Jul 28

3 Party Themes to Get Kids Ready for Back to School

Besides Christmas, the start of school every fall may be the most wonderful time of the year— at least for parents! But for kiddos, going back to school after the freedom of summer vacation can be a sad and dreary time.  They may not exactly be looking forward to getting back into the routine of early mornings, homework, and long school days. To help make the transition more fun and exciting, turn it into a celebratory event!  Back to school parties are an ongoing trend that many kids and parents enjoy as a way to close out the summer and open a new chapter in the year.  To throw your own back to school bash, try out one of these special party themes that kids will love!

PARTY IDEA 1#: Throw a “School’s in Session Party”!

This is a great party idea to help acclimate kids who are reluctant to go back to school or little ones who are about to go to school for the first time.

First, send invitations to fellow classmates.  Fill your child’s party with their favorite classmates, both the friends they’ve been hanging with all summer and students they may not have been able to see since the school year ended. If you know the roster for the school year, you could even invite guests your children haven’t met yet as a way to start new friendships early.  E-vites are a simple, fast way to get the word out about your back to school party. If you opt for paper invitations, Punchbowl.com offers cute academia-themed cards decorated with crayons, school buses, apples, and more. For an added touch, include a printed “lunch menu” (more on that below) just like they’d bring home from school!

Then get your “classroom” ready with some education-related decorations!  Back to school décor is easy to create. There are a number of standard school themes you can use to turn a room in your home into a do-it-yourself classroom for little party guests; maps, pencils, apples, books, chalkboards, and the alphabet are all gold-star options, and simple to set up. To set up your classroom theme, try these quick ideas:

  • Put “bouquets” of pencils or crayons on tables, either in vases or tied together with string;
  • Hang a large map on one wall, and alphabet banners across doorways and windows;
  • Cut large pencils or rulers out of cardboard and construction paper. Use them as wall decorations, or let kids take “school pictures” with these props;
  • Place globes and stacked books as centerpieces on food tables and other locations around the room;
  • Use small chalkboards to label activity stations and food items.

For even more clever ideas, check out iheartnaptime.com.

After your room is ready, plan a school lunch menu!  Set up your dining room or another room in your house like a school lunch room! Let kids line up and be served their choice of delicious a la carte items (which will probably be much better than actual cafeteria food!). In case it’s been awhile for you, “classic” school lunches can include:

    • Pizza
    • Chicken nuggets
    • Macaroni
    • Meatloaf
    • Fruit cups
    • Milk cartons
    • Chocolate chip cookies

Serve your menu items on divided trays or plates, available for cheap at most Dollar Tree stores, for an even more authentic cafeteria experience!

Finally, “play” the day away at school! Although your back to school party is education-themed, kids aren’t going to want to do homework the whole time! Having a list of fun school games to play will keep kids entertained and get their minds working at the same time. Organize your games like “classes,” with a specific class theme and a school bell to announce the start of each new activity!

  • English class: Print copies of this Back to School Word Search and let kids race to find all the hidden words.
  • Art class: Set up a painting station, or let kids draw on the sidewalk with colored chalk. Ask them to draw images of things they did over the summer, or what they’re looking forward to about the new school year.
  • Math class: Play a game of Bingo, letting kids match up the called-out numbers until they yell “Bingo!” (or a school word, like “Recess!”) when they’ve matched a corr3ec line of numbers.
  • Shop class: With crayons, glue, construction paper, and clean empty cans, let kids “build” their own pencil holders.
  • Gym class: Get outside with a physical activity like Red Rover, Dodgeball, or Capture the Flag!

For games that warrant prizes, or for fun party favors, hand out supplies to help kids get prepared for school. Small items like marker sets, notebooks, and erasers are both cool and necessary!

PARTY IDEA #2: Host a “Back to School Book Swap”!

A Back to School book swap is probably even easier to organize than a School’s in Session party!  The main premise is simply to let kids bring their old books to a central location, and exchange them for other books kids have brought to the swap.  Here are a few suggestions for making the book swap both fun to attend and low-maintenance to throw together:

  1. Send invitations with clear instructions about how the book swap will work. For example, each child brings X number books and can swap for X number of books; each child should bring X kinds of books to share, etc.
  2. Set up a large table or clear floor space where kids can sit in a circle and put their books in the center. Create name tags (just like they’d find on their desks at school!) and place accordingly so everyone has a clear place to sit and sift through books.
  3. Offer refreshments in the form of brown bagged lunches. Each child can receive a brown bag filled with a PB & J sandwich, brownies, apples or baby carrots, chips, etc. This way no one goes hungry, and food prep and cleanup is really easy on you! (And you stay in keeping with the subtle school theme!)
  4. Let kids take turns picking so everyone has a fair chance to go home with some great books.
  5. After the swapping is finished, offer up some comfy pillows and blankets so kids can get comfy and peruse their “new” library additions!

