My family celebrates many birthdays in January, including my first-born’s as well as my own and my youngest child’s. January 2020 was extra special because my eldest, Gabriella, turned 10 years old while my fifth child made her appearance as well! (Yes, I literally spent the entire decade of 2010-2020 being pregnant and raising children!)
To honor Gabriella’s decade of life, she elected to have a “spa-themed” party. I’ll be honest – at first I was a little skeptical and overwhelmed at this idea. Immediately I thought $$$ and then knowing her birthday would be pushing it incredibly close to my due date made me feel all kinds of anxiety. My lack of Pinterest-worthy craftiness had me considering local nail salons and then brainstorming how I could find 8-10 teenage girls who’d be willing to come to my house to perform mani/pedis on my daughter’s group of friends. Everything I initially thought of seemed like a dead end of either stretching the party budget for one salon service per party attendee to the unlikelihood of hiring a bunch of teens to rub the hands and feet of some 4th grade girls. One thing was for sure – I certainly wasn’t going to be doling out massages or squatting down to polish toenails as a mama who was 37 weeks pregnant!
How to Host a Spa Party
DYI saves M-O-N-E-Y
After consulting Gabriella about the dilemma with organizing a spa party on budget and within a two week prep-period, she felt determined we could pull it off ourselves. Mind you, my first-born daughter is incredibly optimistic, fantastically artistic and creatively crafty so if she was willing to help then I was all ears!
After deciding to move forward with the spa-themed party, we quickly ruled out both going to a nail salon and hiring individuals to come to the house to perform spa services. Budgets and convenience are everything, especially when you’re a mom of five! So that meant we’d not just be hosting the party at our house but also providing all of the materials and services offered.
First things first, establish a budget. Early on in my parenting journey my husband and I established a rule of “no friend” parties until our children turn five years old. Of course, we’d still honor and celebrate each child’s birthday with family and maybe even include a small group of close family friends, but we stayed determined to have no large, elaborate or organized parties with classmates or other friends until each child turns five. Over the years, I’ve found that the average cost per child for an activity-based children’s party is around $15-25. (This is based on my experience hosting birthday parties that involved etiquette-based English tea parties, pottery painting, candle making, gymnastics centers, trampoline parks, and other sports-themed activities.)
Given the amount of girls my daughter wanted to invite (which was 7; 8 including the birthday girl), we established a $20 per child budget that would include all entertainment and takeaway gifts (i.e. goodie bags) but would not include any snacks or food (which ended up being pizza and cheesebread from Little Caesars, totally cost effective!). Considering the average cost of a basic nail salon manicure ranges between $12-$15 for those who are twelve years and younger (while youth pedicures range around $15-$25), I figured this was a fair budget to land on.
Creating the Spa Experience
The “services” Gabriella and I compromised on were facials and manicures. While facials may seem a bit mature for a 9-10 year old audience, I felt it would be a perfect opportunity to educate the girls on the importance of beginning and establishing a healthy and basic skincare routine as they enter into the pubescent years of middle school. As it turned out, most of the girls were unaware of the development and prevention of acne along with all of the other lovely skin issues that arise throughout the teen years so I considered the mini-facials a mini-educational win!
The set-up of our “spa” was around our dining table. Each girl had a station that included a placemat, name place card, a shallow bowl filled with warm water (I used my salad bowls), a hand towel, a plate with cucumbers and homemade face mask, and a stand-up magnifying mirror.
We determined a facial would include a gentle face wash, a basic exfoliating scrub and a homemade face mask. The face wash we used is the same one Gabriella uses as part of her daily routine (found at Trader Joe’s) while the exfoliating scrub was Aveeno (purchased at Target). I individually pumped both the face wash and the scrub into their hands while educating them on portion-size, the purpose of using the product and the importance of taking care of their skin. They were able to gently rinse their face in between applying each product by utilizing the bowls of water in front of them.
We ended the facial portion of the party with everyone’s favorite part – the application of face masks. I researched many simple DYI face masks for both sensitive skin and for children and landed on a chocolate mask made with ingredients I had at home: unsweetened cocoa, plain yogurt, and honey (you can see recipe at the end of this post). I roughly estimate the cost of this mask to be between $2-$3 and it provided enough masks for 8 children. Because it was recommended that the face masks stay applied for 10-15 minutes, we took advantage of the time and used it for a birthday toast (see the recipe at the end of the post for my favorite mocktail/kiddie cocktail recipe) and photo opportunities. It was the highlight of my night taking their photos and applying cucumbers to each of their eyes while they reclined on my living room sofa! They looked so peaceful and the (brief) relaxation gave them a glimpse of a real spa experience!
We began the manicure portion next by having each girl scrub their hands with the homemade salt scrub my second daughter, Ally, and I made together a few days before the party (you can see the recipe at the end of this post – it was a definite crowd pleaser!). Once their hands were rinsed and clean, I had the girls partner up to give each other hand massages. I set the timer for each girl to massage their partner’s hand for 2 minutes. Once the time was up, they massaged the other hand. We used Trader Joe’s Lavender Scented Spa Hand Lotion for the massages (which is my go-to to replenish my own dry, cracked hands throughout the bitter winter months in Michigan!).
