When the budget is running out, or you don’t have that much to begin with, low-cost ideas can be just what you need to ensure your event is a success or add some special touches. From organisation and meeting planning, right through to the execution of the event, these event planning ideas under $100 will help you stay on budget.
Great for an adjustable budget as you can go as plain or fancy as you like but paper invites give attendees something tangible which increases exclusivity.
Paid Social Media Ads
If you have a strong social media following and brand reach then use this to your advantage to offer premium ad slots on your accounts. Using Twitter advertising or Facebook ads can extend your reach and make sure your message is being seen by the right audience! You could also include this as part of a custom package to your sponsors too.
Signage Step And Repeat
Get attendees and sponsors to create their own step and repeat backdrop for photo opportunities by signing themselves and leaving messages. Just be sure to make the colours interesting like these chic, shiny circles.
Credit: Calvin Lee Photography
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Spice up your event social media with gifs, memes and emojis to add a fun element and interact better with your attendees. You could also encourage them to make gifs or memes for your event and share them on your platforms to create more of a buzz!
For outdoor or temporary events these are the perfect, low-cost answer to banners and signage and can be bought or even made with limited materials. Why not attach them to backpacks to stand out as staff walk around and market the event.
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Make a fun and quirky statement with an interesting design idea so that attendees can use themselves to market your event! Plus, as they are temporary, they are usually put in very visible places.
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String photos from the ceiling or across ceilings to help lower the ceiling height of taller venues to create more of an intimate space.
Credit: Okeanos Group
Use fabric as a low-cost lighting alternative or to create different spaces within a venue. It is also particularly useful when trying to cover plain walls or ceilings at larger venues to temporarily transform them to your theme.
Useful for all types of events, balloon ceilings are useful to decorate smaller spaces without cluttering the floor and are easily adaptable to your theme and colours. Plus, for events with kids you can give them away to take home with them which reduces venue clean up too!
— Arty Party Balloons (@apballoons) April 4, 2017
Credit: Arty Party Balloons
Celebrate the climax of an event or key points using confetti which creates awesome event photos and is always enjoyed by attendees. Don’t limit it to weddings and concerts, use it for parties, dinners and other social gatherings too.
Add a burst of colour to outdoor events using tissue paper streamers that can also help to section off areas outdoors! For indoor events streamers can be a low-cost but effective decorating idea that can be packed away and reused later.
Credit: Noelle Vainikka
Use old ladders and planks to create dynamic backdrops, set up food or drink stations or create photo opportunities which are easy to suit you and can be moved throughout the event if necessary.
Easy to adapt to your theme and depending on your budget can depend on how intricate you want to go. Balloons are cheaper than floral arrangements but can spruce up boring entrances to venues. Of course elaborate balloon archways will be over $100 but opt for simpler alternatives or weighted balloon groupings for an affordable budget option.
Use recycled materials for interesting effects and photo opportunities like this wall made from jars! They are inexpensive and can be made yourself so are a real cost saver, plus creates some awesome event pictures.
Offer free subscription services for 3, 6 or 12 months in keeping with your event theme such as specialist food boxes, wines or your own service packages. You could also reduce costs by collaborating with sponsors to get a reduced price on the package as an introductory rate so you don’t have to pay the full amount for the prize.
Offer dinner with an industry influencer, minor celebrity or well-known face that is involved in the event itself or it’s sponsors. You could place a time limit or merely have “an hour with”. Negotiate this with your performers and speakers before contracts are signed, so it is part of the deal and doesn’t cost you extra.
Incorporate sponsorship, branding and marketing with prizes by offering customisable apparel bundles such as hats, t-shirts, jumpers and bags. Just make sure you find the right balance between looking good and adding your brand, smaller logos tend to work well.
Product Gift Hamper
A large collection of products in a gift hamper tends to go down well, particularly if you are trying to sell raffle or fundraising tickets or get attendees involved as they can see tangible gifts and prizes to see if they actually want them!