PARTY IDEA #3: Have an “End of Summer Extravaganza”!

The final party theme to get your kids ready to go back to school is a big one!  To close out summer with a bang, why have not have a huge “End of Summer Extravaganza”? This party is basically a final hurrah before the kids head back to school, giving them the opportunity to do one last fun summer activity— and hopefully get out some of their summer energy so they settle down for the classroom!

Your End of Summer Extravaganza can include whatever you and your children love the most about summer, but should of course include lots of friends and fun activities! Here are a few ideas for blow-out bashes that we love the most:

  • Throw a backyard party or block party with games, inflatables, and some delicious end of summer grilling! Bounce houses, concession machines, balloon animals, and similar entertainment ideas make it feel like kids have their very own carnival at home.
  • Spend the day getting soaked at a water park! Tackle huge water slides, ride the wave pool, and tube through waterways while you spend a last family day beating the summer heat. If you don’t live near a waterpark, bring one to you with sprinklers and Slip N Slides in the backyard.
  • Have a back to school fashion show. After all the new school clothes and supplies have been picked out, create a runaway in your living room or hallway, complete with runway lights (flashlights work fine!) and upbeat music so kids can strut their stuff and get hyped about their new school purchases!
  • Enjoy some end of summer sports. Whether you catch a late-season baseball game, or an early scrimmage of your favorite football team, take family and friends for a sporty outing. Fill up on hotdogs, popcorn, and other great treats while everyone hangs out in the stands!
  • Watch a movie marathon. Simple, easy, and stress-free— enjoy a final relaxing day before the start of school by watching everyone’s favorite movies. Remember to chow down on popcorn and candy during viewing! This is a great way to enjoy each other’s company before the hectic school schedule begins. For an even bigger event, rent a movie screen for an outdoor theater experience!

Whichever way you choose to celebrate the end of summer, give your kids an awesome memory to take with them when they head back to school!

Jun 29

31 Things to Do with Your Kids During Anti-Boredom Month

Are you having an exciting, adventure-filled summer?!
Or is your summer hot, long, and, worst of all, boring?

For children and parents alike, summer days can become a tedious cycle of boredom and frustration. Even though kids love summer break, they can struggle to find something fun to do every day. Even though parents love their kids, having them home all day long for months can wear on anyone’s patience! So what are kids and parents to do?

It’s the month of July to the rescue! July is National Anti-Boredom month, and is the perfect opportunity to make the most of summer. Throughout the coming month, explore these 31 things you can do with your kids to beat boredom and have an awesome summer!

1. Practice your photography skills.
Grab your phone or your digital camera and see how many cool snaps you can take! Keep it interesting by giving the kids photo challenges: Take a picture of the weirdest face you can make! Photograph three different birds! Keep the list going, and then take a look at the awesome photo memories you’ve made by the end of the day.

2. Try a new recipe.
Search your Pinterest boards for a recipe you’ve been saving for a special occasion, or break out the old school cookbook to find a new dish. Get the family involved by letting them help you measure, chop, wash, and stir— then enjoy the meal you’ve prepared together!

3. Create sidewalk chalk art.
Let the kids cover your driveway and sidewalk with colorful chalk doodles. Ask them to illustrate creative scenes, or turn the pavement into a giant game board by sketching out hopscotch, Hangman, and other activities kids can play when they’ve finished drawing!

4. See parades and fireworks on July 4th.
Nothing says July 4th celebration like parades and fireworks! Take the family to the town parade in the morning and the local fireworks show at night— and fill the time between with a great Fourth of July barbeque! For more July 4th activity ideas, check out our blog “5 Family Traditions for the Fourth of July.

5. Make crafts.
Crafts keep minds active and hands busy! Use supplies from The Dollar Store, spread out on the kitchen table or back porch, and let kids craft to their hearts’ content! For specific projects to work on, check out some fun craft ideas from MarthaStewart.com.

6. Volunteer.
There are so many ways to volunteer in every community! Teach a lesson in helping, gratefulness, and kinship by volunteering around town with the kids. Check with local animal shelters, nursing homes, libraries, and food pantries for volunteering opportunities.

7. Play backyard games.
It’s summer— spend time outdoors! Your yard is the perfect place for getting out all the rowdiness that bored kids can develop! Play Frisbee or tag, or have a water balloon fight— anything to shake out the summer cabin fever.

8. Play indoor games.
A welcome idea when the rain traps you inside, play the day away with indoor games. Pull out your favorite board games like Monopoly, Twister, and Jenga, and have a championship playoff! For more cool ideas, check out our gallery of indoor games.

9. Grow your green thumb.
Work in the garden— it’s another great excuse to get outside and keep little hands busy! Even if you don’t have the greenest thumb, kids can have fun digging in the dirt and learning to take care of nature.

