Maybe you want to unveil your new digs or you're itching to show off the culinary skills you've honed in that class you signed up for. Either way, a dinner party is a great reason to get all of your friends together for a memorable night in. However, these events can get expensive between the gourmet bites and luxe decor.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to have a gathering that's wallet-friendly and still wins over all your guests.
Pick a theme
There's no reason that a dinner party has to mean five-course meals and white tablecloths. In fact, picking a clever theme can not only add a creative twist to the event, but also keeps costs down. For example, why not throw a Parisian-style picnic? You won't even have to worry about seating - simply toss some picnic blankets onto your backyard or even on your floor indoors. Crusty baguette sandwiches with simple ingredients can make the meal. Or you could go for a Spanish-themed tapas night - serving small plates can help you conserve your spending and having a variety of different tastes will keep attendees happy.
Pay attention to small details
It's truly the little things that count when it comes to impressing your guests. For example, slicing citrus fruits into water can make it look a lot fancier, as can adding herbs to your ice cube trays. Don't have the right serving dishes or bowls for your dessert? Make mini versions in shot glasses - they'll look cuter and you'll also cut costs. Presentation is key, and even the simplest garnish can make a plain dish look a whole lot more appetizing. If you're serving up Chinese, why not use those classic cardboard takeout boxes? You could even buy some inexpensive reusable chopsticks that your guests can take home as a souvenir. Personalized place settings can make a big difference, too. Slice open some wine corks, write your guests' names on small index cards and insert them into the corks for a quirky touch.
Choose cocktails that are a cinch
You don't have to splurge for top shelf wine to make your dinner party a classy affair. It's easy to find a decent Moscato or red blend without breaking the bank, and the sweeter, cheaper varieties lend themselves best to sangria. Try Cook's Illustrated recipe, which just requires 1 juiced orange, 1 sliced orange, 1 large sliced lemon, 1/4 cup granulated white sugar, 1/4 cup triple sec and 1 bottle of fruity red wine. After taste testing this sangria, the magazine found that people actually preferred it with inexpensive wine.