Affordable Cocktail Party Basics to Keep on Hand

With some affordable basics like champagne flutes,
you can always set a pretty party table for not much cash.

Yesterday I wrote about a few bold accent pieces to glam up your parties, so today let's take a look at some basic, inexpensive party staples that are great to have on hand if you like to entertain. Investing in some plain glass or white partyware provides you with a solid foundation to dress up and accessorize for any décor and color scheme you choose.

With these basics, you can furnish your home for a party for 24 people for under $150. Here are some personal favorites to choose from:

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Basic glass dessert-size plates. My husband and I throw a lot of parties, so it's neither cost-effective nor environmentally sound (nor cute, for that matter) to use paper plates. Instead we invested in a set of these basic restaurant supply glass plates, and we bust them out for every cocktail party. The dessert size fits a few canapés perfectly. They're $2.28 apiece from AceMart Restaurant Supply, and you have to buy a crate of 36... if that seems like too many, you can always split the crate with a friend.

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Linen hemstitch cocktail napkins are a nice touch. It's a lot of work to launder them, but they really do class up a party. You can always choose a dark neutral like brown or black to make staining less of an issue (or white, which you can bleach). These little numbers from the Martha Stewart collection for Macy's are on sale at $9.72 for a set of 6.

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Tea lights scattered around a room create an enchanting and intimate mood. Of course you can play with candles in other sizes in various ways, but tea lights are inexpensive and easy. Ikea carries a pack of 24 for $5.99, and glass tea light holders are 6 for $1.99. (Of course you can always forgo the holders and cluster them together on saucers, or even the glass dessert plates.)

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Inexpensive champagne flutes. Keeping a little storage bin of these in a closet really pays off. Champagne or prosecco cocktails are much easier than serving a full bar, and they're just as elegant. We love to do a self-service prosecco cocktail bar with various liqueurs and juices for mixing (got the idea on the fantastic blog Married... With Dinner). CB2 has surprisingly lovely, delicate flutes for $3.95 apiece... go even cheaper (but slightly less stylish) with Ikea's Svalka flutes, $4.99 for 6.

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Plain white serving pieces. Using simple white platters as a backdrop allows your food to take center stage, and you can always dress them up with garnish if you like. This set of five rectangular beauties from CB2, the Cuatro, is only $22.75.

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Glass coffee mugs. We don't serve coffee at all of our parties, but in the cooler months it's nice to have easy vessels for hot beverages. These restaurant supply mugs are simple and attractive, and more convenient than cups and saucers. $26.94 for a case of 12. (We use a 12-cup French press for coffee, a bit of an investment at $49.95, but tastier than an electronic coffee maker.)

Do tell: What are the cocktail party basics you keep on hand in quantity?

(Top image: Martha Stewart)