Tips for throwing a budget friendly dinner party to remember


James Smith

Everyone loves a get together with friends and family. There are so many social events that you could choose to partake in which include going to concerts, spending time at restaurants or having spontaneous nights out on the town. In addition to this, another enjoyable way to socialise is by throwing a dinner party. This is a great idea if you enjoy catering to people as well as entertaining. However, costs can spiral out of control especially if you are expecting a lot of guests. Fear not, you can create a magical evening on an affordable budget without having to take out a payday loan. On that note, we have put our heads together and set out a few tips and ideas for throwing a budget friendly dinner party to remember.

Pick a theme

One of the first things that you should do when trying to put together a cheap dinner party is pick a theme. This should give you direction regarding what type of dinner party you want to have and what the theme of the gathering is. You could, for instance, decide that you want to have themes such as rustic BBQ, street party, garden campfire, Mexican fiesta, murder mystery or beach bonfire. These themes could add personality to your dinner party as well as ensure that they're a lot more fun. You can also consider a Hawaiian theme or costume party as well.

Set a budget

It may seem as though you're saving money by putting together a cheap dinner party as opposed to going to a fancy restaurant. However, you can easily end up overspending if you're not careful. You should, therefore, think about setting a budget beforehand to ensure you only spend what you can afford. One of the first steps in budgeting is to check how much you have left over after paying your core bills and essentials. You can then list out all the items you're going to need to throw your party and see how you can get them within your budget and which ones you may need to eliminate from your list altogether.

Dinner party ideas, Italian food

Buy affordable decorations

Once you've chosen a theme, the next practical thing to do is to buy affordable decorations. There are so many things that you can do in terms of decorating, so it's left for you to use your imagination. Some items that you can consider buying for your dinner party include plastic cutlery, napkins, paper plates if you'd prefer those, candles, table centrepieces, confetti and cups. Also, remember that you can DIY a lot of your party d├ęcor if you have the time and patience. Some DIY ideas that won't require you to take a hit in the wallet include paper flowers, tissue paper pom poms, falling confetti, a DIY photo booth, a supersize menu and temporary wall art. The good thing about opting to make your decorations yourself is that you can use materials that you already have around the house. Alternatively, you could opt to look for the items you need to make them in your local pound shop, the clearance section of a supermarket, or an arts and crafts store. Some of the things you make can also be reused in case you have another party anytime soon.

Appetiser ideas

  • Spinach and bacon stuffed mushrooms
  • Guacamole with tomatoes
  • Cheese straws
  • Butter and garlic prawns
  • Prawn cocktail
  • Thai-style fishcakes
  • Tomato soup

Every good dinner party should have appetisers that keep people's mouths busy during the initial stages of the party. For this reason, try and think about some of the best appetisers that you can have at your dinner party. Remember to be flexible and have a range of appetisers that cater to people's individual needs. You may, for instance, have some people who are vegetarians, lactose intolerant, vegan or full-on meat lovers. You should, therefore, try and have a little bit of each. In light of this, some appetiser ideas to think about making include peachy jalapeno guacamole, garlic garbanzo bean spread, artichoke caprese platter, layered hummus dip or a cheesy snack dip. Some specifically vegan appetisers include Thai fresh spring rolls, vegan vegetable tempura, baked plantain chips and vegetarian summer rolls. While you may be able to find some of these ready-made others might need to be made by you. Just try not to go and buy the whole supermarket in an attempt to please all of your guests.

