By Susan Lane of Susan Lane Events
I know it’s early to be talking “holiday parties”, but as a planner, I have to think ahead. While I was preparing for this year’s holiday events, I imagined that it would help to hand out some ideas on how to cut back on what can be a very expensive proposition. We all want to “wow” our guests, and this can still be accomplished while still watching our budget. Just remember to keep in mind taste and visual presentation when putting these ideas below into practice.
• Choose starch/cheese/vegetarian/poultry based hors d’oeuvres. Go light on the shellfish, fish & beef tenderloin options.
• Supplement your menu with a gorgeous slate or wood board topped with artisan cheeses and yummy pâtés. There are some beautiful cheeses out there- fresh and aged goat cheeses, blues, triple crèmes and farmhouse cheddars. Pair them with some fruit pastes often sold in the same refrigerated case as the cheeses. Surround with berries and grapes. Put these out and watch them go. The reason people don’t eat cheeses at parties is they’re usually sub-par cheeses. Some nice cheeses and some interesting crackers & breads go a long way especially when your guests are drinking.
• Serve your favorite soup in little glass votives or espresso cups, garnished with a long chive or skewered tiny shrimp.
• Choose to have a caterer deliver food as opposed to having it fully serviced. Yes, I know- I’m shooting myself in the foot but not all of you will choose this route.
• Purchase some items from your favorite stores as well. I won’t go so far as to suggest getting frozen hors d’oeuvres from Costco. Don’t tell me if you did so! But your area, I’m certain, has some fabulous ethnic or cheese shops.
– Sevans in Watertown for delicious spreads like hummus, baba ghanouj, spicy muhammara dip; stuffed grape leaves; delicious baklava and apricot logs.
– The big Asian supermarkets, HMart in Burlington and Super 88 in Brighton, stock all kinds of dumplings and fabulous shrimp shumai in their freezers, as well as, rows and rows of exotic fruits, vegetables and spices; and usually some amazing fresh fish and shellfish.
• You can also supplement your menu with a spiral ham or oven roasted turkey with all those lovely accoutrements and tiny rolls. It will fill your guests up without breaking the budget.
• Do keep in mind that most all caterers do have food minimums for full service parties in December. Find out what their minimum is now and do some research. It will save you a lot of time later on.
• Many caterers (me included!!!) will staff your event even if they aren’t bringing the food. You may just need a kitchen helper, waiter, bartender. Call me for rates.
• Doing a day-time event instead of a night event could cut your costs in half. Set a table outside and serve hot cocoa and mulled apple cider for guests. Serve tiny sandwiches and put out a large tureen of your favorite chili with traditional sides like cornbread, grated cheeses, hot sauce.
• Choose less expensive “stations” from your caterer such as an “Assorted Slider Station”, “Mashed Potato Bar”, “Stir-fry Station”, “Pasta Station”, “Empanada or Quesadilla Bar”, “Asian Noodle Station”.
• Instead of having a 4-5 hour party, make it 2-3 hours. Put an end time on your invites.
• I often tell clients to only serve wine and beer instead of a full bar. Your guests don’t expect a full bar. They are just happy to be invited to your home. A full bar is very pricey between the liquor and mixers. Taste and choose some inexpensive wines and sparkling wines now so you’re prepared. Trader Joe’s carries a lovely Prosecco called “Il” by Mionetto. It is under $10 and quite amazing. Pair it with a touch of Chambord, Elderflower Liqueur, or other favorite liqueur and a twist of lemon. Wines are more subjective and there are many choices out there for under $15 bottle and even under $10.
• Skip serving dessert to your guests. I know! No one will like me for this one. If it’s a cocktail party, you are not required to serve dessert. If you really can’t avoid it, put out a tray of bars and tiny cookies near the front door. They can grab one as they put their coats on! Dessert only prolongs the evening. If you want to shorten your event this year, this is a good place to start.
• If dessert is part of the evening, try serving some seasonal fruit crisps or bread puddings instead of more expensive cakes, tarts and mini pastries.
I hope these ideas help you when planning your holiday event. Contact me with any questions you may have!
Susan Lane of Susan Lane Events
Jessica Daley- firstname.lastname@example.org