Entertaining friends and family is one of the most exciting aspects of the holiday season. But during a time of year famous for gift shopping and traveling, your party-hosting dollars may be stretched especially thin. You know to keep the guest list short and sweet, to opt for store-brand and in-bulk party foods, to DIY Pinterest decorations, and to get those ugly Christmas sweaters from Goodwill and not the mall. Now here’s a cost-cutting party trick you may not yet know: choose a specific theme and stick with it. An edited party plan is more fun for less money. We have four ideas to inspire you.
Winter Wonderland Brunch
A midday get together is nice because it fits easily into everyone’s packed November/December schedules, and because breakfast and lunch foods tend to be much less expensive than dinner meals. Whip up a big batch of crepes ahead of time. They keep surprisingly well, are arguably easier than pancakes, and are made of basic staples: eggs, milk, butter and flour. Crepes can be made several days ahead of your brunch and then rewarmed. Serve them buffet style with an assortment of sweet and savory seasonal fillings for your guests to choose from, such as cranberry sauce, Nutella, ham and cheese, or spinach and eggs.
Much of your décor can be borrowed directly from nature: think pinecones dusted with glitter and arranged in a bowl for your centerpiece, and similarly sparkly pine boughs draped around tables and shelves. For the price of some plain old paper, you can adorn the walls with dainty snowflake chains. Put together a soundtrack of seasonal music for your soiree or select from pre-curated playlists by free streaming services like Spotify or Pandora, and then get ready to welcome guests to your inexpensive winter wonderland.
Wine Tasting Party
If you go by the traditional rule of three glasses of wine per person for a dinner party, your hosting budget can go by the wayside quickly. But no way are you going to serve your guests cheap wine—so what to do? Try a wine tasting party theme and ask each of your (of course, 21 years of age or older) guests to bring one bottle of their favorite wine to share. Then you supply the food for the event. That way, the bill is divvied up evenly, and your guests get to enjoy showing off their wine expertise while taking part in an elegantly themed evening.
Offer your guests budget-conscious light appetizers like homemade crostini with your choice of dips, baked ham and cheese rollups, and mini meatballs. You can create a deceptively upscale ambiance with the artful addition of decorative lighting. Candles always feel fancy, yet a bag of classy white tea lights can be purchased for less than $10. And you likely already have some white string lights taken out of storage for the season, which can be gracefully looped along the walls for your wine tasting.
Brave the chilly air with your guests to take advantage of the beautiful winter scenery and plentiful outdoor activities that southwest and central Virginia have to offer—at little or no cost. Take guests to Elmwood on Ice for a few hours of ice skating against the backdrop of downtown Roanoke, for just $6 admission and $2 for skate rentals. Or go snow sledding down one of the many hills in our region.
Back at home after the outdoor fun, warm up your guests with steaming mugs of hot chocolate and cider. You can even set up a trendy hot chocolate station. Mini-sandwiches and a big batch of soup cooked ahead in a crockpot, plus some seasonal cookies for dessert, make an inexpensive but thoroughly satisfying après-outdoors meal. This is a great party theme for kids, adults, or a mixture of both.