The thought of buying sweet 16 decorations may be bittersweet for you.
After all, your daughter is now becoming a woman, but at the same time, you’re going to miss your little girl being a little girl.
Relax, the beloved Sweet 16 is inevitable, and the truth is, your daughter (or niece, friend, etc) started becoming a woman a few years ago.
You just didn’t know it, because parents never fully know everything goes on in their teenagers’ lives, nor should they.
But Sweet 16 decorations make it official, and the party marks a milestone that every woman must experience.
Don’t rob of her it; embrace it and bask in the celebration of one of life’s most exciting events.
Know Your Role
As much of a friend as you might think you are to your daughter, you’re still a parent. And parents are, by nature, uncool. Parents are authority, an obstacle, and people to be rebelled against.
It wasn’t that long ago that you went through the same phase yourself, so please be understanding.
Your role in the Sweet 16 party is to foot the bill. Any duties beyond that are up to the boss: the Sweet 16 girl. If she wants you to have an active role, great. If she wants you to coordinate and decorate, even better. But if she wants you to butt out and let her handle it, then please do as you are asked. If not, you risk alienating your teenager and doing permanent damage to your relationship with her. Make the Sweet 16 party a fun, educational experience where she has a chance to run the show as much as she wants to.
My advice is to kindly give her a budget, let her plan the party, and only help if she asks. If she does ask for help, then please do so carefully and patiently, reminding yourself that this party is about HER, not about the parents. It’s a fine line, so tread slowly and step back if you feel you are overstepping your boundaries.
Now then, onto the Sweet 16 decorations!
Pick a Theme, Any Theme
Choosing a theme allows you to build your decorating ideas around it. The theme of your Sweet 16 party is your goal, objective, and guiding light. Let it lead the way and the rest will follow quite easily.
The choices of themes to pick from are endless! That is the fun and beauty of party decorations, and there really is no limit to what you can do. This is a very, partial list of themes you might like for your Sweet 16 decorations:
- Decade (1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s)
- Country/Culture (Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Indian, African, Native American, etc)
- Religion (Muslim, Christian, Jewish, etc)
- Style of music (pop, rock, hip hop, metal, punk, disco, jazz, etc)
- Decorating style (contemporary, retro, French country, rustic, etc)
- Famous movie/book
- Hollywood (everyone dresses like a movie star)
- Hawaiian luau
- Black tie party
- Color of your choice (pick something bold, but not too bold; pinks works well)
- Pool party (with teenage girls often self conscious about their bodies, this may not be the best idea)
- Anything else the 16-year-old woman might have in mind
Once you have the theme picked out, the rest is easy. And not just easy, but tons of fun!
Next is to determine where the party will be held.
This is a lot more important than you might think, because the bigger the place, the higher the costs. Most of us typically have a very limited budget, and while you might want the best for your daughter, you shouldn’t go into debt over this. Kids are affected by their parents’ financial problems, and no teenager wants to see his Mom or Dad go broke just so she can have her party.
This will provide ample space for lots of decorations and lots of guests to share in the festivities. Ask yourself how many people will be coming based on the size of your family, your social network, and everyone else you think will attend. It’s safe to over-estimate, but not by too much or else you’ll have a half-empty room with a bunch of uneaten food.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with hosting a Sweet 16 party at your home, a friend’s home, a relative’s home (common in my family), or even a small apartment. Other popular locations for parties include restaurants (booking a whole wing of the place for your party only), parks (weather permitting), backyards, hotel conference rooms, or anywhere else the special lady might want.
Every party needs a few basic things, and Sweet 16 decorations are no exception. They might seem like a cliché, but if decorated creatively, they can really make your party memorable.
Streamers: Everything I said for balloons goes for streamers too. It’s all about the theme.
Confetti: Confetti comes in many colors, and for just a few dollars you can buy more than you need.
Flowers: Flowers are not a basic element of every party, but for Sweet 16 decorations they most certainly are. If your Sweet 16 party doesn’t have flowers, it might seem incomplete. While flowers aren’t cheap, you don’t need a lot of them. Just a few will go a very long way, so choose them wisely and do try to incorporate them.
TIP: Go to your local Dollar Store, or whatever similar store is in your area. They have lots of inexpensive Sweet 16 decorations there that can be used for any party of any theme.