10. Show a movie marathon.
A movie day is an easy way to settle down and relax together. Whether you plan a day of movie marathons or a family movie night, make it a special event with buttery popcorn, movie theater candy, and a stack of family-friendly flicks.

11. Have a picnic.
Pack a picnic lunch and spend a few hours outside enjoying food and fresh air. Even if you don’t live near a convenient picnic area, you can have an impromptu one on the deck or the lawn. Just make sure to bring your basket and checkered blanket for that authentic picnic feel!

12. Build a LEGO empire.
LEGOs are a quintessential part of childhood. Put imaginations and design skills to work by building an epic LEGO empire! Work together to build the tallest towers and biggest buildings.

13. Host the summer mini-Olympics.
If you have a big family or want to invite over neighborhood friends, host a mini-Olympics in your backyard with classic variations of summer games: three-legged sprints, Frisbee golf, NERF archery… Hold an opening ceremony by lighting the grill, and hand out silly prizes for participants!

14. Take a walk.
It’s simple, it’s free, and it gets everyone moving: take a walk around your neighborhood for a change of scenery. If you live in-town, stop by some local sites to prolong your trip— take out some books from the library, visit the pet shop, or go to the park.

15. Get reading.
Reading books helps build character and occupy time on long summer afternoons. (And bonus: it’s a quiet activity!) Add some reading time into your days by setting up a cozy place for everyone to curl up with a good book. For extra engagement, let your kids act out their favorite stories for the family!

16. Participate in National Give Something Away Day.
On July 15, get in the spirit of National Give Something Away Day by looking for opportunities to do good deeds! Help kids give away toys they no longer use, take a donation to a food pantry, or prepare a meal for the neighbors. This day is a hands-on way for kids to discover sharing.

17. Celebrate National Ice Cream Day.
July 16 is National Ice Cream Day! Visit a local ice cream parlor and sample different scoops, or have a make-your-own- sundae party at home with all the fixings! It’s a great way to entertain the family and cool down on a hot summer day.

18. Visit a museum.
Museums aren’t just for field trips! Visit a local or national museum for an air- conditioned stroll through a variety of exhibits. Not sure where to go? Greatmuseums.org is an excellent database for finding museum info in your area.

19. Make forts.
Another great idea for a rainy day, building forts is not just fun for kids! Use sheets, couch cushions, and chairs to design forts around the house, then crawl inside to read or watch movies. Get creative and see how huge you can make your fort.

20. Do some summer cleaning.
When all else fails, get cleaning! Not only is it something you have to do anyway, but with the help of the whole family organizing and scrubbing, it can be quick and fun. (It’s also smart to schedule cleaning day for the day after you’ve torn your house apart homemade forts!)

21. Go camping in the backyard.
You don’t have to rough it in the deep woods to have some family camping fun. Pitch a tent in the yard, roast S’mores over the grill, and stargaze in your sleeping bags as you enjoy a family getaway just a few feet from home.

22. Explore a local landmark.
Do you know how many adventures may be waiting just around the corner? Plan a family outing to a local landmark or interesting attraction. Search your zip code in Google or Atlas Obscura to find a fun location. You never know what your family may see or learn!

23. Eat your meals in reverse.
Yes, it’s silly, but sometimes silly is just what the doctor ordered to beat the doldrums! Change up your daily routine with a menu reversal: have your waffles for dinner, your PB &J sandwiches for breakfast, and your casserole for lunch! This quirky change will keep your kids guessing about what’s coming next.

24. Have Christmas in July.
What do kids love more— summer vacation, or Christmas morning? Give them both with a “Christmas in July”-themed day! Play carols, watch Christmas movies, cut out paper snowflakes, and bake your favorite cookies together. It’s a merry break in your summer routine!

25. Celebrate National Merry-Go-Round Day.
National Merry-Go-Round Day is July 25! Spend the day at the park or playground. Free entertainment is built right in with swing sets, slides, sports courts, and of course, merry-go-rounds!

26. Play video games.
Too many video games may rot your brain, but spending time playing as a family can be a treat for the kids! Set up a video game tournament and take turns playing everyone’s favorite game. Need some extra audio/visual equipment for your tourney? Check a local rental place!

27. Go to the zoo.
Zoos are entertaining and educational! Everyone in the family can visit their favorite animal while also learning about species and habitats. Check your local zoo’s calendar for special upcoming events and exhibits.

28. Take a virtual staycation. You don’t have to leave your home to take a vacation. Instead, try a virtual staycation that is both scholastic and entertaining. Ask your kids where they want to explore and let them plan out an imaginary itinerary for their trip. Then Use Google Earth to planet-hop to amazing locations!

29. Do a little dance on National Dance Day.
Break out your dancing shoes on July 29— it’s National Dance Day! Clear away the living room furniture and have a family dance party on the carpet. Start a dance battle to crown the best dancer in your family!