The only time-consuming and tedious part of the evening came next – polishing each girl’s nails (we used an assortment of my personal nail polishes…money saved!). Since I was the only adult orchestrating the party, I was the only one to do this task. It took some time, but the girls didn’t mind because younger sister Ally went around massaging each of their backs with a handheld electric back massager!
Utilize your assets
I am only one person and I certainly know my limits along with my assigned gifts and talents. If I was going to pull off this party on a budget and within two weeks, I knew I needed help!
I already mentioned the birthday girl is very artistic so the easiest thing for me to pass off to her is anything remotely crafty. Gabriella dabbles in calligraphy and creative handwriting doodles so she was overly excited to develop name cards for all of her guests along with writing a spa-menu ”welcome” sign. (Instead of buying a poster board we used a dual-sided black bistro-style chalkboard sign stand purchased from Hobby Lobby.) Gabriella also wrote out all of the gift tags we placed on the homemade hand scrubs we included in each gift bag (more on that later).
For the birthday cake, my first place of consideration was my good friend, Katey. Not only is Katey insanely crafty but she is also a fantastic cook, baker and DYI-er. Gabriella had her heart set on a candy-filled cake (after seeing one being made on some reality baking show) so I sent Katey a picture I found online and asked if she’d be interested in making it for Gabriella’s birthday. Done! she said, and I had complete confidence it would be the cake of my 10-year-old’s dreams!
After the cake and other art tasks were covered, the next thing I needed to nail down was physical help for the spa-activities. I was thinking of someone who could act as an assistant and who better than my second-born daughter, Ally! I offered to “hire” her for help and would “compensate” her with a free sweet treat of her choosing at the mall (under $5) along with a spa-robe to match the rest of the party guests (details discussed below). She was “all in” and willing to assist me in hosting her big sister’s birthday party.
Most often the best assets to your party are the ones found within your house or those who are close to your heart 🙂
Reuse & Recycle
Planning any type of party can be costly so I always like to consider items I have easy access to or those that I already own. Years ago, I hosted my sister’s bridal shower, bachelorette party and bridal festivities the morning of her wedding. As a result, I ended up accumulating lots of “boho” style decorations that I have since been able to reuse for other types of events. Gabriella fell in love with all of the greenery from her aunt’s wedding and wanted to utilize that for her spa-themed party.
In addition to décor, I was able to scrounge up 8 white-ish hand towels from around my house for the girls to use during the facials. (I say white-ish because half were white as snow and the other half were more of an off-white/cream color but in the lighting at our spa set-up you could hardly tell the difference!) We also utilized Gabriella’s daily facial wash as one of our products (so $ saved on not having to buy any extra) along with my personal nail polish collection and hand lotion. The candles and candle holders we used were either leftover from other events or part of my home décor stock.
I think we did a pretty good job with using tools, décor, etc from around the house but the one stumbling block we had was nailing down 8 individual magnifying mirrors. I searched dollar stores, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and other referrals, but in the end I ordered 8 mirrors from Amazon (priced at $9.99 each; these were the cheapest ones I could find)…all were returnable within 30 days so I took my chances and they ended up working perfectly! I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but yes, very much like wearing a fancy dress to a formal event and tucking in the tag, I carefully cleaned and repackaged these mirrors and promptly returned them the day after our party. I received a full refund later that day!
Make a Statement without the Hype
When hosting and organizing any type of party, attention to detail and pretty, yet simple, and eye-catching décor can go a long way. My go-tos’ to make a statement and to set the mood of a party are candles, flowers and music.
I’m obsessed with candles so I always have different types, scented and unscented, on hand. Likewise, music is my love language so choosing music for whatever mood or theme of the gathering is second nature for me. (For this party, we began the facial portion listening to my favorite chill/techno/lounge station on Pandora, Blue Six Radio, and switched over to Kids Radio on Pandora for the manicure portion of the party.)
But flowers…yeah, those can get real pricey real quick. In the warm weather months, I utilize the fresh finds at the farmer’s market or call on my daughters to scavenge the yard for whatever flowers, greenery and other natural elements they can find to spruce up our gathering.
In the colder months, however, Trader Joe’s is my BFF! Actually, I love their selections all year round and find they offer both lovely and diverse options (both in offerings and price point) to create my own arrangements. (This ends up being so much cheaper than going to a local flower shop or even purchasing from Costco’s beautiful pre-arrangements.) For this specific party, I spent $25.60 in flowers from Trader Joes and was able to make two full bouquets in addition to 4 decorative “filler” bottles (which served as accents in the bathroom, on the counter top, etc.).
I have never taken any type of flower arranging class and I previously disclosed I do not have a crafty bone in my body, but I find Trader Joe’s lightens the load by offering a variety of sized bouquets along with an assortment of fillers. I often do a 2-3 to 1 ratio (choosing 2-3 types of flowers for every 1 filler) and then make my arrangement at home by playing around with different sized vases and jars. Don’t be afraid to mix different sizes, styles and elements when building your arrangement!
