Dinner parties are special, and it’s much about the experience as it is about the food and booze. If you’re hosting a party for friends, one of your goals perhaps is to make it classy and Instagram-worthy. But if you don’t want to spend a lot, you can still make it expensive-looking. You can have good food and good party with your good friends, and even impress them without overstepping your budget. All you need is to be crafty, be resourceful, and look for the best deals.
Here are some tips on how to throw a fabulous yet frugal dinner party:
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1. Invite your guests online
Creating invitations and mailing them out costs unnecessary money and is time consuming. Even calling them out one by one is. The best way to invite your guests is by sending an invite online. This way, you don’t have to give out directions to your house repeatedly to different people, and so as you won’t end up with 7 baskets of muffins at a potluck. Use your digital creativity and create a classy, digital invitation and send them out through e-mail. You can add directions, what to bring to your house and then easily receive their updates. Or you can try making online invitations through sites like Punchbowl.com, Smilebox.com and Evite.com.
But one of the best option would be Facebook. Almost all of your friends have a Facebook account that they usually check, right? Through Facebook, you can create an event and invite all the guests you’d like, then manage who’s coming and who’s not. Through the event page, you can relay important information, and send out messages to the group. If ever you’re having a potluck, you and your guests can easily distribute the food assignments to bring.
2. Keep the menu simple
Make menu decisions easier by coming up with a theme and sticking to it. This can help you narrow down your food choices, so you won’t end up spending a lot on food. For instance, you can go for Italian style dinner, so you will most probably cook up some pasta, and your guests can bring some bruschetta or margherita pizza.
You should also pick dishes that are made of ingredients that you’d most probably use after the party. Surely, you’d be shopping for ingredients, but there can be excesses. You don’t want to buy a lot of wasabi if you’re not fond of it. Also, don’t prepare something that you’ve never tried out before. The worst time to try and learn cooking a recipe is when you’ve got a dinner party to serve. It can be stressful for you, as you don’t know how it would turn out, and add to that the pressure of serving it to other people. Choose a menu that you’re familiar with preparing and had great success.
3. Make it a potluck
Really, the best way to save money on a dinner party is to answer the question that your guests will most likely ask: “What should I bring?” Since you’re the host, make sure you’d prepare the main course. Then, ask your guests to bring food that can complement your main course, like bread, liquor, appetizers and desserts. If you invited them on an event group, you can leave the choice to them.
4. Serve one spectacular entrée as star of the night
Always go for quality over quantity. Focus your efforts in perfecting one delicious entrée, rather than making multiple entrees that all taste sub-par. You can serve more, but go for inexpensive yet imaginative, and make sure there’s one main dish with a perfect taste that will surely be the star of the night.
Serve your main dish in this beautiful, rectangular platter. Sometimes, the most delicious food you serve isn’t the most picture-perfect, but this platter can elevate any dish.
5. Add inexpensive yet classy ambiance
In a dinner party, guests will most remember the laughs, the conversations and the delicious food served. But still, a classy and beautiful décor can do a lot to create the right ambiance. You can impress your guests with elegant yet inexpensive touches like vases, mason jars and faux flowers. Fresh flowers can cost a lot and last only for a few weeks, but fake ones so long. Get this clear, twist-block glass vase and display these pretty faux peonies to add a classy feel to your dinner table or buffet.
6. Cover your old table
You may not have that perfect, smooth looking table that is presentable enough, but that’s okay. You can add a table cover. Adding a table cover can also add to the ambiance of your dinner, so choose a design and color that is suitable for your motif for the night (if you have any). But if fabric table covers are outdated for your taste, you can opt for contact paper that you can lay over your table to add a fake new finish. This marble contact paper can hide the imperfections on your table and give it a sophisticated marble look.
7. Pick up some pretty disposables
Doing the dishes on a party sucks. No one enjoys that while other people are sharing stories and laughing post-dinner. Make it easy for yourself by providing pretty paper plates and elegant plastic flatware.
Use this light purple plate with rose gold foil as your plates, and these pale pink plates with gold stripes as your dessert plates. These look so pretty and so in line with the pop design trends today – you’d be sure that at least one guest will take a pic and upload it on Instagram. Pair these plates with these beautiful gold plastic cutlery set that doesn’t look like plastic unless picked up.
8. Get cheap yet sophisticated place settings
If you’re in for the real thing, find cheap yet sophisticated-looking plates and flatware. You can never go wrong with square white plates and simple silver cutlery that looks nice enough to seem like they’re eating in a restaurant. Avoid picking up plates with too much design – the simpler, the better.
Also, when hosting a dinner party, serve drinks elegantly. Providing your guests with proper glassware (and not disposable cups) says you’re responsible enough to handle fragile items filled with alcohol. Get this elegant set of 4 wine glasses with beautiful, handcrafted gold details. It looks really special and elegant.
9. Add mood lighting
What’s more romantic than candlelight on an intimate dinner? Setting the mood through lighting can make a big impact on your dinner – it will look and feel more exquisite and expensive, even though you’re serving the simplest foods like mac and cheese.
Candles are great, but they’re a fire hazard (and may set off your smoke alarm). Cute little LED tea lights are your next best option, such as this fake candle. These may be fake, but they’re realistic enough to look like real candles – all with that uneven “melted wax” parts – to set the mood correctly.
10. Skip the fancy wines
There are a lot of cheap yet quality wines out there, so there’s no need to buy a fancy bottle. An inexpensive but great-tasting wine is enough to please your guests. This sparkling wine is a bubbly, dry and crisp wine that goes with anything.
11. Keep desserts sweet and simple
After filling your guests with a tasty dinner, you don’t need an extravagant dessert. Sometimes, fresh fruit pieces like berries are enough. You can also serve ice cream or caramelized apples. Or perhaps, prepare an easy-to-make dessert like truffles.
12. Provide free and fun entertainment
Once you’ve taken care of the dinner portion of the evening, games can liven up the atmosphere and start the real “party.” This is where you can serve coffee, wine, dessert or chips on the living room. It’s also the time to bring out some party games, like Apples to Apples, UNO Card game and Cards Against Humanity. You can also play classic games without a board, like charades or fishbowl.