How to Decorate an Event on a Budget?

Throwing an event can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. With some creativity and advance planning, you can decorate beautifully for any occasion while sticking to your budget. This article outlines tips, tricks and easy DIY projects to help you decorate your next event in an Instagram-worthy way without breaking the bank.

How to Decorate an Event on a Budget?

Set the Scene
When decorating on a budget, it’s important to focus your efforts on the key areas guests will see. For most events, this means the entryway, any dining/refreshment tables, the area around any entertainment or speeches, and perhaps some accents around the periphery. You don’t need to decorate the entire venue top to bottom—strategic touches here and there are all you need to make a big visual impact.

Some affordable ways to set the scene include:
Use venue features – Identify any interesting architectural details, artwork on the walls or nice furnishings that already exist in the venue space and build your decor around them. This way you don’t have to spend money disguising less attractive aspects of the room.
Light it up – Lighting can totally transform a space. String up festival lights, paper lanterns or glass jar candles to set a warm, inviting mood. Use lamps to create cozy seating areas. Rent uplighting or a gobo light projector to create a dance floor vibe.
Fabric hides all – Ceilings, walls, folding tables—you name it. Draping inexpensive fabric over anything unsightly or boring can provide an instant face-lift. Bolt cutters of burlap, tulle, plastic tablecloths all work wonders.

Re-purpose and repurpose – Save money by decorating with items you already own. For example, spray paint old jars or vases metallic colors to use as vases. Use your collectible books and meaningful mementos as table centerpieces or mantel displays.

Choose a Color Scheme
A cohesive color scheme is key for making decor elements feel curated and pulled together. Before shopping or making any DIY projects, decide on 1-3 main colors that fit your theme. Accent colors can be swapped in here and there for visual interest. Some popular combinations include:
Elegant black and white – For any formal occasion, nothing beats a classic black and white palette accented with metallic silver and gold.
Dreamy pastels – Soft pink, mint green, pale yellow and lilac purple create a delicate springtime feel perfect for baby/bridal showers and luncheons.
Warm metallics – Mix copper, rose gold, champagne and bronze tones together along with creams and taupes for a glam yet cozy look.
Vibrant jewel tones – Royal blue, emerald green, rich eggplant and magenta make a bold color impact perfect for formal events and winter galas.

Entryway First Impressions
The entryway sets the tone when guests first arrive, so be sure to show this area some decor love:
Greet guests with a pretty wreath on the front door. It’s easy to make one yourself combining faux greenery and flowers from a craft store with a basic grapevine base.
Roll out a red carpet runner leading into the venue, which can be purchased or rented affordably. Use stanchions and velvet ropes to make guests feel VIP.
Display welcome signage letting people know they are in the right place. This is easily DIYed with painted wood cutouts, framed chalkboard, huge decals, balloons or marquees.

Divine Dining Tables
Dining and refreshment tables often become focal points at any event. Make yours stand out with these easy, budget-friendly ideas:
Classic white tablecloths instantly elevate. For added volume, purchase packs of inexpensive tulle or mesh and layer in between the tablecloth and table surface.
Create height and drama with tall glass vase centerpieces. Fill with blooms from the grocery store or fake florals. Alternate high and low arrangements.
Use elements from your color scheme like napkins, table runners, placemats, chalkboard signs and other accent pieces for pops of color.
Display seating cards in creative ways, like attached to a small bottle, clothespin or succulent plant.
Name reserved tables or seats with DIY table number holders, seating charts and/or table tents made from inexpensive frames, stands and cardstock.

Picture-Perfect Photo Backdrops
Give guests something Instagram-worthy and on-theme to pose in front of. Photo backdrops can be as simple or elaborate as you want:
Rent a basic step-and-repeat banner wall customized with your event name or hashtag. Have it set up in a spot with good lighting.
Designate an entire graffiti wall area using giant sticky posters or cheap painter’s drop cloths as your canvas. Provide paint pens for guests to create their own street art.
Stage fun themed props like oversized picture frames, balloons, parasols, signs or anything else guests can pose with that fits your event style.
For backdrop decoration, use a large solid-colored fabric, paper fans, strings of lights or paper pom poms hung from the ceiling or backdrop poles.

Atmospheric Accents
It’s the small touches that pull an entire event decor scheme together seamlessly. Embellish any leftover blank spaces with these affordable atmospheric accents:
Flowers – Whether faux or real, floral arrangements do wonders to liven up dull spaces. For variety, mix stems of different heights in eclectic containers.
Greenery – Order inexpensive ferns, ivy, eucalyptus and leafy branches from sites like Blooms by the Box and position them around your space for an instant nature infusion.
Balloons – Fill empty corners with balloons in your color scheme, clustered in different shapes and sizes. Tip: Under-inflate latex balloons slightly so they last longer.
Paper decor – Use paper in creative ways, like giant paper flower wall backdrops, pom pom garlands, honeycomb balls, fans, lanterns and more. Options are endless with some folding skills.
Signage – Place creative signs around your venue steering guests in the right direction or simply setting the mood. Office supply stores sell ready-made chalkboard and dry erase boards that can be reused.
Fabric – Add dreamy canopy ceilings, table overlays, swag curtains, pennant banners and backdrop drapery using inexpensive tulle, taffeta or tablecloths. Pipe and drape can usually be rented affordably too.

Other Budget Buys
If your budget allows, here are some additional rental items worth their price that can take your event decor up a serious notch:
Draping and lighting – Draping overhead beams, walls, ceilings or frames with lights intertwined completely transforms basic
Charger plates – Metal rimmed plates layered under dinner plates instantly elevate table settings.
Fun glassware – Colorful, interesting glassware options make drink displays feel luxe.
Specialty seating – Chiavari chairs, lounge furniture and pieces that inspire guests to linger longer are special splurges.
Wooden dance floors – Portable snap-together flooring establishes a designated dance zone and gives off gala vibes.

