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Image / Editorial

Planning a dinner party? Tips for hosting on a budget


by Megan Burns
28th Dec 2019
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Just because you’re having people round doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. Here are a few helpful tips that will prevent you from panic-buying, and create a relaxed atmosphere at your gathering.


In her latest cookbook, Nothing FancyUS cook Alison Roman makes the argument that having people over doesn’t mean you have to suddenly turn your home into a Michelin-starred restaurant. And while she’s focusing on creating laid-back dishes, we’re firm believers that this philosophy should extend to your whole evening.

Just as your friends aren’t expecting you to serve up carrot reductions and flavoured foam, neither will they feel at ease with an overly-formal table setting. This relaxed vibe is the key to creating a dinner party that everyone will enjoy – including you. Here are some tips to make everything look great, without spending a fortune.

Nothing has to match…

…and it will probably look better if it doesn’t. Our ultimate dinner party table has an eclectic mix of glasses, cutlery and dinnerware, because a) it looks so much more layered and interesting, and b) who has ten plates that look the same, anyway?

If you’re really short on something such as bowls or glasses, check out your local charity shop for a cheap place to pick up some really good-quality items that will add to the mix-and-match vibe. Also if you hadn’t heard, chintz is back, so there’s no need to shy away from delicate floral patterns.

Nature is the ultimate free decoration

There’s no need to go out and buy flowers to decorate your table. No matter what the season, there’s something outside you can adorn your table with. While spring and summer will provide plentiful wild blooms, in autumn and winter you can go for berry-adorned twigs, evergreen foliage and dried seed heads.

Either placed in vases or simply laid on the table, whatever you pick will instantly make your table feel seasonal and welcoming.

Get guests to bring what you’re missing 

dinner party on a budget
Lamorran Serving Bowl, from €15, Neptune

If you don’t have a certain item like a salad bowl or a coffee pot big enough to serve everyone, there’s no need to rush out to the shops. Simply ask one of your friends who does to bring theirs. If they forget to bring it home with them, it’s just a great excuse for them to call around again to pick it up.

Keep it simple 

dinner party on a budget
Vardagen Carafe with lid, €3.50, Ikea

Drinks can be an expensive aspect of having people over, but you don’t have to spend a fortune trying to please everyone. Ask guests to bring their favourite tipple, so there’s no guesswork involved.

For non-alcoholic options, a clear jug and some fruit slices or mint sprigs are all it takes to jazz up water, whether it’s straight from the tap or own-brand sparkling.

Candles make all the difference

dinner party on a budget
Handmade stoneware tealight holder, around €14, Rowen & Wren

It doesn’t matter if your chairs are a bit scuffed or you forgot the napkins – as long as you have candles on the table, your gathering will have a relaxed, cosy atmosphere.

They don’t need to be fancy, either. Plain white dinner candles or tealights are perfect. Simply stick them in an empty bottle or set them on a saucer and let their flickering glow take centre stage.

Featured image: Zara Home


Read more: Bathroom refresh: The accessories to buy if you can’t afford a total revamp

Read more: This vintage-filled Belfast apartment was once part of a military hospital

Read more: Put down the takeaway menu and get cooking with these kitchen essentials

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