Cheap (Cute) Decoration Ideas for Your Big Empty Space


Budget, meet paper. Paper, meet budget. Let's be friends.

by Maddie Eisenhart, Chief Revenue Officer

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

Do you want to know why every Pinterest wedding (aka fake wedding shoot) is super tiny and only has ten people at it? Because decorating a small space is easy. And more importantly: decorating a small space costs significantly less than decorating a big space with the same amount of stuff. (Math! It’s never your friend.)

So if your wedding plans involve a big empty space (think social hall, rec room), it’s understandable if the prospect of decorating might be… daunting. Big empty spaces come with their own set of challenges: tiny details are liable to get swallowed up, but trying to tackle the question of scale without destroying your budget is hard. Which is why the answer for big empty spaces is often less about how you fill it, and more about how much you can fill it. Aka buying inexpensive decor in bulk. Think: paper streamers, honeycomb decorations, balloons, and anything else you can buy large quantities of, fill lots of space with, and not spend a million dollars on. But how do you do that without making your wedding look like a children’s birthday party?

The answer is: it’s all in the execution. So when our friends at Oh Happy Day launched their brand new party shop this month, we were pretty excited. While the online shop features some things you’ve probably seen before (honeycomb decorations, streamers, balloons), this #lazygirl is very into the idea of having it all in one place, curated by someone with a designer’s aesthetic, so I can give my Googling a rest. We thought we’d use the launch of their shop as an excuse to show you a bunch of different ideas for decorating big empty spaces with lots of cheap (cute) decor. Because with a cool idea, bulk decorations in a big empty space can actually look way more stylish than the intricate details you see on those fake weddings on Pinterest.

Just… don’t tell Pinterest I said that.

Cute Cheap Decor IdeasUse: Honeycomb diamonds ($7)

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

To Make: A cool oversized ceremony backdrop. Bonus: this design is scalable, so make it as huge as you want for a really oversized backdrop.

Cute Cheap Decor IdeasUse: Giant balloons ($5)

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

To Make: Have a space with really tall ceilings? Use giant balloons to make floating centerpieces that pack a lot of punch.

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

Or: If you don’t want to bother with helium (more on that below), stick big balloons to a wall for a big ass ceremony backdrop.

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

Use: Paper Garlands ($10)

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

To Make: A photo booth backdrop (or to highlight any other part of your reception.)

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

Use: Washi Tape ($4)

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

To Make: You don’t need to go for broke to make a cool backdrop or statement wall. Some strategically placed washi tape will suffice.

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

Use: Bright Balloons (6 for $6)

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

To Make: Sometimes you just gotta FILL the space. Colorful balloons are a cheap and effective way to do just that (and I think these dip-dyed ones would look super cool.)

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

Use: Honeycomb Balls ($7)

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

To Make: Honeycomb balls look great hanging from a ceiling or a tree, but you can use them pretty much anywhere, including as ad hoc wall decor.

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

Or: Use smaller honeycomb balls for an easy centerpiece.Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

Use: Mylar Numbers ($5.50)

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

To Make: Floating table numbers. Makes your table easy to find, and fills up lots of space. Win/win?Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

Or Use: Mylar Letters ($5.50)

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

To Make: A personalized ceremony backdrop.Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

Use: Geronimo Balloons ($60)

Cute Cheap Decor Ideas

To Make: A cool dance floor.

A note on setup: If you’re ordering balloons from a local party store, you should be able to order pre-inflated balloons. If you’re ordering from a place like Oh Happy Day, you’ll need to look into getting a helium tank. Call around your local party stores to ask about renting, or you can order one from Party City right here. For hanging paper products, Oh Happy Day’s Jordan recommends white gaffers tape for its staying power and because it won’t ruin walls.

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is APW’s Chief Revenue Officer. She’s been writing stories about boys, crushes, and relationships since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) from NYU in Entertainment and Mass Media in 2008. She now spends a significant amount of time thinking about trends on the internet and whether flower crowns will be out next year. A Maine native, Maddie currently lives on a pony farm in the Bay Area with her husband, Michael and their mastiff puppy. Current hair color: Purple(ish).

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • Lauren from NH

    Well this is fabulous timing! How does one keep balloons from popping in the heat of an outdoor August late afternoon wedding? Underinflate?

    • Lisa

      That would be my guess! (And it looks like the internet agrees.)

  • Nik4nac

    Math may not be friendly, but it’s certainly an indispensable minion.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      Sigh. I think we’re frienemies.

      ETA: But I can calculate a tip like nobody’s business! So…win/lose/draw?

  • jubeee

    I sort of love the mylar table numbers…

  • Kayjayoh

    Another thought for balloons, if you can’t or don’t want to deal with helium but want that “up” look, it to put the balloons on the ends of long sticks. Either actual “balloon sticks” or just long, thin rods of some type.

    http://shop.ohhappyday.com/products/jumbo-balloon-sticks

    • Alynae

      Center Piece solved! Wanted balloons without the hassle of helium. Thank you for being my favorite person today

    • That’s what we used! I wanted helium but didn’t realize what we were getting was the stick kind. It worked out fine.

