Cheap but Classy party ideas?
January 19, 2011 11:57 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend is turning 29, and so we're throwing a party and inviting lots of people. We've splurged a bit on food - going to have an italian place cater family-style food - but are hoping to save money in every other respect. Luckily, our condo building has a beautiful gathering room that we're going to use. We're purchased a bunch of wine from Trader Joe's and are hoping to not serve it in plastic party cups, but don't want to buy a huge supply of wine glasses. Are there any creative tricks or decorating ideas that will make us feel classy but won't break our small bank?
posted by cam295 to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
See if the caterers will rent wineglasses. Most caterers will.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:59 AM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Second-hand wine glasses from a thrift store? Can even return them when done!
posted by Pomo at 12:00 PM on January 19, 2011

You could have a BYOG (bring your own glass) party. You could even make it a contest to see who could bring the coolest or most unusual glass. Prizes make everything better!
posted by fenriq at 12:03 PM on January 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

Party rental places will rent wineglasses, too. They'll also rent tablecloths and napkins and things like that ... and various forms of decoration, if you want to go that direction. Of course that all costs.

A food-service/restaurant supply store open to the public near me sells "plastic party cups" of a slightly higher quality that exactly suits these types of events ... I usually get the flat-bottomed clear plastic ones with some decorative "cut glass" motif on them, which are heftier than "regular" party plastic and look a bit dressier, without being very expensive. But they also sell everything from real, inexpensive wineglasses to the two-piece plastic champagne glasses you stick the stem on the base of.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:04 PM on January 19, 2011

Seconding renting from the caterers. Other options: thrift stores (they probably won't match but that doesn't really matter - and yes, you can re-donate when you're done with them), Ikea (if there's one nearby they have super cheap glassware).

As for other decorating ideas, people will have literally hundreds of them. Could you be a little more specific? Are there things you don't like (like balloons, confetti, or disco balls)? Are there things you wouldn't want to live without?
posted by cooker girl at 12:04 PM on January 19, 2011

re: wineglasses. We bought glasses for our wedding for about $1.00 each (actually $5.89 for a package of 6) from a discount store (Big Lots), and then donated them to Goodwill when we were done. It was much cheaper than renting glasses.
posted by anastasiav at 12:07 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Our local Dollar Tree has wine glasses for a dollar each. They're not bad-looking either. Those are the only wineglasses we have, and we don't feel bad if we accidentally break one.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:10 PM on January 19, 2011

Garage sales and thrift stores generally sell them for about a quarter.
posted by raisingsand at 12:12 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Manage your lighting. You want it bright enough to see but not even close to glaring. Most restaurants are somewhat dimly lit, until you adjust to the cozy warm lighting.

If the function room is overhead fluroescent tubes, you'd probably benefit from bringing in lamps or somehow shading any over-bright fixtures (fabric drape?). Then you can put little sparkly string lights around, or LED candles on the tables, etc.
posted by aimedwander at 12:15 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, ask the caterers about drinkware. You may also find a local bar happy to rent you a tray of glasses for the night for a fee+deposit; it can't hurt to ask.
posted by hot soup girl at 12:20 PM on January 19, 2011

A quick search on Bed Bath & Beyond has a set of 12 for $20... they may even have cheaper ones. That's where I get mine.

The benefit of buying sets like this is that they all match, but more importantly, they come packaged in a box that you can reuse to store them in... so you can wash them, then put them in their box(es), and stack them in a closet or something until the next party, and not take up space in cupboards, shelves, etc.

Target, etc., probably has sets like these too.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 12:23 PM on January 19, 2011

As for other decorating ideas, people will have literally hundreds of them. Could you be a little more specific? Are there things you don't like (like balloons, confetti, or disco balls)? Are there things you wouldn't want to live without?
I'm not a big fan of those three (balloons, confetti, or disco balls). I'm thinking more like flowers and tea lights. That seems pretty standard, though. But maybe standard is fine?
posted by cam295 at 12:25 PM on January 19, 2011

If you live near an Ikea, they sell both red and white wine glasses in 6-packs - $4.99 each.
posted by dayspteh at 12:30 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

IKEA glasses are very affordable.

You could have a BYOG (bring your own glass) party. I'm sorry, but that is ridiculous, I'm not carrying glassware around with me when I travel. If things are that bad, plastic will be fine.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:33 PM on January 19, 2011

What? Did I hear someone jonesing for tea-lights and wine glasses?

Ikea is your friend.

On the wine glass front, price out which would cost more, renting or buying from Ikea. This would likely depend on how many people you plan to have. If Ikea glasses turn out to be cheaper, just donate them to a thrift store afterwards.

For other decor ideas, if you have time to browse in the "marketplace" section of Ikea when you go for your tealights and wine glasses, there are lots of creative things.

You don't say where you live, but if it's a place where there's likely to be flowers or greenery available in season, look to your local farmer's market. That would be much cheaper than ordering bouquets from a florist, and super classy. If there's not much greenery where you are at this time of year, browsing the local farmer's market could still present some pretty neat decor ideas. Like bowls of apples or citrus fruits, cut herbs, or creatively assembled veggies (squashes would be pretty adorable, or artichokes, eggplants, dried peppers, or even multicolored bouquets of carrots...).

Design*Sponge often has really cool entertaining/decor ideas, and runs at least one series on DIY flower arranging.
posted by Sara C. at 12:36 PM on January 19, 2011

Either IKEA or a dollar store will sell you cheap wine glasses for less than you can rent them for. The IKEA Svalka wine glasses, for example, are $5 for a set of 6 in Canada.

