One Winter’s Night: DIY Dinner Dance Decor!

I’ve coordinated a couple of high school dances over the past few years, and I always have a lot of fun with the creative ideas my creative students come up with for decorations and details! Each year, I am fortunate to have have a couple of truly fantastic students who volunteer to be on the planning committee, and 2014 was no exception! After polling the student body for ideas, we met up and settled upon our Winter Ball theme:

One Winter’s Night

Keeping our plans simple and elegant, we set out to provide thoughtful details that might enhance students’ experiences of the evening in question. Some of the things that we organized as part of this year’s festivities included . . .

Setting the Menu & Enjoying the Venue

Winter Ball FOodWe have the delightful opportunity of enjoying the delicious menu of italian cuisine provided by our venue of quality! The spread was delicious and everyone ranted about the chicken parm in particular. The food, however, was just a small organizational detail of the rest of the planning, which was far more hands-on!

Warm & Cozy Favors

What better to give as a favor for a Winter Ball than Hot Cocoa? Inspired by some adorable winter wedding favors on pinterest, we decided that it would be a fun direction to go, and we were not mistaken. We designed our own label, used some of the same cardstock we used for the leaf-creation, and put them together one chilly Wednesday afternoon. They turned out adorable!

Favors - Winter Ball 2013

They looked so pretty on the tables, as did our second focus of decor:

Twinkling Centerpieces!

centerpieces and tabletops

For several weeks before the dance, we brainstormed ideas for the centerpieces. In years past we’ve done everything from live fish to traditional floral arrangements to elaborate candy jars, and we’ve come to the conclusion that non-living centerpieces can render the set-up far less stressful! After doing some scouting and brainstorming, one of my students remembered that I had made some paper-leaf branches at one point. We looked at the paperstock available online, and decided to make our own silvery foliage, just for the occasion.

centerpieces 1

Making these branches  was a cinch, actually. First, we gathered up some sticks from the trail around the school. Then we made two different sizes for leaves and cut them all out by hand before attaching them with hot glue to the branches we had collected. The result looked quite lovely!
centerpieces in action

 After making the branches, we purchased some beautiful twinkly lights (via Amazon.com) to twine through them and the result was like something out of a fairy-tale!

Centerpiece - silver leaves

To these leafy, twinkly, not-quite-floral arrangements, we added a cut-crystal dish of navy-blue, white, and silver m&ms as well as a small glass to hold those lovely, snow-flakey pens pictured above. What might theeeeey be for, you ask? Well, I’m so glad you brought it up, because that brings us to our next element of themed fun . . .

Wintry Mad-Libs
madlibs - winter style

Mad libs are something that we make a point to include every year, at every dance. For one thing, they help break the ice and fill those occasionally stilted social moments before dinner or dancing commence. But, for another thing, who doesn’t like mad-libs? We used a paper punch to make this batch particularly dainty and then placed them at each place setting on the big night. madlibs in action

After that, as students found their way to tables and seats, all that remained was to watch as they took their snow-flakey pens in hand and general hilarity ensued! Let’s face it:

There is no better atmosphere than laughter.

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Soda Shoppe Sock Hop!

sock hop?!

Its a Soda Shoppe Sock Hop!!!

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What better way to brighten up the winter months than with the charming colors of the fifties and the sweet classical feel of a soda shoppe? Think  of young Jimmy Stewart serving up soda fountain drinks. . .

    georgebailey via

Now, as my three student Dance Committee volunteers and I sat reading off the list of suggested themes from a list, I saw that common ideas for the impending winter formal included:

  A. Winter in Paris

  B. Masquerade

  C. 50s

  D. Pokemon

It was safe to say that option D was out (the middle schoolers were attempting sabotage of the HS dance) . . .  and we decided Masquerade was a little too formal for the winter semi-formal. Lacking enthusiasm for attempting to reconstruct the Eiffel Tower in order to effectively achieve Winter in Paris, we turned to our final option: The 50s. As I sat across the table from a sophomore and two juniors, all born in the 1990s,  trying to explain the lovely Era in question, I mostly encountered confusion. I gave up explaining context and wound up listing random things that typified the fabulous fifties.

Now, I solemnly swear this was not something I necessarily intended to be taken at face value…but one of the girls heard me say “Soda Shoppe” and the idea was a hit!

Without further ado, we undertook some fancy  fixings!

Soda is a Favor(ite!)

Soda seemed like the thing to do when it came to favors, and there were some darling little straws I found on Etsy that seemed like just the right touch of colorful detail!

Our next step? Centerpiece Planning…

I started to meander through the world of clever arrangements and stumbled across this image:

ice cream carnations!Carnations I can handle, it seemed like the right place to start was collecting soda glasses. Thankfully, these seem to little the aisles of thrift-shops like newspapers in an episode of hoarders! It only took two trips!

Ice Cream Shoppe LOVE\

After that, it was a cinch to arrange the carnations the-day-of!

Ice Cream?

Next on the list? Accumulating an obscene amount of Records!

Mysteriously WONDERFUL!

via

There is a magical place in Gloucester, MA called Mystery Train Records. . .  where there is actually a wall of records that they allow you to take for free.! Sure, you can only take 5 at a time, but with enough trips, or a decent enough crew of friends, it can be done cost-free in just a trip or two! As much as they are magical finds in and of themselves, I lack a record player to truly do them justice, so I settled for using them as foundational pieces for some attractive centerpieces and table decor!

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It made for a really charming background! Especially when we add in the Candy Jars!

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That’s right, I said Candy Jars

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Seeing as how soda fountains also doubled as sweet-shoppes, it was only appropriate to include a hefty amount of colorful sugar for the centerpieces!

Centerpiece Candy!

Mad libs are always a nice touch – a cherry on top!

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Mad libs are just a great ice-breaker!

Madlibs as usual!

Sometimes Madlibs can be the key to easing the social interactions at the start of an evening – you know, just the thing to get everyone laughing and goofy, even if they are always somewhat inappropriate!

Then there was the question of music!

What would a dance be without music, no? In lieu of the snazzy jukebox one might actually have found in a fabulous fifties Soda Shoppe, we instead went with the more popular option of a DJ. . . it was not likely we would find a jukebox with Gangnam Style in it. One of my artsy student helpers put together this lovely painted jukebox to lend to the decor.

The Jukebox!  Requests

We used it to point people towards the request list, which students kept filled up all night long!2013-02-01_18-18-47_825

Overall, the event was a success,

Ready to Sock Hop

I got to wear a petticoat, the decor was adorably effective, and the students had fun! There were fewer moments of chaos and mayhem amid the planning than usual, and everyone had a lovely time! Even the catered food was delicious, which is pretty darn amazing!

One Sweet Evening

I hope the next dance is equally as fun to plan and organize!

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Stay tuned, it sounds like the prom will be masquerade-themed, so throw me any ideas that might be inspiring as they come!!!