Cheap Week: Reining In Event Spending

In the spirit of WWD’s Cheap Week, we asked event experts for tips on reining in spending, from a casual dinner to a fancy gala, without sacrificing elegance.

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Brightly colored Japanese lanterns.

Photo By Condé Nast Digital Studio

Cocktails Chez Toi

• First, it is always less expensive to decorate with flowers in season. And it is usually less expensive to do bouquets of all one type of flower. For example, in the spring, it’s pretty to use tulips. For summertime, hydrangeas or peonies are lovely. You could use interesting ferns, or even oversize elephant-ear stalks rather than flowers. The point is to keep it simple and keep your florist’s inventory streamlined. The less variety he has to buy and arrange, the less it will cost you.

• Or, forgo flowers and substitute something colorful and fun in its place. I did a party where we filled the room with huge, round, oversize, brightly colored Japanese lanterns. The glow from the lanterns was so flattering to everyone and set a wonderful tone. On the tables, I filled several different-size glass bowls with colored glass balls, mimicking the lanterns. It cost very little and was really quite festive, as well as reusable — which again, brought the price down.

• Have a special drink of the night. There are so many flavored liquors now that coming up with one “party” drink and giving it a festive name keeps guests well quenched without too much use of the bar. (Perhaps you make up some kind of fun new colorful shooter —remember those Jell-O shooters from college days? So, evolve!)

• Keeping the invitations standard size saves postage costs. And keeping them simple, without too many colors and/or inserts, reduces the costs, too.

• For the food, work with your caterer to ensure a simple yet delicious menu. It doesn’t have to be lavish or expensive. But it does have to be served on time, be perfectly cooked and taste good. I would love to tell you that I save money by doing my own food prep and cooking, but no one who really knows me would believe that. Being in the kitchen is my Achilles’ heel. So I let Glorious Food take over. They know what I want and how I want it.

• My all-time favorite tip is from the time I gave a party that had a rather long receiving line. I had the waiters continually serve Bombay Sapphire shooters to the guests in line to keep everyone amused. By the time each guest made it to the front of the line, they were in very great spirits, and continued on with the shooters till dinner. I ended up with a less expensive bar bill, and no one wanted to leave the party. And when your guests don’t want to leave, but finally do, you can kick off your Manolos and go to bed content.

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