Other Ideas for Sweet 16 Decorations
Now that you’ve chosen your theme and taken care of the basics, you can start to get creative with some new ideas that will really set your party apart. Try any one (or more) of these ideas and you’ll really add some flavor to your Sweet 16 party.
Posters: Depending on your theme, posters make a great addition as part of your wall decorations. A few good, theme-focused posters on the wall will attract your guests’ eyeballs and leave a lasting impression.
Signature board: This is an excellent idea for a Sweet 16 decoration. Buy a large board and let guests sign it with their names and personal messages to the guest of honor. If you lack the space for a large board, then a small guestbook works just as well. As long as the 16-year-old has something to remember her party by and has personal messages from her friends and family, then it doesn’t matter if it’s a big board or a small guestbook. This is a case of where the thought really counts. In fact, small guestbooks are much easier to store than an oversized board, and thus, she’s more likely to keep it.
Slideshow: Just 5 years ago, I’d recommend a corner of the room where you could feature photographs of the Sweet 16 girl dating from childhood to the teenage years. But today, it’s much easier and more impressive to run a digital slideshow with those pictures. With a slideshow you can have music playing in the background and really get creative.
Ideally you can run the slideshow on a computer hooked up to a big screen TV or projector. There are even devices to let you display the images on the wall. If that won’t work, try buying a digital picture frame. At least 7 inches diagonally are required for the frame, and ideally 10 inches or more. But again, don’t go broke. If all this sounds too expensive, there’s nothing wrong at all with using plain old photographs.
Fog machines: In the right setting and with the right theme, fog machines will make your dance floor come to life. These aren’t too expensive to buy at party supply stores, and 16-year-olds will think they are really cool.
Disco ball: If your party will have a dance area, a disco ball makes the perfect ceiling Sweet 16 decoration. If you’re not planning a dance floor, then a disco ball isn’t necessary and probably won’t make much sense.
Strobe lights: Again, these are well suited for dance floors, but you can even use them without one. If you mix and match correctly, you can buy Sweet 16 decorations that will reflect well off the strobe lights and give off a glitzy shine.
Glowsticks: Speaking of shine, glowsticks are an inexpensive crowd pleaser that are sure to light up your party. Be careful, though. At 16, some of your guests might be too mature for glowsticks. But if you’ll have younger kids there, these will keep them entertained.
Throw pillows: These are pretty popular as a Sweet 16 decoration, but in my opinion they are not necessary for every theme. A better idea might be to just get a couple pillows, or even one, with an image of the Sweet 16 girl’s face stitched into it. If not her face, then something representative of something about her. Again, let her decide what it should be.
The red carpet: Space permitting, a “red carpet” will be a huge hit with your teen audience. With a red carpet, they can arrive in style and pretend to be Hollywood starlets. Just let them know ahead of time that there will be a red carpet, so they can arrive dressed to impress!
Naturally you will want to serve food at your party, and this is another opportunity for you to feature some more Sweet 16 decor.
Since this is an article about Sweet 16 decorations, we won’t discuss food. That’s a whole separate topic we’ll leave to the experts, but there’s still a lot you can do relating to food that we’ll get into here.
Buffet table: The party buffet table is such a big topic that it deserves its own article. In fact, it DOES have its own article, so please take some time to check out Buffet Table Decorating Ideas.
Even if your party is small in size, you’ll almost certainly want to serve your food buffet style. This allows freedom of movement and encourages interaction among your guests. It’s just easier for everyone involved.
Centerpiece: The main thing to keep in mind with your buffet table is to feature a centerpiece. It’s called “centerpiece” for a reason, so make sure it grabs attention, starts conversations, and relates to either your theme or the Sweet 16 girl in some way.
The Queen’s chair: Your party will need to have a special designated area for the Sweet 16 girl, including her very own chair. This chair will not only be where she will have her meal, but also where she will open her gifts. Decorate the chair to make it stand out, and you can even throw in a tiara for your little princess. But don’t go overboard, and as always, ask her what she would like before you do it.
Dinnerware: Don’t complicate things. If you go plastic, which is perfectly acceptable for a Sweet 16 party, then just make sure the colors match your theme. Include plenty of napkins. Don’t focus too much on this, because your guests won’t. Focus your attention on other aspects of the Sweet 16 party.
