How to Entertain on a Budget
How to Entertain on a Budget
Hosting the perfect summer bash doesn't have to be an expensive endeavor. Click through the gallery to see 8 wallet-friendly party tips from food and decor experts like David Stark, Preston Bailey, Cat Cora and more.
Throw a Dessert Party
Prepping a multi-course meal can be tiring-and costly. Instead, event designer Jung Lee of Fête suggests sticking to a single theme-like a dessert party-that guests will love. Go for bite-size treats like macaroons (Lee likes the ones from Trader Joe's) and mochi ice cream balls. Or try something unexpected, like frozen fruit. "About five hours before I'm going to serve them, put a few bunches of clean seedless grapes in the freezer," says famed event planner David Stark. "You think you're eating ice cream-totally refreshing and without all of the guilt!"
Skip the Meat
Cooking vegetarian can simplify your shopping list and keep prices down. "You can make a lot of great appetizers with chickpeas and crostinis," said Cat Cora, co-host of Bravo's Around the World in 80 Plates. And if you think guests will really miss it, reserve a nicer protein for one special dish. "If the starter is vegetarian, you can just use meat for the entree which will save you money on the meal,” Cora said.
Stick to One Drink
Choose a signature cocktail so you don't have to fully stock the bar. Ask your guests in advance if they have a special drink they love, or choose something you know will work for everyone. "So often we see mixologists bend over backwards to come up with that new drink," says Stark. "For me, the second summer hits, I go basic Italian chic: Campari and soda."
Only Serve Wine and Cheese
"Instead of inviting friends over for a full dinner which could be both expensive and a ton of work, invite them to join you for an early evening wine and cheese party," says Stark. To create a festive buffet, pick up artisan cheeses from local green markets to get the best prices. "I roll a length of butcher paper down my dining table with cutting boards on top and write the names of the cheeses directly on the paper," Stark adds. "It looks cool, and it's functional too."
Be Your Own Florist
"I do my own flowers," said Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Kyle Richards. "I stuff a vase with lemons and limes, and I use that at the base to stick the flowers in." To keep prices down, choose seasonal, local blooms which will be easiest to find anyway. "I'm a big fan of summer sunflowers," event and wedding planner Preston Bailey said. "I also use a lot of hydrangea, allium, asters, dalhia, delphinium and gladiolas."
Be a Minimalist
Place candles strategically around the dining area for a basic (and affordable) touch that makes a big difference. "Group 8 to 10 candles together on silver tray for soft romantic lighting," said Janet Rice, designer at Janet Rice Interiors. "Glass votive candles can be purchased inexpensively at Pottery Barn." A box of 16 runs for $24 at potterybarn.com.
"Shop" Within Your Home
When planning an outdoor party, see what items in your house can do double duty before buying anything new. "I love to 'borrow' indoor pillows to add to an outdoor furniture ensemble," said Estee Stanley, interior decorator and founder of new wallet-friendly home goods collection, HomeMint. "If you treat your fabric pillows with Scotch Guard (spray at least a foot away to avoid saturating the fabric), it makes caring for them a breeze," Stanley said. After the party, wipe pillows with a fine bristle brush, followed by a slightly damp cloth to remove dirt. "Allow to dry, and they're ready to put back where they belong!" She loves these Market Pillows [left] from her HomeMint Collection ($45-$60 each for members; $60-$80 each for non-members).
Look to Nature
"Pieces of driftwood make an elegant, yet organic tablescape," says party planner and host of reality TV series My Fair Wedding, David Tutera. "Place a few along the center of your table at varying heights and angles, and tuck votive candles within the design for a chic look." Don't live near the beach? "Check your backyard for lightly colored branches of the same feel," Tutera adds. "Clean them off with water, allow them to dry, and you're ready to entertain!"