Many little girls get caught up in the magic of princesses from their favorite fairy tales, and my little princess was no exception. She got bit by the princess bug. Hard. So I knew that when she told me she wanted a princess party, we were going to have to go big. Since my budget was significantly smaller than her imagination, I had to get creative. First up, the castle.

Every Princess Needs a Palace!

    The thought of turning my house into a convincing castle felt a little overwhelming, so I turned to my medium of choice, cardboard boxes and duct tape. I spent years of my childhood creating masterpieces out of cardboard boxes and duct tape, unknowingly training for my greatest creation of all: the Princess Palace.  

    The hardest part was finding all the boxes. Big box stores all bale them as soon as they get them, so they weren't any help. My neighbor gave me an enormous refrigerator box, which was a great start, but I had a hoard of royalty to house, and one box was not going to be big enough. I headed over to the local Uhaul, where someone had just dropped off a bunch of used large wardrobe boxes, which I got for FREE! I arranged them in the shape of a castle, with a few turned sideways to serve as tunnels between rooms, and got out my box cutter. 
    The thing about cardboard, is that it's the world's easiest medium. You put one box next to another, cut holes in both, and attach them together with duct tape. It took me about 3 hours to make and attach about a hundred square feet of castle. That includes the time it took the re-tape the whole thing because I used cheap duct tape the first time, and it all fell apart in the heat. Buy the expensive Gorilla Tape the first time, and you could probably do the whole thing in two hours. 
    To make the drawbridge doors, I just cut the shape out of the side of the box, and made sure to leave the bottom attached. This way, the doors could open and close, while still remaining attached to the castle. Since we had so many kids coming, I chose not to add a rope, because I didn't want the kids tripping over it, but you could easily add one.

    Next, I cut the notches in the top, so that they would look like bricks. Then, I  headed to the hardware store for a gallon of paint. For $7, I got a gallon of paint that was incorrectly mixed for somebody else, but was perfect for the castle. My little friends helped me paint it, and we had a blast. We probably got more paint on the grass and kids than the castle, but we had just enough to cover the castle. I used black tempera paint for the brick pattern and purple for the drawbridges. Total cost for materials:  $21. Hilarious, paint covered manual labor: Free.

Princesses Need Gowns, Too!

    In lieu of goodie bags, I decided to make princess skirts for the visiting princesses to take after the party. All I used was a strip of 1/2 inch elastic, and strips of tulle fabric. Since I made 12 skirts, I bought the fabric in bulk for about $30. If you're only making a couple of skirts, or have a larger budget, you can buy tulle ribbon, to save yourself the time of cutting it into strips, but this works out to about $6 per skirt. By buying in bulk and cutting it into strips myself, I made the skirts for about $2.50 each.

    First, I cut the tulle into strips, about 3 inches wide. I did not measure, or cut evenly. It took about an hour to cut the fabric for all the skirts. If you want to make short, ballerina tutus that stick out, the strips only need to be about 24 inches, maximum. For these longer skirts, I used the whole width of the roll of tulle.
    Next, I measured enough elastic to fit around my little princess's waist, and tied it into a circle. I didn't even stitch it. Just tied it in a knot. Then, I took a strip of tulle, folded it in half, so that it was now half as long, and then just looped it around the elastic, pulling the ends through. I repeated this process until the elastic was full of tulle loops, making sure to cover the knot, and a skirt was born! It took 5-10 minutes to make each skirt.
    For the shorter princesses, I trimmed a couple inches off the bottom of the skirts so they wouldn't trip.

And For The Prince?

    For the princes, I made shirts. I just got a bunch of felt, and cut out big rectangles, about 12 inches wide, and 39 inches long. Then, I cut a hole for their heads, making sure not to make it too big, otherwise it would fall off their shoulders (trial and error). I made shields out of blue felt, and put the initial of each boy on it in gold glitter glue, and hot glued the shields to the gray shirts. I made 12 for about $12, and they took about an hour, total.

    We held the party in the backyard, where I have flowers everywhere, which helped keep the decorating budget down. We hung paper lanterns and streamers all over. The front walkway had a pink carpet (that I found in the wedding clearance section at Oriental Trading Company for $10) lined with balloons to welcome our guests. We had the bubble machine going, and bouquets of balloons everywhere. 
    I also got cheap plastic wine glasses for the kids to drink out of. For a couple of dollars more than regular plastic cups, the little princesses and princes had a very fancy tea party fit for the queen.
    Between the décor, the castle, skirts, and shirts, I spent about $100. And the kids liked the castle so much that we brought it inside. It takes up the entire playroom, but I'm pretty proud of it, so it can stay. Even the dog and cat hang out in there.

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