Give away experience days such as wine tasting or spa experiences or opt for something philanthropical by teaming with helpful causes and give away a day's volunteering at an animal sanctuary where attendees can both help and get up close to endangered animals.
Fresh Produce For Guests
For health conscious events or guests, provide a fresh produce bar with the local fruit and vegetables that are in season which can promote healthy eating and show you support local suppliers.
Avoid the cost of larger cakes by creating the illusion using smaller cupcakes. It also saves on the hassle of cutting for larger events or those with kids as they are in handy portion sizes already.
Decorate food, buffet tables and even dessert stations with these edible flowers and plants for décor ideas that are also edible!
Walking Food Stations
Particularly useful at larger events where you need more coverage, walking food vendors are similar to those you find in the theatre and are a great addition to waiters and waitresses.
Make miniature versions of main food so you don’t have to serve a full main meal. Mini burgers, tacos or burritos look more gourmet and are actually easier to produce in bulk as the food goes further!
Be specific and opt for food bars that are cheaper to do in bulk and provide less food variety and focus on specificity instead. These ideas can look more original and creative and are actually cheaper than other dessert bars as you aren’t trying to cover all your bases.
Credit: The George In Rye - Weddings
Champagne Skirt Waitresses
Skip traditional wait staff with these champagne skirts which can also hold more drinks and provide more of a talking point and interactive experience with guests.
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Comfort Food Boxes
Who doesn’t love comfort food? Be different and avoid some of the expensive fancy food in favour of some traditional favourites instead.
Credit: Luke & Jess, Only Jerkin
Ditch the desserts altogether and offer up vintage sweets instead, it will not only bring back some nostalgia and be a talking point but it is more original and cost effective too!
Make food tables more unique by having them live and interactive, you can also opt for servers to take on personas or role play depending on your event theme.
Balloons can be a great décor idea but can also go hand in hand with branding since you are going to have them anyway, why not add your event, or your sponsor’s, logo. Or using your event or brand colours it is possible to add a coloured balloon within a clear balloon.
Peel-able stickers that can be used on glass windows, doors or the floor can add a branding effect and specificity to a venue to make it your own throughout your event.
Temporary Vehicle Branding
This branding idea is perfect before and during your event and you could not only brand your work vehicle but also event transport if you are using it during the event.
Customizable Registration Booths
Start marketing as soon as attendees arrive with these registration booths which can also be adapted to include sponsors and specific branding messages too! This becomes affordable as the printing is interchangeable and with venue provided booths it is extra presence at a minimal cost.
Credit: Florida Event Decor
Light Up Signage
Make your signage stand out by having giant light up letters which could also create unique photo opportunities. Or have them on stage at conferences or near the entrance to your event.
Who says branding couldn’t be delicious! Offer branded cookies as favours, table settings, in the swag bags or on the food stations and they are bound to make a tasty impact.
Trade Show/Exhibitions Ideas
Simple and effective for remembering your trade show booth as well as the exhibition in general. They make a great addition to goody bags or event swag.
Guestbooks don’t have to be exclusive to weddings. Have attendees sign a guestbook if they visit and like your booth, with the option to leave a little message or give feedback. Not only will this encourage others to interact but will also be a great memento of the day and shareable on social media!
Retro Themed Booth
Bring out all of the old games, comics and icons that you have stored or even pick some up from thrift stores to create a retro theme that will bring event nostalgia to those who visit you!
Credit: Event Graffiti
Free Food Samples
Walking around trade shows and exhibitions can be tiring so if you offer free food samples you are bound to get more traffic to convert visiting your stall! Speak to the stomach first and then the attendee, plus it isn’t as expensive as it looks because you can divide normal portions into several mini sections. Just check the trade show or venue policy first.
Add sides to your booth or cubicle and make use of the space to create more private areas and an intimate feel for those visiting your booth. It can also add a sense of exclusivity and block out distractions from the rest of the trade show to make attendees stay longer.
