Dinner Party On A Budget

By Michaela Lange  •  August 04, 2015

When I was little, my parents hosted a dinner party every year the night before Christmas. I was always so excited and waited in anticipation for the day. My mom would take me to an array of stores to help her pick out napkins and table cloths and would ask for my opinion on appetizers: bread and cheese board or mini quiches? An hour beforehand, I would put on my pretty crimson Christmas dress and wait excitedly by the door to greet all our friends and family. We still do that dinner party to this day, and after years of training, I feel like I have become a semi-professional dinner party planner. Throughout the years I’ve picked up on some great, little ways to throw a party without tossing money away. So here are some budget-friendly ways for you to throw a party of your own:

Invitations for Your Dinner Party

If you want to fully commit to your dinner party, I recommend using invitations rather than email or text. Invitations by Dawn has some really tasteful cards that are specifically designed for dinner parties and go for as low as $1.53 per invite. These classy cards are a perfect way to start off a perfect party.

If you are throwing a big party and feel that an electronic invitation will be the best option, Paperless Post is the way to go. Paperless Post is a website that helps you tailor your cards to your specific style and gives you the option of sending them electronically or through card and envelope. If you have difficulty with design aesthetics, please don’t worry; Paperless Post has some very stylish pre-made invites for you to fully take advantage of. The best thing about Paperless Post is that many of their pre-made cards are free.

Décor for Your Dinner Party

A nice dinner party calls for nice décor, and it is great when you can find all that décor in the same place. Cost Plus World Market and Party City both offer budget-friendly dinner party must-haves all in one convenient location.

  • Coordinate your napkins and tablecloths. Cost Plus World Market has an assortment of napkins and tablecloths to choose from in different colors, making them easy to fit into any color scheme.
  • Organize your dinnerware. If your household includes children, I am guessing that half of your nice kitchenware is chipped and the other half probably has pictures of Disney cartoons on it. Great for the kids but not very dinner party friendly. If this sounds like your situation, the best thing to do is go with fancy plastic ware. Both Party City and Walmart have wide selections of plastic plates that are fit enough for your wedding, much less your dinner party. Some prices are as low as $10.00. Posh Party Supplies also has great plastic dinnerware on their site that comes in “Event Packages”. These packages are marked with the amount of guests they serve and are a great way to take the guessing game out of how much of an item you need to purchase.
  • Update your serving ware. One of my favorite dinner party items is a cheese board I found at Cost Plus World Market. It is a slate cheese board with a chalkboard-finished surface. Your party guests will adore seeing the cheeses arranged with their names written right next to them on the board. It is a great conversation piece. The board also comes with three pieces of stone chalk for convenience and costs only $15.00. Another handy item to have is a warming plate. This is an electronic plate that plugs in and keeps food warm and serving ready. These are handy for warm appetizers and main course meats. Overstock.com has a great one for $49.28.

Food for Your Dinner Party

Food can be the most challenging of all the components of a dinner party. I mean, who cares about pretty plates and fancy cards if the meat is under cooked and the pasta is over cooked? It is important to have your guests leave happy and cured of their hunger. After all, it is a DINNER party.

  • Take advantage of Harry and David for a stress free meal. My mom once told me pre-dinner party, when in doubt over dishes think, “What would David and Harry do?” I had no idea what this meant at the time and thought to myself, “Who are Harry and David? Probably Mom’s coworkers.” but now I understand the power of this company’s ability to make life easier. Harry and David offers prepared appetizers, entrees and sides for dinner parties. Some of their entrees may look expensive, but are definitely not as expensive as buying a bunch of ingredients to end up using only half. Plus, Harry and David’s prepared meals make up for the hours of cooking you would have potentially done.
  • Make potlucks your friend. This way everyone is chipping in on the food and your savings account won’t hate you. Most people love to contribute, and you get a variety of food to pass around the table. This is also diet friendly because most people tend to make dishes that go along with their diet regimen.
  • Make your own pizzas. A lot of guests love this because it unites everyone in the cooking process. Plus, your guests can tailor their pizzas to their own preferences.
  • Finish off with an ice cream bar. After sending out invitations, setting a table, AND making a fabulous dinner, do you really feel like making an apple pie or baking an assortment of cookies? Go with an ice cream bar instead. This way you can buy a couple of different flavors and an assortment of toppings, and call it a day. Not only is it convenient, it is cost effective. Also, ice cream bars are allergy, diet, and pressure friendly. If a friend allows a certain diet (vegan, lactose-free) or has a certain allergy you will be able to accommodate that person without affecting the whole group. Furthermore, if a guest is a really healthy eater or is watching his or her weight, they will not feel pressured to eat your dessert because you didn’t physically spend the hours making it.

While you have to spend to create a great dinner party, that doesn’t mean it has to cost a month’s rent. So have fun, and start planning that party you’ve always wanted to throw!

Michaela Lange Michaela Lange Michaela is an editorial intern and full-time student at WashU in St. Louis. Although she hails from sunny Southern California she has spent the past few years in Massachusetts in search of Boston’s best clam chowder and combating both the Polar Vortex and Snowpocalypse.

Leave a comment