The holiday season is an ideal time to turn down that hectic schedule and reunite with family and friends. Many of us shy away from planning a private celebration because we think that the cost will deplete our budget. Not true. Special event planners Hershelle Burton and Rehea Gomez, co owners of Velvet Rope Ink, LLC offer tips on how to plan, execute and enjoy a holiday party.
“If you follow a few frugal steps you can host a party that won’t break your bank,” says Burton. Gomez adds, “You can plan cocktails, brunch or dinner as long as you stick to a financial plan and a few guidelines.” The event-planning duo offers five top money saving ideas for all three types of parties:
1. Use Your Inventory: Add to what you have. “Use dinner plates as platters and buy small cocktail plates,” says Burton, adding that this way people won’t over eat. “It creates simple elegance when you have one color.” Try all white, silver or red.
2. Choose a Few Finger Foods: Stick to three or less. “Don’t be afraid to buy appetizers from the supermarket,” says Burton. “It cuts down on time and cost.” Buying ingredients to make appetizers can put a dent in your pocketbook. She also advises, “Make sure that you following cooking instructions carefully. You don’t want to loose track of time and possibly over cook them.”
3. Make a Signature Cocktail: Instead of offering several drinks, make one signature cocktail. “Liquor can drive up a budget like crazy,” says Gomez. “And it’s fun to give your drink a catchy name for the holiday season.” Try the Cranberry Sparkle:
1/2 ounce Amaretto
2 ounces cranberry juice
Add Champagne for sparkle
Frozen cranberries to keep drink cool (optional)
4. Embrace Dollar Décor: “Don’t be afraid to shop at the dollar store,” says Gomez. “Think of it as savvy versus cheap.” You can buy candleholders with tea lights which make a beautiful candle lit room. There’s no need for plastic when you can buy champagne and wine glasses for about a dollar each. Simple glassware is elegant.
5. Pre-plan Your Playlist: Your playlist sets the mood for the evening. “If time doesn’t allow you to hand select songs, use Pandora or Spotify and they can do it for you,” says Burton. Select appropriate music– it’s not a dance party so easy listening, and jazz are best, she says.
"Frittatas are filling and simple to prepare,” says Burton. “You can make several to satisfy different needs” (with meat and veggie options). “Pop them in the oven and they’re done,” she says. “Add a fresh fruit platter and mimosas and you have a complete meal!” It’s cost effective and also takes less time. Stick to light pastries. Think croissant or mini muffin opposed to bagels.
Keep your main entrée to a one-pot meal. “Lasagna or linguine with spicy shrimp are great options,” says Gomez. “They both require minimum ingredients while a long recipe can hike up your budget.” Also consider a big protein meal with a ham or a chicken oven stuffer. Then just add potatoes and a veggie. Your starter can be a salad. “Add nuts, fruits and cranberries to make a festive and fuller bodied salad,” says Gomez. One bottle of wine pours for five people. So it’s also great to accept host gifts of wine.
This soiree calls for the most variety. Puff pastries, crab rolls, pigs in the blanket, chicken patties, and Swedish meatballs are a few popular options. “But only select three or four at most,” says Gomez. A cheese platter with at least two or ideally three selections adds to your holiday variety. Include Gouda or Gruyere, Goat/Chèvre or Brie, and finally a cheddar or blue cheese. The final touch is your signature drink.
“The point of any gathering is to fellowship with your guests,” says Gomez. “So you want to cut down your time in the kitchen and mingle more with your guests.” Burton adds, “When you’re serving water or soda put it into a pitcher. No bottles and cans on tables. Keep everything lovely and elegant that way no one knows you’re on a budget. Presentation is everything!”