Give attendees a memento to remember you by against all of the other stalls or booths they will be visiting. You don’t have to make a large brochure, just something fun or interesting that stands out. How about a fold out flyer or a short how-to guide. Make sure it offers value so it doesn’t just end up in the recycling bin.
Help navigate attendees with these fun and quirky indoor signpost ideas that can direct them to stalls or sections easily which also minimises the need for floating staff.
Credit: Swiss Wedding Planner
Event Tech Ideas
Create a specific online landing page that showcases your event and then have the option to buy tickets or browse event details online before they arrive. You could also include a quick reference printable map for trade shows, conferences and exhibitions.
Green Screen Photographer
Allow attendees to superimpose fun graphics or backgrounds on their event pictures with a green screen background option and photographer.
Bring a touch of nostalgia to your event while letting attendees go home with a memento by having photo booths or screens with modern polaroid cameras!
If you don’t have space for a photo booth at your venue, opt for this selfie mirror that provides branded photos for your attendees as well as suitable filters and stickers they can add.
Credit: Say Cheese
Create a simple event app that can have interactive information about activities happening in and around your event. Not all event apps are limited to the bigger budgets - there are plenty of free and freemium models available too.
Hire some local artists to create art on a big canvas in front of your guests as it can be intriguing to see their techniques, watching their creations live and see what they come up with. It could also be auctioned off for a fundraising idea at the end of the event.
Look for local talent or community groups specifically who may want to show off their skills or represent a cause so they could perform for donations instead. Approach local dance schools, cheerleaders, bands, music students and so forth.
Organise treasure hunts for the attendees that could be formal and in large teams or informal that they can play on their own. Cut down costs by choosing some prizes to be digital swag or discounts or have one main, large prize.
It doesn’t take much to create an epic playlist and you could also incorporate the theme into the music with specific eras or genres of music, plus doing it yourself saves on hiring a DJ!
At networking events, icebreakers can be particularly useful and virtually free with a little planning and can help loosen up your attendees to give them the best possible experience.
Henna can bring some adult fun to events and is an adult variation of face paint that is slightly more low key! Henna artists can also wow with their skills and show off great pieces that will leave attendees appreciative and talking and as it takes a few days to wear off it can be a subconscious marketing opportunity as their friends and family ask where they got it done!
Card or games tables can allow attendees to have fun and also win prizes, you could turn chip amounts into event equivalents such as prize draw entries or discount offers depending on how much they win.
Attendee Location Map
Have a world or local map up at your event and allow attendees to pin where they are from so that everyone can see how widespread the guests are as well as any that might be from the same location. This could also be turned into a fun game where you have to find the other people that live in your area which would also double up as an interesting ice breaker too.
Fun Pool Floats
Events with pools or water should consider adding fun and quirky floats because even if they don’t get used they help to avoid blank open space and become a funny talking point.
Health & Wellness Mini Classes
Whether it is dancing, yoga or a new type of exercise, health and wellness demonstrations are fun and usually enjoyed by attendees who are always looking to be a bit healthier in themselves.
Add a mini beauty bar for a variety of options such as quick manicures, skin care advice, makeup tips, advice and tutorials from experts and involve this with recommended products and sponsor opportunities with free samples.
Emoji Wall Feedback
Creating opportunities for event feedback are invaluable and ideas like this don’t cost much and can be fun and striking to have at your event.
These cut-out lighting ideas can create fantastic lighting effects for a variety of uses, including things like these branded options.
Credit: L.A Event Lights
Using lighting such as string or fairly lights you can create sectioned off areas to create more intimate setting such as VIP or quiet areas. Adding dropped lights from the ceiling can also create an enclosed space and feel as though it is more sectioned off without the need for partitioning.