30. Have some Inflatable fun.
We’re all about inflatables, so we highly recommend giving kids the unique experience of renting a bounce house! Not only do your children get to bounce away their boredom, but the big colorful inflatables will have them feeling like they’re at a carnival in their own backyard!

31. Throw a party.
Close out Anti-Boredom Month with a bang! Host a summer party for your family and friends— you’ll have plenty of food and activity ideas to choose from after 31 days of beating boredom! Share your experiences, and relive the amazing memories you’ve made this month.

May 31

5 Family Traditions for the Fourth of July

Fireworks. Flags. Food. A day of celebration. The Fourth of July is a little over a month away, and we’re already ready to celebrate with our families! July 4th is our most patriotic holiday, and marks the anniversary of our nation’s independence.  Every year families and friends get together to commemorate July 4th in all kinds of ways. Have you made your Independence Day plans yet? It’s not too early or too late to get ready for a fun, family-friendly Fourth! Here are 5 traditions that many families enjoy every Fourth of July:

  1. Fireworks.

Besides the American flag, there’s probably nothing else that says “Fourth of July” like a fireworks show! A longstanding tradition, the first July 4th fireworks were set off on July 4, 1777. John Adams was the person responsible for the start of this tradition, writing that he wanted the day to be celebrated with “Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” Americans have definitely upheld this request for over the last two hundred years, with picnics, games, and fireworks taking place every year. In fact, Americans used 285.3 million pounds of fireworks last July 4th!  One event that uses a bundle of these firecrackers is the largest fireworks display in America, held in New York City, where about 3 million spectators gather annually to watch the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Show. Whether your family will be watching fireworks on TV or attending a local show, these booming light displays never disappoint.  To find a venue near you, check out http://find.mapmuse.com/interest/fireworks and keep the fireworks tradition going!

2.  Parades.

Parades commemorate celebrations throughout the year— Halloween, Mardi Gras, Thanksgiving, and also the Fourth of July! The oldest Independence Day parade in the country is the Bristol Fourth of July Parade in Rhode Island. Originally held in 1785, the Bristol parade draws over 200,00 people worldwide to celebrate.  Another notable parade is the world’s shortest Fourth of July parade in California. The spectacle takes place over just two city blocks, but the events last more than two hours!  The most patriotic parade may be the one that takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. More than 5,000 participants from a dozen states come out to march in this parade.  If you’re considering taking the family to a July 4th parade this year, take a look at a list of America’s Best 4th of July Parades to find out if any of them are taking place in your area!

  1. History lessons.

Fourth of July history lessons probably don’t sound nearly as exciting as fireworks and parades, but July 4th is a great day to remember, and learn about, the nation’s heritage. We probably all remember from our elementary school days that the nation’s official Independence Day took place on July 4, 1776.  But did you know that it didn’t become an official federal holiday until 1941? Fourth of July activities in the early years following July 4, 1776 included concerts, bonfires, parades, the firing of cannons, and public readings of the Declaration of Independence. Since the late 19th century, July 4th has become a day of leisurely family get-togethers including fireworks and barbecues. To learn more about the Fourth of July on the actual Fourth of July, consider a few of these activities: Create some American flag crafts with the kids, read the Declaration of Independence, or visit a national museum near you.

  1. Barbecues and picnics.

Americans love outdoor food parties! July 4th is full of barbecues and picnics for friends and family.  It’s probably not a coincidence that July is also National Hot Dog Month.  It’s estimated that 64.5% of Americans attend a picnic or barbecue on the Fourth of July, and consume 155 million hot dogs in a single day! Whether you’re grilling or picnicking, food is most likely the centerpiece of your Fourth of July event. Make sure your menu is plentiful, and suitable for the whole family! If you want a more balanced diet that isn’t just hot dogs, there are amazing recipes available for July 4th! Try some great cola ribs, pulled pork, or brisket with these barbecue recipes from the Food Network.  Salads are another featured food on this day, from potato to macaroni to broccoli.  Mix and match a variety of side dishes, so guests have ample food to sample, with these top 15 sides for the 4th of July.  Finally, try some adorable Fourth desserts that are decked out in red, white and blue! We also suggest saving yourself some time and renting some concession machines to feed your family on the Fourth.  NEO Amusements has popcorn machines, cotton candy machines, margarita machines, and more to serve up tasty treats. In honor of National Hot Dog Month, we even have a hot dog roller machine!

  1. Backyard parties.  

Food is an important part of picnics and barbecues, but that’s not the only thing that makes families look forward to July 4th.  This day in the middle of summer is a great opportunity to be outside, relax with friends, and throw a backyard party that everyone can enjoy.  Celebrate the freedom symbolized by July 4th by getting outdoors in the fresh air!  Make your backyard as inviting as possible with tents, tables, and chairs where guests can chill out from the sun.  Get the kids in the game with a ton of backyard games, from Giant Checkers to Hover Ball to Ladder Golf. Or pump up the excitement with an inflatable bounce house!  With a grilling station, games and activities, and places to sit down and relax, your family and friends will relish the tradition of the backyard party on July 4th.

