi sin sauce. Also included in that yummy grouping is spring greens with romaine ginger miso dressing and a stunning and colorful fresh tropical fruit display that offers pineapple, yellow papaya, honey dew, orange, cantaloupe, grapes and strawberries. Also included is a really good island rice pilaf with sliced macadamia nuts, dried cranberries and pineapple with saffron butter, but I asked him to swap the incredibly irresistible Chiptole mac and cheese instead. All was a hit and every time I have Robert cater my celebrations, my guests always tell me that I have the best food hands down at my parties!  And Robert’s cakes are incredible!

My sweet daughter lighting my beautiful cakes from Robert’s Catering.  Yum!

He has an extensive assortment of all sorts of flavors and cake décor.  He surprised me at my son’s graduation with two beautiful giant cakes that displayed a sharp picture of my son’s graduation announcement and a second cake with his senior pictures.  They were stunning and scrumptious.  For my birthday, I chose one chocolate, his Heath Bar Crunch Bavarian Crunch and Robert’s Cherry Rum Cake.  So incredibly good!

Party Pick 6:  Décor – Party City, Kirklands & Hobby Lobby

Party City almost always has everything I need for my décor.  My daughter surprised me this time around with Fab 50 items (and a few over the hill things, too) all from Party City.  I especially liked my  “50 Looks Good on Me” sash and crown that she added to my party outfit. The hot pink cane with a horn, oversized silly reader glasses and other fun over the hill items made for fun party décor.

I asked that instead of gifts, guests pay it forward in some way.  To display the awesome charitable acts done, I bought a beautiful bulletin board where folks could add a post-it note with a short description of what was done.  That was so cool!  I also did a drawing for a $50 Visa gift card for all that put their name in a drawing box for doing a charitable act.  Hobby Lobby had the big bulletin board and the handy store also had a pretty large chalkboard on an easel with lights all around the edge.  It is a perfect way to write something fun with colored chalk to invite folks in or to direct them to the food, etc.  Kirkland’s also had some terrific accessories for décor as well and for fall and holiday events, the inventory is plentiful and unique.

Party Pic 7:  Centerpieces – AJ’s Fine Foods Mini Bouquets

AJ’s Fine Foods has the cutest and prettiest mini bouquets of all types of flowers and some come in fun little mason jars.  These worked perfectly in the middle of the cocktail tables and can be given as party favors to guests as well.  I also found the metallic chalkboard markers at Michael’s that I used to guide guests to the food on this cool illuminated giant chalkboard easel that I bought from Hobby Lobby.  It worked great!

Are you ready to party now?  Did I leave out a great local party planning tool or service that I need to add to my top picks party list?  If so, share in the comments section and happy party season to you!



Money Saving & Green Graduation Celebration Ideas

Manic:  Graduation season with so much to do, events to plan and emotions to keep in check and all on a budget and tight timeline.  It is enough to make an already emotional mother’s head spin!

Managed:  Found some unique ideas, ways to save and some earth friendly suggestions, too.  I showed this festive fun stuff on my recent morning show segment on KTVK’s “Your Life A to Z” morning show, so take a look…

To read the written column that accompanies this segment and has all the information, prices and more, visit the KTVK website at this link.

Great Grad Gift Ideas

The graduation season has arrived so I found some cool and unique gifts for the graduate on your list and I’ve got stuff for all ages, so take a look….

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas For All

Yep, February 14th is right around the corner, so here are some fun gift ideas for him, for her, for the kids, the teacher and some stuff to make your gal pal smile if heart day has her bummed out.  So check this stuff out.  And do you like my crazy specs….

AZ Local: Crowd Pleasing Party Ideas For Your Next Celebration

Manic:  My mind as I prepared to host 40 middle school kids for my daughter’s show choir retreat!  What had I signed up for?!

Managed:  I was so happy to do it for this amazing group, the award-winning Treble Makers from the Ahwatukee Children’s Theatre.  group shotSo once I had a few top notch party organizations in place, I felt calm….and all four companies that I used exceeded my expectations and gave us a party to remember.

