How to throw a Gatsby Themed Party on a Budget (plus a coupon code to PaperRamma)

**Exclusive PaperRamma coupon code for Jackie Anne Blog readers: You can use the code APR22 at checkout to receive an extra 10% off your purchase! 

I can’t believe Prom 2019 is in the books! It honestly seemed like this year’s prom planning went by in the blink of an eye. If you don’t know, I am the prom sponsor for the high school I work at, and this was my second year planning prom. We had ourselves a Gatsby Themed prom, and I think it was pretty freaking amazing!

So many of you reached out asking about the details of the event decorations, so I figured doing a blog post giving you the full break down would be the easiest way to get the info to you!



Before I dive in, I want to mention the budget for this event. Whatever we make in ticket sales is how much I have for the event (and our tickets are significantly cheaper than other school’s tickets in other parts of the state). Therefore, I took some short cuts in some of these decorative pieces. If you have the luxury of a bigger budget for your event, I have mentioned what I would have done in addition!

Backstory on our Venue

We rent out a renovated barn + patio area for prom. And by the way, this was a HUGE change in the community. For the past 10+ years prom has been held in a rented room in the nearby campus. I really wanted to change things up and give kids a special event. So making the change to holding prom at this venue last year was difficult. But once the community saw how beautiful the event was, they bought into the change. However, the theme Gatsby doesn’t organically fit into a renovated barn. Therefore, I made very strategic decor decisions to transform the space – which you’ll see below!

Gatsby Photo Backdrop from PaperRamma

This was a HUGE transformative piece that really anchored the space. I chose to order THIS photo backdrop from PaperRamma (large with the pole pocket) and placed it in the back of the space. The beautiful art deco in this backdrop really transforms the space to the 1920s. We framed it with balloons running up and down the poles, which were beautiful and added a little more Gatsby flare to round out the look. We did purchase photobooth props from Etsy (there are tons of downloads on Etsy), but quite honestly no one used them. I would skip the props.


Larger budget additions: if you are able to, I would add more balloons along the sides of the photo backdrop to fill in the gaps. I would also consider adding a helium-filled balloon bunch on either side of the backdrop to complete the look.

Y’all know I love PaperRamma! I ordered a bachelorette party photo backdrop from them for my sister-in-law’s bachelorette party in June, and I fell in love with the quality of their products. The material is durable and extremely well made. They have SO many designs for all sorts of events, and the founder is a hustling momma (totally my jam). I also love that you get to work with a design guru from start to finish to make sure your backdrop is EXACTLY what you want. And here’s the thing – I knew I was going to be raving about PaperRamma in today’s blog post (this post is not sponsored, just love them), so I asked if they could provide y’all a coupon code, which they generously did!

Exclusive PaperRamma coupon code for Jackie Anne Blog Readers: use the code APR22 at checkout to receive an extra 10% off your purchase! 


Hanging Balloons over the Dance Floor

These were a show stopper for sure! And I’m going to be honest – this wasn’t my idea! The students found an inspirational photo on pinterest and asked if we could mimic it. I initially said no – fearing the cost and time required to get the same look. But after thinking it over, I realized we really needed something VERY dramatic to transform the barn into the roaring 20s. Hesitantly, I said yes, and I am SO glad that I did.


We used about 75 white balloons and 75 clear balloons (a few popped while we were setting up, so a little less than 150 when we were all said and done). The balloons were not filled with helium (so they would hang and not float), then two were tied on either end of fishing line. The fishing line was placed on top of the rafters so the balloons hung on either side. The lengths were staggered, which I think was key to make it look full. We could not have gotten this complete without the group of Dad’s who came in to help their daughters on the prom committee. I may have ran them in circles to get the balloons exactly the way I wanted, but dangggg tell me how good they looked? I would recommend ordering more balloons than you need, since there will likely be several that pop in the process of decorating.


Larger budget additions: I would double the amount of balloons we had if I could! I really think the more the better!