Whether you engage in one or all of these five family traditions on the Fourth of July, there’s nothing like a festive holiday to make some memories and enjoy family togetherness. From big booming fireworks to tiny sparklers, and huge parades to intimate parties, celebrate Independence Day in all sorts of traditional styles- and start some traditions of your own!

May 01

Quick Tips to Throw an Awesome Last-Minute Graduation Party

 

Brace yourselves— graduation is coming!  After years of doing homework, taking tests, and running from one extracurricular activity to another, it’s all about to come to an end, as a new chapter begins. After all your struggles and accomplishments, graduation is a time for celebration!

On the other hand, graduation is also an overwhelming time. Late night study sessions, eleventh-hour cramming for exams, taking the SATs, applying for jobs, saying goodbye to friends you’ve seen every day for years… the list of stressors goes on! As exciting as graduation is, it also includes its own particular blend of stress and sadness.

So, if you haven’t gotten around to some important graduation details yet, like planning a swanky graduation party, don’t worry! It’s still possible to throw together a last-minute graduation party that’s fun and memorable, so no one has to know you just started planning last week.  Try some of the following ideas to plan your party from start to finish.

  • For invitations:

If graduation is coming up fast, you probably don’t have time to order custom-made, printed invitations. Don’t waste time waiting for your cards to arrive (and then addressing them and shipping them to all your friends and family).  Sending e-invites is a fast alternative to snail mail.  Sites like www.evite.com and www.paperlesspost.com offer trendy online invitations, many of which are free and customizable. For a more laidback approach to invitations, create a Facebook event for your grad party, and invite everyone on your friend list! If you’re new to Facebook Events, you can easily create one and add the date, time, and party details under the Facebook “Events” tab.  And if you’re really pressed for time before your party date, there’s nothing like an old-fashioned phone call to courteously invite your loved ones to your special day!

  • For venue:

             Where to host your graduation party is one problem to solve quickly, since the rest of your party— food, décor, and entertainment— may be influenced by your venue location.  If you have the space available, hosting the party in your own home is the quickest— and cheapest!— solution.  If your home isn’t large enough to accommodate a lot of guests, maximize your available space by putting tables and chairs in the yard.  Party rental companies, like those of us at NEO Amusements, have catalogs of rentable chairs and tables available, which you can often reserve on short notice if you give us a call!  In case of rain, tents of all sizes are also an option. If your own home isn’t your ideal location, get your phone ready again and start making calls to local venues to check out availability.  Try reserving a pavilion at a public park, or a room at a local hotel, favorite restaurant, or country club. Pro tip: Ask a local caterer for venue suggestions if you run out of ideas!

  • For food:

             People come to parties for the fun, and stay for the food!  When it comes to serving up the menu for your graduation party, your options are endless— it just comes down to a recipe of time, budget, and number of guests! You can certainly order out for pizza at the last minute, and your guests will still be content (who doesn’t love pizza?)! But if you have a week or so remaining before your grad party, start planning for some tasty-but-easy dishes you can put together without fuss.  Don’t feel like you need to serve your guests a three-course meal! Plan your party for a time of day that falls between meals, so guests will be ready to graze on finger food, but not hungering for a full lunch or dinner. For menu inspiration, Pinterest is loaded with appetizer recipes that are quick to make but delicious to eat.  You could also serve up a buffet of the graduate’s favorite foods, or opt for a dessert-themed party with cake, brownies, and other sweet things. And if you’re able to reserve a restaurant for your party venue, you’ve already got the food covered!

  • For décor:

When pressed for time, go simple, and make your party decorations all about the grad! Photo memories add a personal touch and give friends and family the chance to walk down memory lane. Here are a few of our favorite, quick graduation decoration ideas:

  • Make a banner composed of all your grad’s school pictures;
  • Cut “2017”out of poster board and hang on the wall (if you have the time, decorate the numbers with more photos!);
  • Use wide ribbons instead of streamers for a more sophisticated feel;
  • Match your color scheme to the grad’s school colors;
  • Set out one basket for cards, and another to collect quarters for a “Laundry Contribution Fund”;
  • Grab some balloons from the Dollar Store and tie in bunches to line the sidewalk or decorate the food table.

Décor for your graduation party is another area where the wide world of Pinterest comes in handy! You can find more clever ideas, printable poster templates, and DIY guides to throw together a great looking party. 

  • For entertainment:

Last but not least, consider having some entertainment available for the graduate’s friends and all your guests.  Does your grad have any friends in their own band? Let them play a set! Have some old board games in the basement? Pull out your grad’s favorite ones from childhood and place them around for playing.  For some bigger fun, call a party rental company like us at NEO Amusements to check last-minute availability of inflatables, backyard games, and photo booths, so your guests of all ages will be kept busy and happy for hours.  Finally, as another personal touch, and a celebration of the graduate, play old home movies for your guests so you can laugh (and cry!) together as you watch your grad grow up all over again.