Starlight Backdrop Panels
Add special effects to your backdrops and panel décor by incorporating some simple lighting to give a starry night effect. Looking at what the venue has to offer can also be a cheaper alternative than having to hire starcloth yourself so discuss with the venue and see if they can offer any packages that would include it. Many venues have items such as this in their inventory - but you need to ask to find out what options are available to you!
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Credit: OMG Events Inc
LED Tube Lights
Use tube lighting to frame areas to give them light while not detracting from the darkened vibe of an evening event.
Credit: Got Light
For indoor events or expectant bad weather, battery candles can be a low-cost alternative to fancy lighting that preserves the ambience and tone of natural candles.
Use budget friendly uplights to make a big impact and highlight features of your venue with colour making interesting effects and focusing on certain areas with minimal effort!
Credit: Avent EQ
Add temporary graphics to the floors of your event whether it is the entrance, dancefloor or other high traffic area they are a great low-key addition!
Credit: Event Graffiti
It’s good practice to follow up with attendees after an event to share access to pictures, resources and a final thank you. Offer sponsored advertising or placements as part of your sponsorship package.
Provide stations according to your branding, products and packages such as this food station or an area you can showcase your products and advice while providing value to attendees and fitting in with the overall event theme.
Provide sponsored photo props that contain your branding on the front or back so that it can be seen by attendees and in any photos. You could also provide signature characters or dress up designs based on your brand mascot.
Head In The Hole
These fun ideas are a great way to entertain attendees while getting your brand seen. You can combine this with an event or sponsored hashtag for an excellent package idea and to amplify its effect.
Credit: Kevyn Knox
Be different and brand chocolate cookies or edible paper with the sponsored brand image. It creates a unique effect and is edible, which always goes down well with attendees!
Create special areas for attendees in a specified section that has a variety of branding, products and services dedicated to the sponsor. This could include branded curtains or dividers and brand reps inside the VIP area itself attending to guests.
Giant Bean bags
Useful and quirky seating that are easily moveable for larger outdoor or indoor events to suit the attendees. They can be in keeping with your theme in specific colours to complement other furniture types or you could have solely this type of seating.
Add a boho chic vibe by creating seating on the floor for some guests. You can incorporate this into indoor or outdoor events but just make sure you have interesting and varied cushion options!
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Credit: Avenues of The Caribbean (AOC)
Extend table setting ideas by adding plants and flowers to the furniture themselves. You can also spruce up plain furniture by adding foliage and using cheaper wreaths or leaf designs such as these.
Use leftover offcuts from fabric draping the venue to drape tables and chairs for an easy way to cover plain or worn furniture that you want to re-use and bring it back to life.
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Perfect for trying to incorporate a lot of seating into a smaller space or venue, benches can be an effective but low-cost seating idea. Plus, as they are more communal, they can be a great ice breaker too.
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Credit: Aldheyafeh Hospitality Service
Purchase or hire chairs in a specific colour so that you don’t have to decorate them and save on furnishings such as chair covers. Block colours can make an impact and statement against the table setting too so can be easily incorporated into the décor.
They are inexpensive, but look creative when not placed in their normal beach environment. Plus you can brand them too!
If used in the right theme and environment clear furniture can look extra classy and sophisticated and work well against the lighting effects and reflections.
Meeting Design Ideas
This creates a capacity for your audience to respond and give you real time feedback at the event or meeting which can be incorporated digitally in the form of multiple choice, rating scales, poll, rankings or simply positive or negative options, with results shown live there and then.
These can be beneficial particularly in meetings that require new or innovative ideas and creativity as many people cannot work under pressure and suffer from mental block. Stress relievers help to alleviate this and take the mind off of the stress to allow creativity to flow.
Offer a variety of chair options including bean bags, simple seating and backless options to accommodate the different types of people and make them all comfortable, particularly if it is a longer meeting.
Offer fidget pens or cubes for those who have trouble focusing and help avoid them distracting others and staying present in the meeting itself. Many have issues paying attention, particularly in longer meetings so these will help them concentrate and get the most from the meeting. This would be a great giveaway idea.