Go Above and Beyond
Gabriella loved every detail and minute of this spa-themed birthday party so much that she decided she wanted to recreate it to celebrate her thirteenth birthday party. The experience of hosting this party three years ago made the planning and execution this time around a piece of cake. (Plus, it helped that Gabriella wanted full-creative control and independence at the party…less work for me and more fun for them to take turns doing each other’s nails!)
Besides the party-goers needed less assistance or supervision with nails and face masks, there were a few other elements that made this party different.
First, a balloon garland – if you’ve never made one before, they are really easy to do if you purchase a kit and have an air pump. We bought a balloon air pump two years on Amazon (after wanting to try our hand at creating a balloon garland) for under $25. Since owning the air pump, Gabriella and I have made balloon garlands for each of her sibling’s birthdays over the last two years. They are super simple to put together with a kit, which we advise purchasing on Amazon – you can find them for around $15-$20 and they include everything you need to assemble a beautiful balloon arrangement (minus the air pump). When working together, it takes her and I about one hour to blow up the balloons, arrange them, and hang them up.
Another offering we included in the spa party this year was some time in our hot tub. This addition rounded out the spa experience for the teens in attendance. If you don’t have a hot tub, you could include neck and scalp massages, do a guided mediation or yoga class (YouTube has many options!), or anything else that promotes “relaxation.”
Lastly, if you have the time, funds, and desire to take this party to the next level, Gabriella recommends heating the face towels in a crockpot. This was totally her idea and I agree, it elevated the spa experience. All you have to do is roll some washcloths and arrange them in a large crockpot (we were able to fit 6 washcloths comfortably in our crockpot). Pour about 2 cups of water over the rolled towels and scent with essential oil. Lavender or eucalyptus provide the best “spa” scent (Gabriella opted for eucalyptus), but you could also use a citrus-scented oil or other oil that offers a relaxing, awakening, or calming smell.
Leave Them with Something to Remember
Admittedly, I’m not one to “splurge” on takeaways or goodie bags when hosting parties. In fact, I rarely even include them and instead opt to either spend the money on adding more “oomph” to the party or save the money and come in under budget. However, because of the limited funds needed to execute the spa party, Ella and I decided on a takeaway gift for her friends that would also be a physical reminder and keepsake of the party – matching satin robes!
Found on Amazon for less than $10 each, the eggplant purple satin kimono robes were a total hit and truly made the girls feel extra special. (It’s been three years since we threw this party and both of my daughters wear this robe regularly today!) To go along with the robes I purchased a 10-pack assortment of plush “spa” headbands (also found on Amazon, making each headband about $1.40 each) and allowed each girl to choose one of their liking upon arrival.
In addition to the robes and headbands, each girl received a goodie bag that included lip balm (purchased as a giftset from the holiday clearance section at Target), a one-time-use face mask ($2.99 each), nail polish (under $1 each), a pack of gum and a small glass jar of our homemade hand scrub (each jar was bought on sale at Hobby Lobby for $.99 and it cost well under $1 to fill each jar with the leftover salt scrub).
All and all, Gabriella’s first spa party to celebrate her 10th birthday was so successful and memorable that she wanted to recreate it for her 13th birthday! I was surprised how seamless everything came together (for both parties) and I swear it was because we utilized our “assets” and pre-planned by completing little tasks each night leading up to the event (we began 3 days prior to the party date). The biggest joy, though, was witnessing my daughter throughout both parties – she and her friends had such a wonderful time and they are still talking about it weeks later.
Now, that’s a mom win I am certainly proud of!
RECIPE: Homemade Chocolate Mask
Makes about 8 face masks
– ½ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
– ½ cup of plain yogurt
– ¼ cup of honey
– 1 cucumber, sliced
Let’s do this!
- Mix the first 3 ingredients together until completely combined and smooth.
- Apply the mask to your face, using about a quarter-size amount and avoiding the eye area.
- Place two cucumber slices over your eyes and relax for 10-15 minutes.
- Rinse off the mask with warm water and appreciate the fresh feeling of your skin!
RECIPE: Homemade Himalayan Salt and Coconut Oil Hand Scrub
Makes enough to fill one small jar (Increase recipe to increase serving amount)
– 1 tbsp coconut oil
– 4 tbsp pink Himalayan salt
– 1-2 drops Vitamin E (I get mine from Trader Joe’s)
– 1-2 drops Jojoba Oil (I get mine from Trader Joe’s)
– 1-4 drops essential oil (optional)
Let’s do this!
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl until the mixture has the appearance of a scrub.
- Use by placing a dime or quarter-size amount and scrubing the front and back of your hands together for 30-60 seconds.
- Rinse off the scrub and revel in the scent and smoothness of your hands! For an added bonus, apply a hand cream to your hands!
RECIPE: Sparkling Pink Lemonade Mocktail
- 1 container of Trader Joe’s low-calorie pink lemonade
- ½ a container of Trader Joe’s pink lemonade-flavored Italian soda
- 1 liter of Trader Joe’s lemon-flavored sparkling water
Let’s do this!
- Pour all ingredients into a pitcher and mix together.
* Please note: The majority of the party photos I am unable to post for desire to protect the identity of my daughter’s party guests