Graduation is an exciting, emotional time that a whole family can experience together. The party afterward is a way to cap off this celebration of achievement and possibilities!  Even if graduation is right around the corner and you’re pressed for time, your celebration can still be fun and unforgettable. By using a few of these quick tips to put together invitations, venue, food, décor, and entertainment, you and your grad will be ready to celebrate this momentous occasion even at the last minute!

Apr 18

One Thing About Your ‘Dream Wedding’ That Isn’t So Dreamy

Congratulations! You’re engaged, ready to get married, and about to plan your dream wedding.  When it comes time to choose your venue, decorations, entertainment, and guest list, you want to make sure everything is perfect. But, there’s one part of a wedding that may not be so dreamy: the wedding budget.

“Budget” is not a word that suggests thoughts of celebration and fun. You’re probably thinking of an accountant’s visor and spreadsheets instead of gorgeous dresses and wedding dances.  Nonetheless, budget is a necessary word when it comes to planning an event that could, potentially, end up costing thousands (or eeek, tens of thousands!) of dollars when all is bought and paid for.  It may seem like a no-brainer, but starting your wedding planning with a budget will save you a lot of headaches and regrets.  You want to start your marriage in love, not in debt. So, when wedding planning gets underway, make sure you ask yourself these questions:

1) Why is starting with my budget important?

Having a budget for this momentous event is going to save you time and, literally, money. By setting up strict financial parameters from the get-go, you can determine exactly where you want to scrimp on money, and on what areas you want to splurge.  Not every part of the wedding or reception needs to break the bank. Besides the budget, what is most important to you and your significant other: Pretty location? Inviting everyone you can? Great food and music? Decide together what top three to five items you’re willing to go “all out” for (you can decide for yourselves what “all out” really means to your wallet). Then work down your list of wedding necessities in descending order of importance. You might even find that some items you think necessary just aren’t— so you’ll have more money in your budget to reallocate, or save for the honeymoon!

When you’ve decided where you’ll be splurging and scrimping, your budget will also be able to direct you to the vendors that fit in your financial range. Search for local vendors that can accommodate your budgetary needs, and eliminate anyone who can’t right away. If you’re determined to stick to the budget, don’t be tempted to blow it by pining over a vendor you can’t afford. A larger vendor like Event Source may look attractive, but if they’re above your budget, are they really worth the financial (and emotional) strain it’ll take to secure them? You may be able to find a competitor of your idealized vendor at a cheaper rate than the big box name, and with better service. You followed your heart to your fiancé— now follow your budget to your wedding vendors.

Finally, if you have a general idea of the costs involved, you can also plan how long you (or your parents) would need to save to cover the tab.  Don’t just guess; know what you want, lay out a realistic timeline, and get budgeting. Then adjust accordingly until your budget, your top wants, and your timeline join in perfect unity.

2)  What should I include in my budget?

 If you’ve prioritized your top three to five wedding splurges, you should already have a pretty good idea of what you’ll be including in your budget. But generally, the “big” things traditionally included in a wedding budget are: venue (for wedding and reception, if not in the same place), dress, music/DJ, catering, decor, photographer, cake, and flowers.  According to a 2015 survey by WeddingWire.com, the average cost of a wedding is now (brace yourself) $30,000! That’s a total yearly income for a lot of Americans. Even more startling is another figure included in the survey which states that 74% of couples end up going over budget anyway.

To avoid being one of these couples, first know that wedding costs can vary wildly depending on a number of factors, including where you’ll be getting married, how many guests you’ll be inviting, and even what season it’ll be when you have your wedding. It pays (no pun intended) to review the big-ticket items you want in your budget and see if you can’t find a few ways to lower cost right away.  For example, if your heart is set on a specific local venue, or you want a destination wedding, you may find expenses are less if you get married during the venue’s “off-season” when the demand isn’t as great.  Invest time in researching the bigger cost items in the area where you want to have your wedding; it’ll give you a realistic picture of what your budget should look like in order to accommodate both your desires and your location.

Second, keep in mind that there are other expenses that will accrue, but if you go for the big ones first, you’ll splurge where you planned to, and not end up overspending on smaller-cost wedding needs— they add up too if you’re not careful!  Some things to consider are: limo rental, invitations plus postage, wedding favors, tux rentals, dress alterations, the marriage license, beauty treatments…the list goes on! When you realize just how many wedding items there are to take stock of, the need to make a budget — and stick to it!— becomes a lot more credible.

3) How can I cut corners?