Read on to hear about my all time favorite caterer, Robert’s Catering, a cool photo booth rental that the kids loved called MrFun Booth and some awesome decorations that we found at Party City (we used a good coupon there, too).  Plus I’ll tell you about the right place to rent tables and equipment to make room for your party peeps.

The Fab & Festive Foodmac cheese

First of all, I have to tell you about Robert’s Catering.  I have known Robert for 20 years.  When I was a marketing manager for Southwest Airlines in the early 90s (loved that job), he would cater all of our events. He always went above and beyond and the food was always scrumptious.  Once he even served shrimp cocktail to all of our customers as we flew to New Orleans to celebrate new nonstop service (told you I loved that job).  So I was excited to enlist his yummy services to cater our show choir event.  This could have been a challenge because with tweens and teens, you are dealing with some picky taste buds.  To my surprise, the kids voted for Hawaiian-themed food over subs or pizza.  So Robert went to work creating a menu with a theme that would be altered to please the taste buds of 40 hungry and picky kiddos.  It was a success!  Check out these photos of the scrumptious menu. ckn rice

Robert's brings nice greenery to decorate your food display.

Robert’s brings nice greenery to decorate your food display.

mac & pork

The crowd-pleasing menu consisted of tasty pulled pork on Hawaiian buns, a delicious saffron rice, the most tender and flavorful chicken teriyaki ever, kid-pleasing macaroni & cheese and a huge Caesar salad.  cakeAnd check out his colorful cake….whoa….gorgeous and this dessert satisfied all of our sweet toothed guests!  Robert also created nonalcoholic Mai Tais for the thirsty guests and the beautiful beverage was a hit.  drinkMy daughter greeted each guest with a lei to wear and Robert’s yummy mocktail to sip on.  This was perfect for our Hawaiian theme.  Robert’s Catering went above and beyond for our party and that morning he even called to see if there were any last minute items I was in need of like ice.  I highly recommend Robert’s Catering for your event and in the 20 years that I  have worked with him he always enhances the occasion with his creative flair and good grub.

The Entertaining Entertainmentbooth shot

Guests of all ages love a fun photo booth and MrFun Booth was a ton of fun for our party goers.  cassieThe booth operator, Cassie arrived early and found the perfect place to set the booth up, so when the kids arrived they had a blast posing for pics that they received just seconds later.  posing boothThe company also brings fun props to enhance the photo taking fun.

act gals
picsPlus the very next day, they were able to download as many pictures from the party that they wanted from the MrFun Booth website.  I highly recommend this for endless party entertainment.  I made my girl pose with me before the celebration ended and you can see that she did as a favor for her Mama.
fun booth

The show choir directors also had team activities in place that involved a hula hoop contest and more.  Fun was had by all, I’m happy to report. fun party

Darling Decorations 

We found the perfect party decorations for our Hawaiian theme at Party City.  decorI was happy to have a $30 off coupon that I used there, too.  Be sure to register at Party City’s website to get money saving coupons emailed to you.flip flops

Perfect Party Rental Stuff

To accommodate 40 plus people, I knew I would need more seating, but I didn’t need to do formal seating, either.  A to Z Equipment Rental & Sales was terrific to work with because they were professional and flexible.  They enabled me to decide on the items that I wanted once they arrived.  This way I got to take a look at how the tables and canopy fit into my small backyard.  It was nice not having to give them a firm answer before the set-up as many companies require.  I really appreciated that and as you can see, the party peeps were able to do their team building show choir exercises in the A to Z Equipment Rental set up. It worked well.

Having the right party resources made this Hawaiian Luau one to remember!


Cheap & Easy Haunting Halloween House Decor & Party Ideas

Manic:  My daughter’s Halloween party for her show choir is tomorrow night and she promised her pals that our house would be scary!