Ostrich Feather Centerpieces

Okay these were my favorite thing to put together! We kept finding ideas for centerpieces featuring martini glasses and wine bottles, which is not super school appropriate (as you can imagine), so I played around with a few vases until finding these guys!

We used THESE Pilsner Glass vases (in medium) from Hobby Lobby. I waited three weeks until they were 50% off to snag these. I actually just called my local Hobby Lobby and the manager was very helpful in giving me a time frame of when these would likely be on sale.


We then used floral foam balls and cut them in half (like THESE), painted them white, and then used mod podge to add white glitter on them. Make sure your foam balls fit inside whatever vase you decide to go with. I had to play around to find the correct size. If you are able to, I would actually buy the foam balls in person and place them in your vase to make sure you like how they sit.

Next we glued pearl strands (similar to THESE) around the edge of the foam balls to make sure they sat perfectly in the vases. It was a pain if they fell inside the vases.


We ordered THESE ostrich feathers and placed 5-6 feathers in each vase. Use a toothpick to make a hole for each feather so you don’t damage the feathers.

To add a little more flare, the girls draped pearls around the vase to finish off the Gatsby vibe.

Larger budget additions: If you are able to, I would place anywhere from 15-30 ostrich feathers in each arrangement, depending on the side of your vase. We really did the bare minimum to stretch a buck, but more feathers would have been beautiful.

Small Cocktail and Side Table Centerpieces

Using last year’s Dollar Tree vases, we made cocktail table centerpieces and side table centerpieces. The girls played with several variations by putting in loose pearls (we ordered THESE), tying pearl strands around the vases, and placing small feathers (I ordered THESE) in the vases. We also placed votives and LED lights around the tables to tie everything together. When you’re decorating a large space, it’s super nice to have several extra, small table decor pieces you can easily place as you find areas needing a little touch. In addition to the cocktail tables, I used these extra pieces on the food buffet and a few side tables.

Converting Farmhouse Tables to the Twenties

We had nine farmhouse tables to work with. We easily integrated them into the roaring 20s by renting black table clothes and buying THIS sequin fabric in light gold and 5 yards in length. We cut the fabric into thirds to create table runners. It was much cheaper to buy this fabric than renting table runners.



Larger budget additions: If you look closely you’ll see the table runner doesn’t actually meet the end of the farmhouse tables and stops a bit short. I’m probably the only person who noticed this lol. But, if you can purchase more fabric, I would get enough to run down the edge of the table to meet the table cloth length. We also rented the cheapest linens possible, but renting the higher quality linens that touch the floor would have been beautiful!

Poster Quotes

You can find a ton of different art deco, Gatsby inspired backgrounds online, and even more fonts. I used these downloads in everything – from the tickets, event info posters, the menu, and to the quote posters in the space.


Adding in quotes from the book was not only fun for the students (as The Great Gatsby is something they read in English), but also was a really great way to add in more Gatsby touches throughout the space. We added these posters on the tables using picture stands.

S’mores Station

Okay, okay – this isn’t Gatsby. But it’s so cool that I had to include the idea in this post! One of the reasons I love having prom at this particular venue is that there is a patio area where kids can hangout if dancing isn’t their thing. No one feels awkward, and I absolutely love that all the kids have something to do. I always set-up a s’mores station outside on the patio (it’s always supervised by chaperones). This year, I used this tiered stand that I had from my sister-in-law’s bridal shower and placed the graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate on the tiers. Be sure to get sticks long enough so kids don’t burn themselves (I ordered THESE). I tried to add in a Gatsby vibe with the font on the tiered stand, but let’s be honest, no one cared about that lol.


Food + Beverages

I had our culinary students prepare the food, which was super delicious and affordable.

Larger budget additions: If I were to host an event for adults, I would have Gatsby themed signature cocktails and Gatsby themed hors d’oeuvres.


That’s a wrap! Are you planning on hosting a Gatsby themed event? Let me know in the comments! I predict this year’s New Year’s Eve will have a lot of Gatsby themed parties to bring in 2020 with the roaring twenties! Making a mental note to bring this post back out then!


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