In today’s DIY Pinterest world, there are plenty of ways to cut corners— again, it just comes down to what is most important to your wedding wants.  Depending on your tastes, here are a few ideas to consider if you’re looking to cut out some costs:

  • Choose intimate over inclusive: There are certain people you may feel obligated to invite to your wedding, but don’t fall into that trap or you’ll end up with an expensive wedding full of people you barely know or barely like. If you parse down the guest list, your day can be enjoyable because you 1) get to enjoy it with those you love most, and 2) won’t overspend for the sake of accommodation. Plus, you can simply tell anyone who doesn’t receive an invitation that you’re just having a close-family-and-friends event.
  • Have a ceremony at home or outdoors: Renting a building for your wedding and reception can be very expensive depending on where you live. If your home or outdoor space can contain your ceremony, you can still have a tasteful wedding without needing to offer your firstborn as payment to book The Plaza. Local vendors like us at NEO Amusements can provide tents, tables, chairs, and audio equipment at much lower costs than renting out an entire facility— and you won’t need to plan your wedding date around another facility’s availability.
  • Use less flowers: Flowers are traditionally part of weddings, but you don’t need to turn your venue into a greenhouse to be beautiful. Minimal is still magical. Use single-stem bouquets, or small arrangements on reception tables for little pops of color. And if you get married outside, you may already have flowers available free-of-charge!
  • Contact a local college for music and photography options: A local college or university may just have a very talented group of students available at a very agreeable discount. Contact the music and photography departments for suggestions, and schedule a preview. You may feel leery of hiring students for your special day, but keep in mind, these students are pursuing careers in music and/or photography, and will be eager to show off their very best abilities.
  • Go paperless: This is probably the least traditional suggestion for cutting corners, but in a digital world, it’s not outrageous to consider sending e-vite invitations. The benefit is threefold: 1) You won’t have envelopes to stuff, lick, and mail; 2) you could potentially save several hundred dollars by ditching the traditional printed invitations and RSVPs, and 3) e-vites are more environmentally friendly. As long as you have email addresses for everyone you want to invite, there are many stylish e-vite sites available for little to no cost.

It isn’t exactly romantic to have to consider financial responsibility with every wedding decision you make.  “With this budget I thee wed” does not make for the most loving of wedding vows. But setting your budget early and following through on your plan is going to remove a number of stresses along the way that would otherwise steal the ‘happy’ from this happy occasion.  By considering these three questions— Why is starting with my wedding budget important? What should I include in my budget? and How can I cut corners on my wedding?— you can make decisions for your wedding that will be both Informed and satisfying. No matter what budget you settle on or what style of wedding you choose, your special day is just that— yours.  Make it as elegant, nontraditional, or epic as you want it to be.  Just decide early on what it takes to make your dream day a reality.  As long as you and your significant other are happy, then it’ll be a dream come true!

Mar 11

NEO Amusements Inc. has acquired Bouncy’s Party Fun

 

 

 

 

Dear Valued Customers,

We are excited to announce that effective 1/17/2017, NEO Amusements Inc. acquired Bouncy’s Party Fun out of Copley, OH.

Bouncy’s Party Fun has prided itself on offering exceptional customer service and superior party rentals for any event. NEO Amusements Inc. has also provided outstanding service, equipment, and entertainment to its Northeast Ohio customers for the past 6 years.

By absorbing Bouncy’s Party Fun, NEO Amusements Inc. owner Mike Mingle plans to offer enhanced
rentals and services to clients of both companies. As a result of the acquisition, you can expect to
enjoy the following enhancements:

• A greater quantity of rental products, including additional inflatables, games, interactives, technical equipment, and tents, tables, and chairs;
• A wider variety of rental products, including new concession machines, assorted types of inflatables, more audio/visual equipment, and generators;

As a result of the acquisition, Bouncy’s Party Fun has become NEO Amusements, Inc. However,
despite the ownership transition and name change, customers of both companies should observe
that many company components will remain unchanged, such as:

• Excellent customer service for all rentals and events;
• Licensed and insured products and operations;
• Qualified attendants to assist at parties and events;
• Free delivery within 20 miles of warehouse location.

Please note, delivery of rentals will now encompass the Cleveland, Akron, and Canton ares. If you have questions about this acquisition and its impact, please feel free to contact NEO Amusements. We can be
reached at 330.368.7145, Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

We look forward to working with you, and continuing to deliver fun to the families and companies of Ohio!

Sincerely,

Mike Mingle and NEO Amusements, Inc.

Feb 15

Think Spring

Think Spring

Winter months can drag by when you’re cooped up inside with nothing but your thoughts and your cell phone. The good news is, it’s time to starting turning your thoughts toward spring— March 20, the first official day of spring, is quickly approaching! See these three tips to get yourself out of the winter doldrums and ready to “Think spring!”

1) Clean out the clutter: It’s called “spring-cleaning” for a reason! Once the weather starts warming, start shedding the clutter that’s accumulated. Get rid of anything you don’t use and get bulky winter things packed away.

