9.29.2008

back to school or centerpieces with a purpose

Do you need some ideas for a back to school bash or maybe for a teacher appreciation luncheon or how about a graduation party?

Here is what we (myself and a few great friends) put together for a church dinner for 350 women held on Saturday.  We had 35 tables and a very small (let me repeat - very small) budget that needed to include table decorations as well as all the paper goods.  

The theme was Back to School and so our centerpieces reflected that theme but also served double duty.  Once the dinner was over the centerpieces were taken apart and packaged up so that they could be sent to school children in Tijuana, Mexico.  It was thrilling to know that everything would be put to good use and now I want to try to incorporate this idea into more of my centerpieces.  
Pencils, notebooks, composition books, rulers and chalkboards all used for the evenings festivities and then off to kids that need them.

Pencils found for $1.00 per 24.  We simply took canned food from our pantries and wrapped the pencils around, securing them with rubber bands.  

The original idea called for tissue paper in the "vases" but I didn't have any when I was doing the mock up so I used notebook paper as a stand-in and realized that the notebook paper was much more appropriate and cheaper.

Vintage flash cards, thanks to a friend were used inside the vases. Hit up ebay, Craigslist or antique stores to find a box of cards.
Like I said the budget was small so I tried to find little accents that would add some panache but still be inexpensive.  For the plain plastic cups I added alphabet stickers to help them tie into the theme.  The font was School Script Dashed and can be found here. With 350 people in attendance we put random letters at each place setting but for a more intimate party I would suggest using the initial of each guest.
No school theme is complete with out cafeteria trays and a friend found these great foam ones online for me.  The cost per tray was much less then regular paper plates and added much more to our theme.

To carry the cafeteria theme a bit further we added pre packaged silverware complete with napkin and salt and pepper packets. Another inexpensive touch was adding the back to school sticker to each package of silverware.
The most expensive (although still reasonable) addition to the centerpieces was the chalkboards.  A friend that owns a wood working business ordered sheets of mdf (at $15 a sheet - I believe) and cut them into 24x24 in squares (8 per sheet)  I bought chalkboard paint for $20 and painted them all up.  The addition of the chalkboards helped ground the centerpiece and served as a fun interactive activity for the dinner guests.  It was quite enjoyable reading all the things that had been written as we cleaned up after the dinner.

This idea can be done easily and inexpensively (especially if you are not planning for 350 people)  If you want to try this theme for yourself and have any questions leave me a comment - I'd be happy to help you out.

18 comments:

michelle @ sweet mady's said...

What a fantastic idea! I was an elementary school teacher {before being "mom"} and would have loved this idea at one of our lunches.

* tonya * said...

What a fantastic idea. Well done. I love that everything was packaged up to go to children who need the supplies too.

Tia said...

Just found your site and am often looking for great ideas for church functions as well with large numbers and low budgets so thanks for the ideas!

Marcie said...

Genius ideas! I love the cups with the scrapbooking stickers on the side. Totally dressed them up!

BLT said...

Please move to Utah! We have such a teeny tiny budget at the library, and its always hard to be creative and cheap! We could really use your brain, sis!

bidemmi said...

Another perfect creation!

brit.brit.brit said...

YEP! totally using these ideas!! love em! the flash cards are my favorite part! i just ordered some for my little boys room..

i take it you're on the enrichment board. . .?{or stake board..}

Davis & Asialene said...

Excellent! Terrific! Great job! A+!

I am so impressed with how creative you went with this on such a tiny budget. I guess I can't use the "low-budget-so-I-couldn't-get-as-creative" excuse anymore for my parties. :)

Not just a Mommy! said...

I love your ideas!! I recently had a Back-to-School Party, and I can't wait to try some of these out next year...yes, the obsessing starts early with me!

Mel said...

what did you use for the school font on the vases/cups? Is it vinyl or rub ons or what????? Thanks :)

Michelle @ Everyday Celebrating said...

THAT is super duper CUTE!!!!!
My son is not yet even 2 and I'm planning to save this idea for a fun "first day of school" party!!! I love the pencils and styrofoam plates! Great idea and very creative!

Susan Crabtree said...

love all your ideas!

jeannie said...

what type of labels did you use for the cups & utensils? did you just use microsoft to create them? any details on the stickers would be great. love this!

denise said...

jeannie

Thanks for stopping by. I used label paper or my xyron machine (I can't really remember but those are the two things I use when making labels so it was one or the other) I used Adobe Illustrator but you could use any program.

I simply made black squares or circles, a little bit larger then my finished label and then typed the letter in white using a school font. I can't remember the font name but you can find it in the post so head back there to find the name.

Then it was just a matter of using a circle bunch to cut them out.

Super easy! If you have nay more questions let me know.

Anonymous said...

absolutely awesome ideas!!! i am busy organising my brothers back to school 21st birthday aprty and i was stuck for ideas, you have helped me get the ball rolling!!!! well done!!!

hollywood party centerpieces said...

Good idea.Theme parties are always a crowd favorite, and what better way to make your party guests feel like stars.

Thisishollywood said...

A Hollywood party theme is one of the easiest to throw.

hollywood center pieces

Anonymous said...

Hi There. I just did this for our 5th grade graduation theme which was a writing/righting the future theme and would love it if you could give me the name of the school in Tijuana, Mexico that you donated the school supplies too.