One of the things I love most about the holidays is spending time with friends and family, especially ones you don’t get to see very often. But the costs of hosting can get out of control, especially if you’re entertaining for a big group or hosting more than one get-together.
Our house has a good layout for parties: one big living room/kitchen/dining room that makes our small space look a lot bigger and gives people plenty of places to mingle and break off into small groups. So we usually end up hosting a few parties over the holidays: my immediate family, sometimes The Hubby’s extended family (it’s on a rotating schedule), and usually a New Year’s party for our friends.
Which could get ridiculously pricey.
Here are some of the ways we’ve managed to make things merry without totally blowing our December budget:
Especially with an extended family, having everyone bring their own dish can be essential to keeping costs reasonable (and keep you from spending the entire party in the kitchen). Give everyone enough advance notice, and assign everyone a certain dish. Several people can bring sides like salads, casseroles and veggie dishes; several people can bring desserts; a few people can bring a bottle of wine or their favorite spirit.
Most people love sharing one of their signature dishes and hearing compliments like “Who made the sweet potatoes? They’re amazing!” For our New Year’s party, we usually have our friends each bring a dish that’s traditional for their family get-togethers, which is a really fun way to try different cultural dishes and get a glimpse into other people’s traditions.
We just don’t have the room for a big, formal sit-down dinner, so we don’t have to worry about setting out a super-fancy table with chargers and centerpieces and all that jazz. But even if you do have a big dining room table, why not use it as a serving station and let people graze throughout the party? It makes things feel a lot more casual, it gives you one less thing to worry about decorating, and it keeps you away from awkward situations like your two very political uncles deciding to sit next to each other and debate throughout the entire dinner.
Who says things have to be fancy?
When we threw our first holiday party in our new house, we didn’t have all the table linens, matching dishes, and boxes of decorations we do now. But you know what? Nobody cared! We put out our mismatched half-sets of dishes, decked our little 4-foot tree from our apartment, and used holiday mix CDs and scented candles to give the place a sense of festivity and ambiance. And nobody…not even my normally hard-to-impress M.I.L….said anything except “What a cute house you have!” or “Thank you so much for hosting everyone this year!”
If anyone wants a 5-course meal with an elaborate themed decorating scheme, they can crash Martha Stewart’s Christmas party. Our friends and family just want to spend some time together and have fun.
How do you save on holiday entertaining?
photo credit: Laenulfean