How to host a dinner party on a budget

This article will help you to pl your next dinner party with success. Follow my simple steps to see how to host a dinner party on a budget.

One thing I love to do is decorate for entertaining. I think it is the Interior Decorator in me that comes out. But I also think it’s a form of self expression, art and creativity and some of us just thrive of being able to express ourselves creatively in different ways.

Hosting a dinner party or any function for that matter, can be stressful, but with a bit of planning and a budget, you can have a successful function.

A lot of people think that dinner party’s or functions that involve a lot of people must mean that you need a lot of money in order to pull it off. This is not true. Today, I will share my tips and tricks to hosting a dinner party with a set budget and ways to make it look fancy without spending a lot.

Plan, plan, plan

But first of all, always write a plan. What do you plan?

  • your menu
  • guest list
  • seating arrangement
  • music playlist
  • flower arrangements
  • table arrangements
  • cleaning schedule (especially if you are hosting it at your home)
  • menu (prepping and cooking time lines and well as times for desserts to set)
  • shopping list

With planning, everything is likely to go to schedule which will reduce the stress and anxiety and give yourself time for any last minute hiccups. Since I run a bakery, everything has to run to plan and scheduling , likewise, being organized can extend to other avenues of your life.

Tips on Flowers

You don’t need to spend a fortune on flowers or order fancy bouquets from florists. Here are my top tips for making ONE bouquet of shop bought flowers stretch…

  • Choose flowers that will match the overall feel and color scheme of your evening, make sure they will compliment things like your tablecloth, candles and surroundings.
  • Buy your flowers the day before your function. This will ensure they are still fresh for the day.
  • Have some Florist foam and moss on hand. (Tip: you can buy both at the Crazy store for a fraction of what a florist will charge you)
  • Avoid dumping the flowers in a vase “as is” because this will likely be too tall for the table, obstructing the view of your guests and also you are thus likely to need more than one arrangement if you do this.
  • Use greenery from your garden.

With the arrangement above, I bought a bouquet of flowers and laid them out on my kitchen counter. I then searched my home for what I had lying around. I found this pretty frame that I almost threw out. The glass panels were missing which ended up being the perfect piece! I then got two plastic containers and cut florist foam to fit snugly into each container and filled them with water to soak the foam.

I then placed a single white candle in the center of each container and from there started to insert the flowers into the foam. I did so making sure the arrangement looked balanced. I also used greenery from my garden to fill in the gaps. Pieces of lavender and Australian Cherry branches did a wonderful job.

Cutting your flowers to different lengths can also help to hide holes. Finally when you are finished with placing your flowers, fill in the gaps around the bottom with moss and leaves left over from the bouquet.

The above photo shows a smaller arrangement made from the same single bouquet. Decide beforehand what will make the main centerpiece and what flowers can make up smaller arrangements. This depends on the amount of people per table, and the size of your table. In this instance I had a dinner party for 14 people and so set two tables together. I placed the main centerpiece in the middle of the two tables, overlapping both tables and then I had the arrangement above (ideally I should of had two, but I kept some of of the flowers to decorate my cakes for the evening)

This arrangement was simple to make: Take a glass Jar and place a piece of florist foam inside. Make sure it fits snugly inside. Fill it with water and leave it to soak up the water. ( you don’t want to fill it with too much water as it can cause the foam to start floating up)

I then placed the candle inside the foam and arranged a few flowers and greenery around the candle. Using a brown paper bag, I then placed the jar inside the bag and tied brown kraft string abound it.

Dinnerware and Cutlery

Tips for dinnerware.

  • You can’t go wrong with white dinnerware. It goes with everything. Keeping your basics neutral, allows you to bring in other colors by means of napkins or other decorative pieces. I always make sure I have at least 12-16 white dinner plates and side plates on hand. Over time they will chip or break, so just replace as you need. This way you never have to worry about a set going out of style or being discontinued. Even if the white plates themselves are not exactly the same, they will still look uniform.
  • Cutlery: Choose a standard stainless steel cutlery set that you can add to over time. It will be classic and never go out of style.


Personally I find a white tablecloth creates a neutral background. It is less distracting and allows you to build a theme and colors for the rest of the table. I always have a few on hand which I bleach when they get stained. A great way to save money is also to go to your local fabric shop and buy a plain non-expensive cotton fabric per meter and if you sew, all you have to do is sew the seams.

Place settings

Here are my tips for place settings:

  • LAYERS: a layered place setting creates depth and interest and also creates the illusion of something more fancy!
  • It is worth investing in a set of solid place holders. (I have a set of beautiful floral ones and a set of silver ones and they go together beautifully.)
  • Layer as so: Place holder, Dinner plate, side plate and even soup bowl if you will be serving soup.
  • Napkin: Either opt for Plain white linen napkins which you can reuse (and bleach if stained) or opt for paper napkins. Paper napkins allow an element of fun and color to your table, but it depends on the type of mood you want to create. (For a more formal occasion, opt for white napkins, whereas for a more causal one, use paper napkins)
  • Overwhelming your guests with cutlery if it is not necessary. There is nothing worse then sitting down to eat and you have 3 different knives and 3 different forks and no idea where to start. A simple knife and fork and dessert fork or spoon will suffice.
  • Don’t forget a wine glass and a Normal glass for water for each person. These go on the right of each person just above the knife.
  • Wipe everything with a clean kitchen cloth before use, making sure no fingerprints are visible.

Bring in other details

Bringing in other details such as candle holders, candles to set the scene and add ambience.


I always like to have two desserts. This way I know my guests can have at least eat one or the other. For this particular dinner party, I hosted 14 people and I had two desserts: a small vanilla cake and a cheesecake.

As it turned out, each guest wanted a taste of both and although I had to cut each cake into 14 slices, because there were two cakes, it was just the right amount of dessert for each person.

Simple is more

My last tip is that simple is more. It always works. Stick to the basics. It creates an understated elegance and while it may SEEM like you have spent a small fortune, in fact you haven’t.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I know it’s a bit out of the ordinary from what I normally do, but I want to start bringing in variable content. Drop a comment below and let me know if you enjoyed this.

For more cake photography and tips, recipes etc see my Instagram page

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