AV and Staging Ideas
Create a staging area outside quite simply to add a more formal experience to your event and you can even incorporate event themes and ideas. While this particular stage would not have been created for under $100 at smaller events you can work with natural outdoor features and expand on them such as hills or natural bowls to create the stage area and audience focus you want.
Alternatively you could work with single performers by having simple staging blocks or local businesses to see if you can rent or loan a trailer from them to use as temporary staging (fully risk assessed of course!).
Carpets can create a luxurious feel but are notoriously expensive and are generally thrown away which is not only costly but wasteful. Speak to vendors who have offcuts or recycled carpet so that you can spruce up your stage with minimal cost! Plus, options like sparkle carpet can transform a venue to look more classy and sophisticated while also covering up marks on the floor.
Create beautiful and mystical effects using temporary stage vinyl such as this galaxy option. This would also be a great branding or sponsorship idea or merely a great way to transform the stage to complement the event theme.
In The Round
Make use of small spaces and staging by creating it in the round and allowing attendees to sit and see from a 360 degree angle. Just ensure that entertainment reflects this type of seating and moves around to see the whole audience.
Make your stage more interesting and dynamic by adding separate levels and making use of different heights by hanging elements to the ceiling or adding tables and other surfaces to mix things up and offer the entertainment a more interesting background. An extra level also adds a sense of exclusivity and barrier between guests and attendees making what is on stage seem more special.
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Credit: Dhol Baja Baraat
Create mystical effects and allure by using dry ice on stage which when combined with different lighting can give an eerie or otherworldly feel to draw the attendees in. Talk to your AV company, performers, venue or DJ as this is something that could be included free as part of your package.
Credit: Staging Connections
Use plants on stage to create sides or close in larger stages or to just add fill in some of the dead space and draw attention back to speakers or performers. Make use of what the venue has available at your disposal.
Light Up Stage
Make your stage stand out by adding some floor lighting to it that can either be interactive or simple and effective, particularly for darker venues or evening events.
Table Setting Ideas
Sequin Table Cloth
Add a bit of sparkle to your table cloth and then keep the rest of the table setting plain to create a sophisticated but cost-effective effect.
Credit: Oh My Gosh Events
Add a touch of something personal to the table plan for attendees by making favours for each place setting. It doesn’t have to be expensive or large like these handmade crochet hearts.
Giant Table Plan
Allow attendees to find their seats in unique ways with fun table plan ideas such as this. This idea also helps to minimise event staff guiding guests to their seats which can be cost-effective and great for larger events to avoid big queues before the sit-down meal providing a better user experience.
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Credit: Lace and Ribbons Stationery
Using mirrors can be a dynamic and cost effective way to fill a table and reflect light for evening events. They can come in the form of actual mirrors or mirrored plates or vases for different effects.
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Credit: Allyson James
Going simple and understated with florals rather than large table displays can be effective and powerful if done correctly like with this simple, but elegant spring theme.
Pine Cone Place Settings
Use natural elements in the table decor which are cost effective and you could even spray them to suit your colour pallet or combine with other elements such as flowers to provide unique and interesting name card holders.
Avoid dead space between tables and centrepieces by using small crystal drops as additional décor without blocking the view between attendees on either side.
Credit: Oh My Gosh Events
Very cost effective when bought in bulk and available in a range of styles and colours to suit your event theme, table pebbles or crystals can be pretty additions to a table scape and be placed in vases to avoid boring space to complement floral displays.
If the budget doesn’t stretch to large or scented floral displays then opt for subtle or sweet scented candles to replace them and add to the ambience.
As you can see $100 can get you much more than you realised and doesn’t have to look “budget” or unsophisticated. Hopefully these low-cost ideas will inspire and help you at your next event but If you are completely out of budget then why not check out our 100 virtually free event planning ideas to help you scrape by.