Managed:  Did a little shopping at Party City and Walgreens (both had great decorations) and called my good gal pal, Julie McMillian and her daughter Kayla, to enlist their creative help!  So my first manic mom suggestion is to ask for help from a gal pal that not only is talented in this area, but really enjoys doing it, too! I think we did alright.  Take a look…

Once we decided which rooms that we didn’t want to party in, we sectioned this area off with an inexpensive black table cloth (or use a trash bag) and placed this creepy creature wall hanging from Party City over it.  My daughter also had the idea to use this as a photo back drop.  Good thinking!  Of course, this will look scarier at night!

Webs work wonders and they are cheap and easy to work with. Place spiders in for added creep factor!

Before and after…when activated, red eyes light up with creepy messages! Her hair strands are also shaped like moving snakes!

Walgreens sells this haunted head for $19.99 and we just had to get her.  She is motion detected so unsuspecting guests will be greeted by her eerie messages when they walk by en route to the bathroom! Fun!

Love this one!  Super scary!  Ask friends if you can borrow some of their Halloween decor to enhance your own party.  My awesome friend, Lisa (also our Family Matters managedmoms.com writer) offered up this wicked witch!  So we placed her up high and put a lit lantern in her hands.  This one might be my favorite decoration!

Streamers can stream all directions!  They don’t have to be draped the traditional way.  Have fun with streamers because they are a cheap item and can really enhance your party decor!

Make your game stations part of the decor, too.  My girl wants to do the candy counting game in a jar.  So she made a clever sign on the computer that we placed by the game.  The glass skull lights up at night plus my daughter made that skull herself at As You Wish Pottery Painting Place.  And I love how she turned an old shoe box into the guess drop box.  So for the cost of a bag of candy corn, we created this fun game with mostly items that we already had on hand.  So fun!  To read her sign, click the picture to get a closer look.

Incorporate your kids’ ideas as they are usually fresh and unique and give your children ownership of their event.  My girl’s clever idea to create a shape under the covers that appears to be a body and then she used a hot pink wig from her toy costume box!  So this decoration was free since we used items already on hand.  This bedroom is on the way to the guest bathroom, so party goers will get a sleeping surprise when they enter! Love it!

Use last year’s decorations and things you have on hand.  Another simple idea to block off a laundry room, or an area that is not intended for party goers, is to simply secure caution tape on the door and place several orange cones in front of the entrance.  We already had the cones on hand.  So when you are decorating, try to use items that you already own to save money.

Use signs and small props to put the creepy in the contests and activities.  This is a station where kids will fill their own personalized candy cone bags.  By making a sign using the Chiller font and adding a few little skulls, it became frightfully fun in a matter of minutes!

This freaky frame moves, screams and laughs when passerbys make noise.  It is a great surprise and looks out of place, as it should in a haunted house.  We got it at Walgreens for only $7.79 and it is called the Possessed Portrait!  Perfect!

Another game/decor idea that is completely my daughter’s creation is a game she calls Bag of Bones.  The idea here is to time your guests to see who can get all of the bones in the bag fastest, while being blindfolded.  I love her idea and it adds yet another inexpensive decoration.  The Lifesize Bag of Bones sell for only $7.99 at Walgreens.  She placed a green pillow case on the table to be used as the collection bag.
When decorating, compromise with your children.  In this area, my girl and I compromised.  I didn’t want to completely dismantle all of my recent home improvement knick knack displays, so she placed the black cloth over my items, draping the clock and I added the Haunted Manor sign that we had from last year’s decorations.  It works!
And I will close with a grizzly greeting from our hired party butler….He says to tell you that he came from Walgreens and is the perfect creepy compliment to your buffet area.  He also tells me to wish you a Happy Halloween and to share your own Haunted Halloween party ideas here in the comments section.
**No compensation was received at all from Walgreens, Party City or As You Wish as this was all done on our dime and with no payment from any company whatsoever.  This article is completely owned by myself, my daughter and the wonderful McMillian Home Decor team!**