2) Step up your activity: Stop going stir crazy— get back outdoors with brisk walks around the neighborhood or playing sports in the backyard. Getting some fresh air after a season indoors will put spring back in your step!

3) Prep your backyard: As the days get longer, make the backyard your second living room. Freshen up your yard space by clearing out dead leaves, planting spring flowers, and adding some outdoor décor.

…And make your backyard even more inviting with some help from NEO Amusements! Think spring by planning an outdoor event— our array of backyard inflatables and games is the perfect way to welcome spring!

Call us at (330) 486-7145 to check availability, request a quote, and a place a reservation! We deliver for FREE within 20 miles of our Cuyahoga Falls warehouse.

Feb 15

An Inflatables History Lesson

An Inflatables History Lesson

Bounce house, moon bounce, bouncy castle…whatever name you call them by, inflatable structures have offered endless hours of fun for kids and families over the years. But inflatables didn’t start out as fun family entertainment. In fact, they had a fairly unexciting origin: inflatables were originally designed to be tennis court covers!?

In 1959, a mechanical engineer named John Scurlock was in Shreveport, Louisiana trying to design inflatable covers for tennis courts. While working on his experiment, Scurlock was surprised and humored to find his employees bouncing across the covers. Inspiration struck, and Scurlock transitioned his court covers into a new endeavor: an inflatable “Space Walk” rental company. The very first bounce house was an open top mattress (with no walls or sides!) named the “Space Pillow.” Scurlock’s company took off in 1968, marketing to children’s birthday parties, school fairs, and picnics goers.

Since its inception, the bounce house has undergone a number of re-designs, including the addition of sides for safety and netted walls to circulate airflow. It has also taken on different forms, with inflatable water slides, obstacle courses, and game arenas joining the traditional bounce house family.

Whichever form or name you choose, inflatables are a classic, beloved amusement for all kinds of events! (Inflatables History Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflatable_castle) We just added tons of new inflatables and games to our online catalog! Make sure you check out the 4-Way-Joust, Sports Moonwalk with Hoop, SpongeBob SquarePants jump, and more!

Jan 07

Super Bowl Party for the Win

Ofootballstadiumn February 5, 2017, over 100 million Americans will be glued to their TVs!  Whether you’re cheering on your favorite
team, or you just tune in to watch funny commercials, celebrating Super Bowl Sunday is an annual tradition for millions of Americans.  Another great annual tradition?  The Super Bowl PARTY!  It doesn’t matter if you’re hosting a party at home or tailgating near the stadium— your Super Bowl celebration deserves to be a winner!  NEO Amusements has the entertainment must-haves your party needs to get kicked off right.  

First, make sure you’ve got an unforgettable viewing experience with our audio/visual equipment, including speakers and projectors to bring the game straight into your living room!  Second, get out the chips-and-dip— we’ve got folding tables to accommodate your full Super Bowl spread, and folding chairs to seat every hungry football fan.  Want your party to feel a little more like being at the stadium?  We’ve got concessions!  Popcorn, cotton candy, Sno-Cones machines and more are available to rent.  Finally, don’t forget one of the most popular tailgating games of all time (probably because you don’t have to put down your beer to play): we’ve got Cornhole!  Rent a game today to make your awesome Super Bowl party complete!

Want to plan a party that’s even more epic?  Capture the fun with our new Photo Booth!  Select from a range of props and design your own backdrop.  Photos can be printed, emailed, or uploaded to the Internet to share with all your friends!

Call (330) 486-7145 or check online for availability, request a quote, and a place a reservation.  All rentals are on a first come, first served basis, so it’s better to order early— but don’t hesitate to call even at the last minute to find out if we can help!

Jan 07

New Year’s Resolutions Worth Sticking To

happynewyearHappy New Year!  Be honest— are you still sticking to your New Year’s resolution, or have you already given up?  

According to the University of Scranton in 2015, only 8% of people who made New Year’s resolutions actually kept them! Among the top 10 resolutions were “Enjoy life to the fullest” and “Spend more time with family.”  These are definitely resolutions worth keeping, and we want to help you do it!  NEO Amusements offers family fun in all kinds of forms:

Make a summer stay-cation special with an inflatable obstacle course in the backyard.  Turn a regular night into a premiere event with a perfect movie package.  Put the cell phones away and plan a marathon of indoor games that will bring the whole family together.

You don’t need a special occasion or upcoming event to enjoy fulfilling family time.  Make any ordinary day extraordinary with a little bit of resolution, and a little bit of help from NEO Amusements!

We DELIVER.  Save time and hassle by having your order delivered within 20 miles of our warehouse in Cuyahoga Falls, OH, on all orders of $150 or more and.  Call (330) 486-7145 or check online for availability, request a quote, and a place a reservation.  All rentals are on a first come, first served basis, so it’s better to order early— but don’t hesitate to call even at the last minute to find out if we can help!