Thursday, May 2, 2013

$150 BARN PROM: a funky Sweet 16 bash on a teensy budget

I recently watched an episode of the Junk Gypsies, featuring their Junk-O-Rama Prom.  PROM!  The old dance hall venue was decorated with awesomely kitschy junk, and they got to wear thrift store prom gowns, and they had a live band!  I AM IN LOVE.  So here was my immediate thought process:
  • Gee, I want to go to Antiques Week and Junk-O-Rama Prom.
  • Now I want to throw a prom party like that.

(I promise to tone down the ALL-CAPS and !!!! from here on out.  I was just super-excited.)  :)

Soooo, we decided to throw my birthday girl, Lizz (aka Monkey 3) a surprise Sweet 16 party, thrown in our 20' x 40' empty barn.  This is what we had to work with:

 inside the barn

This bright idea gave us just a couple of weeks for planning, crafting, sewing, building and painting -- and only in 2-hour-per-day spurts!    My birthday girl works a part-time job, and only worked 3 hours a day, M-F, so that was the only time we could work on our secret plans.  That time constraint was the hardest challenge of this crazy plan!

The DECOR. . . .

Since my husband had just started his new job, we were on an extremely tight, paper-thin budget for the party -- about $150 for everything non-food related.  We started with materials we already had -- vintage fabrics, linens, scarves, aprons, tablecloths, paint, vintage tchotchkes, and some found items around our property.  The trick was to just imagine using them in a new, unique way!

I sewed vintage sheets together, end-to-end, with a wide, loose stitch (so they'd safely and easily come apart after the party) and we used them to soften the ceiling, pinning them to the metal barn rafters with clothes pins. . .

We found an old wooden headboard found in one of our sheds, so we transformed that into a simple bench with some old chair legs for the front legs, scrap wood for the seating, and thrifted vintage fabric for the cover. . .

the bench, behind Monkey 1

An old cast iron bath tub (left by the previous home owners, which I believe was used as a horse watering trough) became a perfect stash for ice cold drinks once the boys scrubbed it clean!


once cleaned and full of ice, soft drinks and mexican sodas,
this was our Littlest Monkey's favorite hangout

A cracked canoe (also left by the previous home owners) became fun seating when filled with funky pillows I made from thrifted still-new-in-the-package pillow forms, stash fabrics, and rolled-up bulky comforters (for filling large cushions). . . .

We also wanted a simple photo booth, so we made one out of an old door, some star-shaped twinkle lights, and vintage sheets. . . .

We also kept our eyes open for free curbside junk, like old fence panels, busted chairs, and even tumbleweeds. . . .

 tumbleweed chandelier -- yes, please!
(and this is some of my hard-working last-minute decorating crew!  they are awesome!!)

 junked fence panels made a perfect rustic sign
(this photo (and the next one) were taken the next morning, while surveying the aftermath)

thrift store frames and b&w photos of the birthday girl decked out this fence panel

the old fence panels also made great dividers, 
plus a surface for hanging more photos and junk!
(look! another tumbleweed, filling an empty corner)

And of course my fabulous family wanted to help, so they mailed me beads, baubles and twinkle lights ahead of time.  (Thanks, guys!)  We did have to purchase a few items, such as glue, glitter, "oops" paint, foam core and paper cups (to make the big glittery "E"), plus a few more knick knacks to complete the decor.


$50 for all 5 dresses!

 that awkward time where you're waiting for someone -- anyone -- to start the dancing.

The PARTY. . . .

My daughter was completely and TOTALLY surprised!  Actually speechless!  My mom and sister had purchased a gorgeous dress for her ahead of time, and it fit her perfectly, so she even had a special prom dress to wear!  She smiled all night. . . .

And once the kids started dancing. . . .

 . . . there was no stopping them 'til around midnight or so. (when all the adults started falling asleep.  Hey.  It was a long, tiring drive for most of the guests, and a very late night for me the night before!  I'm not as young as I once was....) ;)

The most important thing. . . .

While a funky, quirky barn prom isn't for everyone (and probably not for most 16 year-olds!) it was a night perfectly suited to my sweet, artistic, amazing birthday girl, Elizabeth.  To remind her of how special she is, and how much we love her.  And it was definitely a night we will all treasure.

(Many thanks to my family members that remembered to take photos, and let me use them here, since I forgot to take a single one.  Love you!)


  1. What an AWESOME party! I LOVED your ideas for making her birthday special!

  2. What a great idea! My daughter will be 16 next summer...just gotta find a barn! Your ideas are so creative and I love that they are so cost effective! I am glad I found your blog and will be stalking it for ideas. Thanks!


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