Key Takeaways
Focus decor efforts on key guest areas vs. entire space
Establish a color scheme and stick to it
Strategically use lighting, fabrics and greenery to transform spaces
Repurpose items you already own when possible
Identify any interesting architectural elements in the venue to showcase
Fill empty spaces with balloon clusters, signage, paper decor and floral arrangements
Rent specialty lighting, furniture, glassware and decor to elevate

With some creativity and smart planning, it’s entirely possible to decorate beautiful, Instagram-worthy events on a modest budget. Identify your key spaces, establish a color scheme, strategically use lighting and fabrics to transform blah spaces, and fill any empty spots with inexpensive balloons, greenery and paper decor. Repurpose items you already own when possible, and rent specialty items like lighting, furniture and draping when budget allows. Focus on knock-out entryways, dining areas and photo backdrops guests will see versus decorating an entire space top to bottom. By investing your time and efforts into key areas, no one will ever suspect you decorated on a shoestring budget!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the best DIY decor projects for events?
A. Some top easy DIY decor projects include wreaths, signs, paper flowers, lanterns, table runners and photo backdrops made from inexpensive craft materials.

Q. Where is the best place to buy inexpensive decor supplies?
A. Dollar stores, craft stores, online bulk retailers, secondhand stores and even home goods stores are great places to source low-cost decor items and crafting materials on a budget. Shop sales and use coupons whenever possible too.

Q. What is the least expensive way to decorate tables?
A. Using basic white tablecloths as your foundation and then layering on simple greenery, candles and inexpensive accent pieces like chargers, cloth napkins and touches of color provide plenty of polish without costing much.

Q. How can I decorate a venue space for less?
A. Focus on key spots guests see rather than entire perimeter and maximize the existing features of the space. Strategically use lighting, fabrics, greenery and basic decor pieces to highlight strengths vs. camouflaging every wall and surface, which gets very pricey.

Q. Where can I rent fancy chairs without spending too much?
A. Apps like Peerspace allow you to rent direct from venues. Also check party equipment rental stores for bundle pricing on specialty seating rentals the week/weekend before your date—they often discount pieces not yet booked.

Q. What types of lighting help transform an event space?
A. String lights, twinkle lights, lanterns and votives create magical ambiance. Spot lighting and gobos illuminate focal points. Up lighting washes walls in color. Headpin spotlights enhance centerpieces.

Q. Should I make or buy my event decor?
A. If you’re crafty, hand making decor like paper flowers, signs and garlands can save substantially. For lighting rentals, specialty linens and items requiring lots of materials, buying or renting pre-made decor is usually the better value.

Q. Where do event decorators purchase supplies wholesale?
A. Popular online bulk suppliers used by professional decorators include Stemgem, Jamali Floral & Garden, Rose Wholesale, Event Decor Direct, Broadway Party Rentals and more depending on what type of decor materials are needed.

Q. How early should I decorate the event space?
A. For minimal decor schemes, decorating just 1-2 hours pre-event is plenty lead time. More intricate layouts often take 4-8 hours to properly style and perfect down to the last detail. Building in appropriate lead time prevents stress!

Q. When should I hire an event decorator vs DIYing?
A. If you envision a highly custom, dramatically styled space with rental elements you don’t have capacity to source and set up yourself, bringing on a professional decorator is money well spent and will amplify the event’s look exponentially.

Q. Can I decorate my event space a day or two early?
A. If your venue or rental space permits it, decorating 1-2 days early allows ample time for decorating without as much last minute pressure and anxiety so you can actually enjoy your event! Just confirm they are secure locations.

Q. How can I save money on event rentals?
A. In many cities, culled rental items get deeply discounted by rental companies at the 11th hour if not booked. Also ask what day-of drop-off window guarantees cheapest pricing, allowing the latest possible decor delivery and return.

Q. What are inexpensive ways to decorate walls and ceilings?
A. Fabric backdrops, string lights, tissue paper pompoms, bright poster board geometric shapes, flower garlands and paper lanterns are some budget-friendly wall/ceiling decor ideas.

Q. How can I avoid damaging my event space with decorations?
A. Ask in advance what hanging guidelines and surface restrictions you must follow. Use delicate traces of removable putty, 3M strips/hooks and gaffer’s tape when permitted vs. permanent adhesives. Protect floors from dragging decor.

Q. How can I make DIY signs and displays for events?
A. Paint wood planks, use sticker letters/vinyl words on board backings, stencil designs onto kraft paper or acrylic sheets, print oversized imagery on engineered print materials or specialty paper at local print shops like FedEx Office.

Q. What are cheap ways to decorate food, dessert and drink displays?
A. Choose serving pieces that lend visual interest, garnish abundantly, infuse ambient lighting, suspend decor elements above, use florals and styling props surrounding the displays. Calligraphy signage also elevates.

Q. How can I decorate events on grass or dirt locations?
A. Since digging and ground insertion is off limits, string overhead cafe lights, stake pieces into wooden bases disguised by rugs, build quick pipe-and-drape tents, and style portable surfaces like drink carts, crates, short pedestals and entryway flooring.

Q. How do event decorators charge for their services?
A. Most charge a flat install/strike fee plus individual rental and purchase item fees. Some charge hourly consulting/planning rates plus expenses while high-end celebrity designers charge hefty design fees then require signing product minimum commitments from their luxury partners.

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