The difference between a cheap backyard party that looks cheap and an inexpensive party that looks sophisticated is resourcefulness, research, and frugality. By now, most thrifty Americans have applied these virtues not only to their event-planning practices, but to their individual economies as well.
To establish a regal and relaxed atmosphere for your next backyard party, then, just maintain the same mindset that you hope to eagerly cast aside as retirement or economic upswing beckons you. The following wisdom in the areas of affordable food, entertainment, and decoration will help you plan a guilt-free party for guests the block over.
Potluck-style parties are an excellent example of embracing the community to rise above economic troubles. What’s more, people love to share their culture and swap cooking secrets, which makes for an excellent talking point over a platter of tiropita, shawarma, or just some down-home meat and potatoes.
You can either invite specific guests to bring specific courses, or just request entrees and make the appetizers and dessert yourself. Either way, you can potentially save hundreds of dollars without overburdening any single guest. If you want to make all of the food yourself, consider the following tips:
Appetizers: Buy cheap, filling foods in bulk that can be affordably enhanced with spices. Chicken wings are an excellent option. Season them with Old Bay, garlic salt, buffalo seasoning, and whatever else will lend a tasty kick. Comparable alternatives include crock-pot meatballs, do-it-yourself cheese platters, sausage links, and fruit arrangements.
Entrees: The same principle of “bulk is better” applies here. Potatoes are extremely cheap, filling, and versatile. Serve them baked, sliced, scalloped, twice-baked, or make a large potato salad. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken skewers make exemplary entrees for the grill. Pair them with baked beans, fruit salad, or sliced melon.
Desserts: For cheap desserts, going store-bought saves ample time as well as money. Most grocery store bakeries have excellent sales for day-old cookies, which won’t be stale if they are bought the day of the party. Other cheap store-bought confections include brownies, banana bread, carrot cake, and cheesecake.
Fortunately for planners, most summer party guests are content with a sunny day and two full plates of food. Yard games like ladderball, volleyball, horseshoes, and beanbag toss, however, can be set up for under twenty dollars each if you research online beforehand.
If you don’t have an outdoor speaker system, any burgeoning musicians in your family or group of friends can supply entertainment in exchange for food and exposure.
If you have a pool, set the pool area up with floating coolers and a water volleyball net. You can always plan the party on the day of a major baseball game, a summer olympic event, or televised concerts for after-dinner entertainment. Especially with bugs and cooler evenings, this is an excellent way to cohesively herd people inside after the meal for dessert and entertainment.
Finally, the best way to set up cheap but not tacky decorations is to incorporate them with a functional purpose. Tiki torches, for example, lend an almost tropical feel to the party, a look that can be completed with floating candles, rose petals, and themed flatware, all of which can be found at craft retailers for less than ten dollars.
For a more Mediterranean feel, you can find similarly priced fountains and Parthenon-esque pillars for placing potted flowers on.
Cheaper still, you can even decorate your own party with homemade centerpieces, floral arrangements, and food sculptures.