    • kathleen smith

      (How i got my husband back with the prayers of Dr Akim )I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. I’d write all sorts of notes and questions and things I’d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would wonder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking about me too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart to find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love me and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right out of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school mate snatched my future husband away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with his prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com).

  • FancyPants

    I think those dip dyed balloons would be suhweeeet!!!

    I’m also in love with the honeycomb diamonds- a bit edgy and fun.

  • Nina

    Similar to the ideas in this post, we used tissue paper pom poms for decorations! You can make them ahead of time (they pack flat) and then just fluff and hang them up the day of. We went the to the Blick store and had them order the paper to be picked up in-store (easy way to avoid paying shipping). It was cheap, easy, portable to our destination wedding, and had a big impact!

    http://ohhappyday.com/2006/07/pom-poms/

  • Alyssa

    Um… gaffer’s tape is a horrible suggestion!
    That stuff will keep your decorations up, sure – but unless you’re putting it on bare concrete walls, it will almost certainly tear off paint/wallpaper! Maybe they meant painter’s tape or artist’s tape, which is not as strong (you might risk your decorations falling down) but definitely won’t cause damage upon removal.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      I thought the purpose of gaffers tape was to be strong, without leaving residue or peeling paint? Most of the reviews here seem to confirm that theory. Though maybe there are different kinds of gaffers tape? I’m not sure. Obviously you want to test before you go hanging lots of stuff willy nilly.

      http://www.amazon.com/ProTapes-Pro-Gaffers-Adhesive-Thickness/dp/B00DVCHPUW/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

    • Meg Keene

      Most pro decorators use gaff tape (I just interviewed a bunch of them on this subject for my book). Theatre pros do too. I think it’s a pretty solid suggestion. Painters tape is not going to hold things up.

      That said, be wise and test in advance, and be careful about what surfaces you use tape of any sort on. And please NEVER use tape on wallpaper. (And check with your venue, they usually have very specific restrictions on what you can and can’t use, based on a ton of experience.)

    • Alice

      Not sure where you’re located, but here in the UK people often call duct tape gaffer’s tape (and actual gaffer’s tape comes up so rarely in everyday life that I guess confusion just isn’t an issue?), is that what you’re thinking of?

    • heather_kaye

      Yeah, gaff or spike tape should absolutely not take up paint – that’s the whole point of it. (Side note – spike tape on the bottoms of borrowed items – can write on it or color code for different returns!)

  • SLG

    Possibly even cheaper than balloons, although slightly more work: pages from big-ass oversized used books that you pick up at a library book sale or used bookstore. Rip those pages out, tape a few together into an even larger square-ish sheet, pinch together the middle and wrap some tape around the pinched section in the back, and behold: a gigantic paper flower. (Kind of like crumpling tissue paper to put into a fancy gift bag, only a lot bigger.)

    This is how my amazing wedding-designer-friend decorated my big empty reception space. It was stunningly beautiful.

    • Caitlin

      Do you have any photos to share of this? it sounds awesome!

  • James Bogdan

    I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. I’d write all sorts of notes and questions and things I’d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would wonder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking about me too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart to find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love me and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right out of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school mate snatched my future husband away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with his prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com)..

  • Emily

    I was so excited by this site but then saw that international shipping is “coming soon”. Do you know when they will start shipping to Canada?

  • Balloons + Bunting + Scottish Highlands = Win.

  • Anon

    May I threadjack slightly for a décor-related question? We are thinking about decorating our cocktail hour area with wedding photos of our guests. It’s a very appealing idea to me for reasons of simplicity, inclusion, community, and conversation. However, I’m also kind of squicked out by the logistics – what about divorced guests? what about single guests? I guess it feels both inclusive and exclusive. Is this something that anyone has done or experienced at other weddings? How did it work out? (And if this is covered in another APW post, please feel free to direct me there; I did a quick search but didn’t see anything.)

    • kate

      i feel like either you go with just important photos of each guest (whether that ends up being a wedding photo or something else entirely) or you just have to accept it’s necessarily somewhat exclusive and just give people the opportunity to opt in at their comfort level, like when people do anniversary dances.

  • Ashley Meredith

    Um, this all looks like it would add up quickly. I mean, for that paper-garland “curtain,” you’re using a LOT of garlands – I counted 32 but that was probably low. At $10 a pop you’re looking at $320+ just for a 5-foot section of wall, and then you still have to deal with the rest of the space. Do I just have a different definition of “cheap” than everyone else or is this possibly still a bit… Pinterest-y?

  • I cringe whenever I see balloons being used as decorations — I have a latex allergy, and latex balloons in quantity would put me in the hospital. I know I am not unique in this, as I have two co-workers and two close friends who have the same issue.

    But I do love those mylar ones! :)

    • Amanda

      I cringed as well, but that’s because I’m *shameful whisper* afraid of balloons..

  • NParekh

    Hey Maddie Eisenhart I love your ideas on a budget friendly wedding. That way the couple can save up on the expenses and utilize the money to make their home or on their honeymoon. Your ideas about using balloons and paper art to decorate the venue are brilliant. Thank you so very much.

    http://www.parekhcards.com/

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  • aru mugam

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