Tablecloths: These are fairly important, but not complicated. Again, match your theme. But do put some thought into it because unlike dinnerware, your tablecloths will be visible the entire night and form a big part of your overall presentation. They’ll also keep your tables clean.
Chocolate fountain: If your budget allows, splurge and rent a chocolate fountain! Your guests will marvel at this unique idea and love dipping their appetizers and dessert in it. Guaranteed to be a hit.
Menu: Also a guaranteed hit is if you design a menu of the buffet items, laminate it, and post it next to the buffet table. This is such a cool thing to do that your guests will be taking pictures of it. The ultimate Sweet 16 decoration that will put other parties to shame! If you do this, be warned: make it one of the last things you do. There’s nothing worse than laminating a menu with roast duck as your entrée, only to change your mind and have prime rib served. Make sure the menu matches the actual food being served.
The cake: Ahh, the cake! Perhaps the “main event” of your Sweet 16 party, the cake represents one of the most important pieces of your decor. Pick a flavor and style the Sweet 16 girl would like, and then have it decorated with something that looks so neat that your guests won’t want to ruin it by eating it. The cake could feature an image of the Sweet 16 girl, or something that she likes. You could even superimpose a picture of her on top of something she likes, such as her face inside of a picture of a car she really wants. These cake decorations, of course, will all be edible. Do this part correctly, and the cake alone can “make” your party. Get creative!
Other Sweet 16 Decoration Party Essentials
With the ideas presented above, you should be able to have your Sweet 16 decorations squared away. But your party is still not complete, so here are a few more ideas to really make the Sweet 16 girl feel like the special woman she is.
Camcorder: By all means, film the party! Whether you pay someone or have a friend or relative film it, just make sure to film it. What girl wouldn’t want her special day filmed in high definition? You can even pay someone later to edit the video and really make it snazzy.
Lighting: Lighting is ultra important, and to make the right choice for your Sweet 16 party, remember to play off your theme. Aim for something slightly darker, but not too dark, because that will give your party more of a “nightclub” feel that teenagers crave. Keep the buffet table and gift table well lit, and you should be fine.
Music: Do you really want to make your party rock? Hire a band from the Sweet 16 girl’s high school, and the kids will love it. Every school has a group of guys who play in a band, and they’ll take any gig for dirt cheap (often for free). If you promise free food and a large room full of teenage girls, the band will be the first ones to show up.
Don’t use a DJ. The invention of the iPod has made DJ’s obsolete, so if a real band won’t work within your plans, plug in your MP3 player.
One thing to note about music… keep in mind that your party might have Grandma and Grandpa there. Loud rock music is not their thing. Either adjust your playlist accordingly, or better yet, have a separate party for the elder folks so that the teenagers can act like teenagers.
The gift table: Nothing fancy here, just a theme-ready tablecloth, some flowers, balloons, and streamers, and you’re all set. The gift table decorations end up being the gifts themselves, and gifts always look lovely.
Candles: Candles set the mood and are recommended by most party planners for Sweet 16 decorations. Candles worry me, because it doesn’t take much for someone to knock one over. Nothing would ruin your party more than a 4-alarm file in which your guests perish to death, so use caution and don’t be afraid to use battery-powered candles instead.
Banners: A tried and true crowd pleaser, banners fit in with any party. Write a short, simple message on there (“Happy 16th Birthday Sally!”) and hang it up. You can’t go wrong with this.
Party favors: If you want your guests to leave with something tangible to remember your party by, hand out party favors. If money is tight, don’t make these a priority, especially considering you will likely have a lot of guests. This isn’t a wedding. But if you’re going to go all out, these are a nice addition. Party favors can be anything, so pick something related to your theme, add a personal touch, and let the guests take them home.
Limousine: Now we’re talking a lot of money here, and clearly 99% of us can’t afford to do this. But if you can, the kids will love you. Pick everyone up in a limo and bring them to the party. You can also have the limo come to the house after the party is over, take all the kids, and take them out somewhere they can party some more, like your local teen hangout or underage nightclub. But really, this is expensive, so consider it only if you can afford it!
We’ve given you lots of ideas for some really cool Sweet 16 decorations. Armed with this information, go and plan the best party you can afford, and use that imagination of yours. Involve the Sweet 16 girl as much as she will let you, and carefully manage your budget. Have a blast and make it a night to remember!