I've been a room mom for the past 9 years, I've done several weddings and special events. So when I volunteered to chair our Holiday Lunch this year I thought it would be no big deal. WRONG. Decorating an entire school cafeteria is a much bigger feat than I ever anticipated. The budget I thought was too generous in year's past this year I learned how quickly gets spent. I like to call this little Holiday Lunch endeavor God's way of humbling me in more ways than one. Hard lessons learned so far include the fact that I don't know everything, I open my mouth way more than I should and when I over commit myself I don't just hurt myself but my family suffers too. Needless to say I have never been more happy to be DONE with an event. My feet hurt, I'm sore all over and myself, my house and my deck are permanently glittered!! But I do think my hard work paid off because the school looks great!
In any event, I found that there was VERY little out there on large scale holiday decor for school cafeterias/and schools in general that wasn't really expensive or looked REALLY cheap. So, if you find yourself in over your head here are some helpful hints and examples from our school this year.
Large Scale Props - My aunt does set design for her church every year. She makes the MOST amazing things out of the most ordinary supplies. So I went straight to her when I needed CHEAP large scale props for our stage area that didn't look cheap. We decided to do a "Peace, Love Joy" theme this year and so we cut out the words. She suggested insulation foam. It's about $9 for an 8ft by 4ft sheet at Home Depot. It's very light, we actually cut these letters out using a box cutter and paint adheres to it very well (as opposed to MDF board which is too heavy and soaks paint like there's no tomorrow and no end to your budget;). I love this material for all the reasons I just listed and the fact that these suckers are hung with fishing line we taped with Scotch brand packing tape to the back. That's right these 8ft letters are hung with packing tape and fishing line - very, very cheap! I will caution that we used Krylon Glitter Blast Spray Paint which was expensive and I would NOT recommend. The glitter clogs the spray nozzle and so it is IMPOSSIBLE to spray evenly.
Glitter Cone Trees - I found glitter cone trees at Hobby Lobby and wanted them so badly but they ranged from $4.99-$9.99 and we needed 78 of them. So instead I followed this tutorial I found on pinterest to make the poster board cones and then I used spray adhesive and glitter to make them glitter cone trees. I actually cut the tops off of the 12 pack long cardboard soda boxes, lined them with parchment paper (because NOTHING sticks to parchment) placed the glitter in the box and then I sprayed each cone tree with Scotch brand spray adhesive, waited 10 seconds for it to become tacky and then rolled the cones in the glitter. The spray adhesive and glitter was an extremely messy project. BUT, they are really pretty and they cost about $1 to make so it was worth the work...almost. We then hot glued these glitter cone trees to metal trays I purchased from the dollar store. This will hopefully keep the kids from knocking them over....hopefully.
Table Runners - The quickest and cheapest way to make an impact in a large room is color on the tables. I needed to make something cheap, colorful and practical. SO I decided to purchase plastic tablecloths and make them table runners. I cut 108 inch long plastic table clothes into 108 inch strips. I actually just cut along the vertical fold lines when I unfolded it out of the package. To fit our tables I had to sew 5 strips together to make one long 545 inch strip and then I ran the strip through my sewing machine folding or pleating it every 5-6inches to make a "ruffled" effect. The finished product was cheap (about $2 each), colorful and very practical because we can wipe them off each day.
Donations - The 12 foot tree you see in this picture was FREE. That's right, FREE. When I decided to chair this committee I sent e-mails to anyone I knew, including my neighborhood asking anyone who was getting rid of holiday decor (outside or inside) to please let me know. Our school scored 2 huge inflatable snowmen for the Holiday Shop and we scored this huge tree for our cafeteria. We actually are going to send an e-mail out this entire month asking people to please donate their "retired" holiday decor to our school. I then picked up some cheap ornaments from Walmart, some mesh and ribbon from Hobby Lobby and I made the tree skirt out of round plastic table clothes that match the table runners.
I hope that you all have a very Happy Holiday season and a very Merry Christmas. Happy Decorating!!