Picture it: a florescent lit, utilitarian, condo party room, a plastic table covering, random paper plates, white plastic forks and disposable, plastic wine glasses. There was a cheese plate – well, there was one block of cheese sliced onto a paper plate, and there was charcuterie – rounds of salami sliced onto another plate. Music came from someone’s iphone plugged into the wall, laying on the floor in the corner (no docking station).
The whole thing was a bit depressing. We seriously doubt that’s what the host had in mind when planning for an early summer birthday bash.
We’re bracing for outraged tweets and comments, but we’re going on record saying momentous occasions – whether it be simple afterwork cocktails, bridal showers or big-time birthday bashes – deserve a bit of extra thought.
Food, drink and decor are the three things that make a party a celebration, and we’re here to tell you, you don’t have to break the bank in order to hit your party out of the park.
Instead of giving guests the vague assignment of bringing ” dessert” or “wine” get specific. Like, really specific. Specific like, “please bring 2 bottles of Tempranillo (“this bottle” is under $15),” or “please make your killer guacamole (enough for 15 people),” or “please bring 3 pounds of bagged ice.”
(You may even want to assign each guest or couple a food/drink item and something for the decor as you will read below).
And PS, the only way you’re going to be able to get what you need and want, is to know what you need and want. That means taking some time to create a game plan then writing out a list of who’s coming and what you need to get this party off the ground.
Cheese boards, seafood and pre-made, ready-to-bake hors d’oeuvres can get really pricey. Or worse yet, if you decide to splurge on these items but not fully commit (think of that frozen, grocery-store shrimp ring), it can look cheap and lacklustre.
You’re better off to skip it all together and go with tasty, yet value-driven, crowd pleasing snacks.
Items like steamed and salted edamame, sausage rolls, dips with artisan bread or kettle chips, hummus and vegetables, devilled eggs and gougères are all easy to make and can feed a party for only a few bucks per item.
Consider the timing of your soirée. Hosting a party outside of meal times means you can get away with less food, so start your shindig after 7pm, or in the afternoon. For earlier parties be sure to specify an end time so it doesn’t spill over into an unexpected dinner party.
If you really want to host a meal, a terrific money-saving option is brunch, where mimosas and frittatas are elegant, yet cheap to serve.
If you really want to stretch your dollar, but not look like a cheapskate, serve punches and pitcher drinks like Sangria, where you can get away with using a (quality) inexpensive wine or alcohol base, and stretch it out with juices, sodas or fruit.
The right lighting, tablescapes and music can elevate your event… And the wrong elements can completely flatten it.
Repurpose what you already have: cut flowers from your garden, or use fresh herbs for centre pieces. Mix and match glassware for vases – or like pictured above, hit up the recycling bin for a cute spin on decor.
When you’ve tapped out your own inventory, using the same theory as the pot luck example above, ask friends to borrow white Christmas lights, or patio lanterns, or tiki torches, or tea lights, or whatever they have that will work in your space and with your theme.
Get your ironic, jazz loving, hipster cousin to create a killer party playlist (or just google it).
And get friends to loan you pitchers, vases, dishes or glassware to fill in the gaps of what you may be missing from your own inventory.
Have a little fun exploring thrift, craft and dollar stores. Let you imagination run a little wild and think about repurposing items for another use – maybe that ornate picture frame can become a plate charger, or a bright flower pot can be used as a salad bowl. Unexpected pieces can be conversation points and infuse a little “wow” into your party.
No matter what, if you’re hosting a crowd, you will have to pony up some cash, but a little preparation and planning can help ease the burn on your wallet.
First of all, rarely do your soirées come out of the blue. Birthdays, holidays, graduations and anniversaries all come with a bit of warning (New Year’s Eve is always on December 31st), so if you’re going to host a gathering to mark such an honour, start figuring things out a few months in advance.
We have private clients who we meet with a few times a year to go over their social calendar and plan out the wines they will want for each occasion – not only does it allow for proper budgeting, it saves a ton of last-minute stress.
By giving yourself a bit of time to figure out what you’re going to do and what you’ll need, you can save up and budget accordingly so you can pull off a fabulously stress-free party on a dime.
Want some help taking your next event from standard to Sparkling? Send us an email or join us on social media