One of the best ways to save money on entertaining is to simplify your decor. But this doesn't mean you have to take a minimalist approach to decorating. Stylish hosts can get away with inexpensive decorating and here's the secret - do it en masse.
Fresh flowers are beautiful but not always affordable. DIY decor can be fun but you may not have time to make things or want to spend money on crafts. Here's a big idea for your next party: arrange massive amounts of common items to create a stylish backdrop. For example, I once attended a party in a small apartment where the host had massive amounts of balloons, their tails dangling from the ceiling creating a dramatic effect that really covered the whole space. She had also asked that each guest, instead of bringing flowers or wine, bring a few balloons each to add to the decor.
Another great idea I've seen is tremendous amounts of produce. One party featured a table filled with an impressive amount of grapes with a few pieces of nice cheese and crackers intermingled. The grapes, with their abundant color and shapes, set off with a few votive candles, were stacked at various heights and nearly spilled over the table. All together the result was an almost Bacchanalian effect that appeared over the top yet completely accessible. This same friend had also hosted a previous event in which lemons, with their fresh scent and lively color, spilled out of every bowl, container and vertical surface. It was a fun splash of color in an otherwise monochromatic space.
Taking a walk through your yard or a park can be an easy way to gather bunches of fallen leaves, fern fronds or pine cones (be sure it's legal to take items away from a public space). Again, by using these found items in large groupings the effect can be quite dramatic and help keep your entertaining costs down.
This season, think about what items you have around the house that could be assembled together to make one big centerpiece. Items that are similar but different in color (i.e. candlesticks) work well as a cohesive theme but also consider unlike items that are of a same color (i.e. everything white and red). If you don't have enough of one item think about borrowing items from friends and family or ask guests to bring something to place on the table. One friend, hosting a birthday party, asked that each guest bring one flower in a small vase. Individually the effect was lackluster however when 30 of them were placed on the table it was just gorgeous. At the end of the party the birthday girl took home the flowers and the guests took back their vases.
Image: Anne Reagan