I Raided the Dollar Section to Fake This Fancy-Looking Dinner Party

published Nov 12, 2019
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Credit: Dan de Jesus

What’s something everyone tells you about being a real-life grownup, but is still somehow surprising? It is expensive. There’s all the normal boring stuff, like getting a new water filter for your fridge or replacing your hand-me-down mattress or buying toilet paper over and over until the end of time. But the fun stuff can be pricey, too, even when it doesn’t seem like it should be!

Take dinner parties: When you’re hosting people, there always seem to be little expenses that pop up until the the very first guest arrives. And if you’re hosting more people than you have dishes (been there), the sneaky costs start to pile up. Plates! Glasses! Silverware! Napkins! Candles! Flowers! I’ve reached the end of a night feeling like I might have come out ahead skipping all the buying and just filling the table with crisp Hamiltons.

Here’s what I learned, and what I’m going to teach you, too: You can create a super fancy and fun Grownup Dinner Party (TM) that makes you look like a character in a Nancy Meyers film without maxing out your credit cards. And no, you don’t have to rely on paper cups! The secret is to shop your budget standbys (and work a little creative magic). Read my tips below, and watch the video to see how it all came together.

Credit: Dan de Jesus

Dive into the gifting and mailing sections

Skip a typical table cloth, and opt for a roll of wrapping paper or brown mailing paper instead, which can be recycled or reused at the end of the night (so no worries about spills or splatters). Plain brown or white works no matter the season, and—budget bonus!—you can use the leftovers to wrap any-occasion gifts.

Credit: Dan de Jesus

Get the look of place cards without the fuss

One extra benefit of using wrapping paper for your table covering? You can write names directly on the paper, rather than making place cards. A black marker strikes a simple and sophisticated look; use it to write your friends’ names above their plates. Swanky!

Credit: Dan de Jesus

Shop reusable for dishes, glasses, and silverware

If you’re looking for disposable plates, paper cups, and plastic cutlery, you can definitely find cute options on the cheap. But if you’re having a few friends over for dinner, you’ll get a better bang for your buck (and a happier Mother Earth) by opting for reusable versions. Plain white dishes from a dollar store look higher-end than their $1 price tag—and if you’re starting from scratch, you can grab enough for your whole crew for less than the price of a movie ticket. Compare that to similar, higher-end picks, which rest around $10-$15 per dish.

Glasses are another great dollar store grab; the stemless ones look especially fancy. For silverware, look to big box stores like Target, which sells them in sets, as well as by the piece—so you’re set whether you need to build up your collection from nothing or just fill in a few blanks. (Hot tip: I bought the pieces individually because I didn’t need two sets of forks and spoons per person, but it would have been cheaper to buy them as sets. My loss is your gain!)

Credit: Dan de Jesus

Add a little greenery

For cheap flowers and greenery, it’s hard to find a better spot than Trader Joe’s. You can go easy-breezy (and ultra cheap) by putting a $5 bouquet in a dollar store vase. Or go all out and get a few bundles of greenery for the table, and tuck them into a dollar store wreath mold for a centerpiece that looks like it came from a professional florist.

Credit: Dan de Jesus

Stock up on candles

Tea lights are a steal at the dollar store—just $1 for 16—as are pillar candles. You can also shop Flying Tiger or check out Amazon if you’re looking for specific colors and sizes (or to stock up). Add them to the table and to your counters—they’re an easy way to make your home look like it’s dressed up for company. If you’re using a few, pick all one scent—or unscented—so they don’t compete with each other.

Credit: Dan de Jesus

Add string lights

Necessary? No. Fun? Y-E-S. Hang them now for a dinner party; then, re-use them for holiday decor, springtime barbecues, or just to brighten up your living room. We stan a party decoration with staying power.