Party for less

I was dreading it because of the stress of it all! My daughter had been talking about hosting a Sweet 16 party since she was 14. I tried numerous ways to talk her out of it. I suggested everything from a trip to New York City with her closest friends to a day at the spa. But she was adamant: she wanted a dance party with all of her friends there. It seemed nothing else would make her happy, so I took the plunge.

It’s all about choices

There are numerous ways to celebrate this milestone, such as a special dinner out with close friends, various day trips, or a weekend away at the beach. Your teen’s style should set the tone. Is she a traditionalist? If so, she might want a traditional party with the typical ceremonies (candle ceremony, etc.). Perhaps a location party is more her style (beach, ice rink, etc.). What matters most is that her celebration is a reflection of who she is.

Susan Kuczmarski, author of “The Sacred Flight of the Teenager: A Parent’s Guide to Stepping Back and Letting Go,” broaches a less stressful approach to celebrating.

“Try a ‘blank canvas’ project. It involves a group of teens painting together on a single canvas with each member selecting a portion of it. For 20 teens, get a large canvas and mark off 20 spaces with a ruler. Be sure to have each person sign it, and don’t forget to date it. Have your daughter hang it in her room.” She also suggests an outdoor concert with a picnic planned — a great warm weather idea where dancing, food, and fun are had by all!

Reduce party stress

If a party is in the cards, there are ways to ease the stress.

“Have a couple of talks, way in advance of the planning, to make sure the party is actually meaningful,” says April Masini, author of Ask April, a relationships advice column at “The competition on the Sweet 16 circuit is cutthroat. If a party is not what she really wants, it can be a recipe for a disaster.”

Masini proposes pooling resources with a couple of friends who are turning 16 around the same time. This will cut down on the price tag, and you will have more help with the planning.

Be sure to delegate jobs to family and friends. To avoid stress over declined invites, talk to your daughter about inviting friends she has always counted on, instead of worrying about inviting the “right” people.

Cutting costs

It is easy to get carried away with the pomp and circumstance, especially when comparisons run rampant in her peer world. Your teen can have an elegant and memorable celebration without breaking the bank. Try some of these cost-saving ideas:

• Opt for a church hall, community center, or local firehouse — restaurants can be pricey.

• Hire a teen DJ who is just starting in the business.

• Search for catering specials.

• Shop post-holiday for great discounts on garland and other party-appropriate items.

• Make your own decorations and centerpieces.

• In lieu of a cake from an upscale bakery, ask a creative relative to bake.

• Skip the photographer — have a friend take photos.

• Inexpensive favors: homemade chocolate lollipops, craft frames for a group photo, etc.

Tips and tales

“We had my daughter’s at a VFW hall. I decorated myself, got a reasonably priced DJ, and had the local pizza place cater the food. The VFW provided soda.”

— Tracy Critelli-MacQueen,
Glen Oaks, NY

“We rented a bus and got reduced-price tickets for Lake Compounce (a family amusement park in Connecticut).”

Debbie St. Onge, Poughkeepsie, NY

“I planned a Hollywood-theme party. We took pictures of the kids on the red carpet as they entered. We printed out the pictures, put them in frames from the Dollar Store, and handed them to the kids as favors.”

— Liza Zarowitz, party consultant, Woodstock, NY

Want to share your ideas?

Upcoming topic: Is your teen typical? Is he impulsive, unpredictable, and egocentric at times? Tips to deal with the teen mindset.

Please send your full name, address, and brief comments to [email protected], or visit

Myrna Beth Haskell is a feature writer, columnist and author of the newly released book, “Lions and Tigers and Teens: Expert advice and support for the conscientious parent just like you” (Unlimited Publishing LLC).

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