You could buy some and donate them to your party room. Or buy some and donate them to Goodwill.

There are also plastic wine glasses available, which sell for about $4-5 for a pack of 20 here. They're still plastic glasses, but they have stems and are clear rather than looking like soda/beer cups.

(I left this window open for like an hour between writing this and submitting it, so if this has all been covered by others in the interim, oops.)
posted by jacquilynne at 12:41 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't say where you live
I'm in NYC, so I've got every resource I need (some much more expensive than others, though...)

These are great suggestions so far, though. Keep them coming!
posted by cam295 at 12:45 PM on January 19, 2011

Definitely check out any of the big greenmarkets, then, for instance Union Square or Grand Army Plaza. Friends run a flower stand at Union Square and Williamsburg, and I find their stock to be great and their prices very fair even compared to what you'd find at a deli. If you happen to buy flowers from a dark-haired young lady the Williamsburg greenmarket, tell my friend Brooke hello! Actually, if you do that, ask her for advice. She's great at this stuff.

A trimming/notions store might be an interesting place to get ideas, though M&J and the more famous ones can get very pricey. Though this really depends how many guests you're having. Decorating a table or two for 15 guests with a few yards of ribbon is a whole order of magnitude cheaper than doing the same thing for 50+ guests.

The same goes for papercraft/stationery places like Paper Presentation. They have some super neat stuff, but it adds up fast.
posted by Sara C. at 12:55 PM on January 19, 2011

Another blog with a lot of good party planning and decorating ideas is Oh Happy Day (link goes straight to 'parties + party ideas' tagged posts).
posted by grapesaresour at 1:08 PM on January 19, 2011

Floral shops will often rent trees with lights in them, or topiaries. NYC prices will be very different from out here in Wisconsin, but we rented a pair for $30 or so a while back.

Goodwill or other thrift shops will have loads of stuff for cheapsies. Platters, tiered stands, fancy frames, tablecloths, or even just pretty fabric that you can drape all over. If you have a modicum of crafting skills, you'll have even more options, as you can turn a giant brocade curtain into a table runner with either sewn hems or even just a glue gun.
posted by Madamina at 1:10 PM on January 19, 2011

Ask close friends to bring wine glasses. Also, serving in short, thin walled tumblers isn't bad. Stemless wine glasses are all the rage and practical.
posted by anniecat at 1:11 PM on January 19, 2011

Pearl River in SoHo is a great place to find inexpensive, unusual decorating items. For inexpensive glassware, you could try Kmart for a boxed set (there's 2 in Manhattan - stylistically won't be much, but it's hard to muck up a wine glass), but Ikea is probably your cheapest bet. Another great resource is Pier 1 - there's not that much selection, but their prices are really low for the quality you get.

I know you said you didn't want plastic glasses, but they've come a long way from cheapo tumblers - there are some nice acrylic and even plastic wine glasses available that won't cost an arm and a leg - try Gracious Home or Bed Bath and Beyond.
posted by Mchelly at 1:33 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding restaurant supply stores. i have found shocking inexpensive glassware in them.
posted by rtimmel at 2:06 PM on January 19, 2011

I love the idea of having a contest encouraging people to bring their own glasses.
You could also get plastic ones, and then use latex paint to name each one so it looks more creative than cheap.

Decorating tip: Take a headshot or close photo of the birthday boy, photo copy it 9 times at a local Kinkos using a different color paper for each. Tape these three by three on a wall. Voila - instant Warhol for less than a $1. (as long as they don't nickel and dime you for using the colored paper)
posted by Unsomnambulist at 3:33 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't forget to look UP. You can spend a lot of time on pretty table settings and glasses, but you want to put fabric or some sort of streamers or something against the walls, too. Unless the room is decorated nicely in itself.

Also I've recently been to parties when people have an ongoing slideshow of pictures of the birthday boy at various life stages, and it's pretty amusing and heartwarming for guests (and birthday boy) alike. You do have to get some sort of projection screen, though. Maybe you could borrow one.
posted by DMelanogaster at 3:58 PM on January 19, 2011

Perhaps you can price the glasses at Ikea and then use that information to get a reduction in the rental price.

I'm almost certain that doing so would be much better for the environment, and, if the rental place has any sense at all and decides to match the price, no worse for your wallet.
posted by jsturgill at 5:15 PM on January 19, 2011

If you end up purchasing inexpensive matched glassware, try selling it on craigslist after your shindig ... you could recover some of your cost and some bride or other assorted party-thrower facing the same dilemma you are will be stoked!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:47 PM on January 19, 2011

Thanks everyone! I ended up getting 100 tea lights at Ikea for $1.99! And a six-pack of wine glasses was only $5. I'm also getting a couple bunches of flowers at a local market to separate and put in multiple vases and set around.
posted by cam295 at 7:11 AM on January 22, 2011

I've been searching for a good reason to throw a party so I would have an excuse to invest in a few sets of these funky plastic stemless wine glasses.
posted by doift at 9:17 PM on January 22, 2011

What about some plastic wine glasses? They're pretty cheap if you can find the 40 ct bag like the one at the top of the list... And people aren't really used to seeing them so they're sort of novelty-looking. I have also seen some decent sized disposable cocktail cups at the local party supply store if you're looking for something a little larger. In either case they're not those red party cups you were talking about.
posted by thorny at 2:14 AM on January 24, 2011

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