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Try some soup for starters at your dinner party

Explore main courses

Once you've got an idea of what sort of appetisers you're going to serve at your party, you can then move on to decide what your main courses are going to be. There are so many that you can choose from and as with the appetisers, you should ensure that you have meal options that meet the dietary needs and preferences of your guests. On that note, you're going to find a few meal course ideas for your dinner party below:

One main course idea that's worth considering is beer-brined beer-can chicken. This dish can take about 30 minutes to prepare so is ideal if you're looking for a quick dish. In terms of how you make it, the key ingredients that you're going to need include a 12-ounce can of beer, light brown sugar, kosher salt, wide strips orange zest, cardamom pods, and fresh orange juice. For the chicken, in particular, you're going to need a pound of roasting chicken, extra-virgin oil, cloves of garlic, ground coriander, ground cumin, paprika, ground allspice as well as ground pepper. It is typically best cooked on a charcoal grill and can be served with sides such as salad, mashed potato or rice.

In the instance that you want to make something that is both light and quick for dinner, then kale pasta is most certainly ideal. You can add rotisserie chicken and nutty Parmesan if you want to add a little more flavour and a twist. To make this dish, you're going to need red bell peppers, extra-virgin oil, medium shallots, cloves of garlic, salt and freshly ground pepper, pepper flakes, a cup of dry white wine, diced-fire roasted tomatoes, kale, shredded rotisserie chicken, pound rigatoni and parmesan cheese. Most of the dish is going to be cooked in the oven aside from the pasta which first has to be boiled. This dish should take around 45 minutes to cook which isn't too bad in terms of time.

Another dish you can try if you have quite a number of guests is aubergine parmigiana. This Italian dish, if made correctly, could be a hit at your dinner party. The ingredients that you're going to need to make it include extra-virgin oil, onions, garlic cloves, salt, sugar, red pepper flakes and plum tomatoes for an authentic Italian taste. For the aubergine part of the meal, you're going to need a medium aubergine, a cup of all-purpose flour, freshly ground pepper, large eggs, whole milk, breadcrumbs, dried oregano, provolone cheese, fresh basil leaves and parmesan cheese as well. This meal takes about one hour and 10 minutes to cook which is relatively longer than the aforementioned but should be well worth the wait.

In addition to the mentioned, another dish that you can try for your dinner party is seafood gumbo. This is quite a popular dish and great if you have guests at your party that love seafood as it's packed with shrimp, lobster and crabmeat. This dish takes 3 hours and 50 minutes to cook which is quite a while so if you do decide to make it, try and get started early. The ingredients that you're going to need for your seafood gumbo include all-purpose flour, vegetable oil, chopped onion, peppers, blue crab, creole seasoning, medium shrimp, crabmeat, spring onions, parsley and rice. This dish is typically made in the oven meaning you can keep busy with other things while it cooks.

If you want something delicate and juicy for dinner, why not try making a Moroccan lamb tagine for your guests? This traditional Moroccan dish is one that consists of lamb shanks, Yukon gold potatoes, butternut squash, and a wide array of Middle Eastern spices. You can serve your lamb dish with couscous as well as any other side that seems befitting. Seeing as it can take up to 3 hours and 20 minutes to cook, you can consider making it the night before your party and simply heat it up the evening of.

If you fancy serving your guests fish, then perhaps try a grilled branzino with Basil dish. This shouldn't take beyond 20 minutes to cook but you will need to marinate the fish beforehand. Some ingredients that will be needed include lime, peeled ginger, extra-virgin oil, gutted and scaled branzino fish, vegetable oil and flaky sea salt.

Include sides

Another thing that you should think about if you want to have a cheap dinner party is sides. These ensure that your guests have something to nibble on when they get peckish or if they don't want a full-blown main course. Some things that you can include for sides are chicken wings, bread rolls, creamy coleslaw, crunchy avocado salad, garlic and herb sweet potato fries and pasta salad. You can also think about making other sides like grilled sweet potato and spring onion salad, cumin roasted carrots, and Greek-style stuffed acorn squash if you have the time to make it. Don't forget that in order to save time, you can do meal prep the night before as you'll likely have other things to do and don't want to be stuck in the kitchen for hours at a time.

Pick dessert

After you've chosen all of your main courses, you may be thinking about offering your party guests some dessert. This is your chance to bring out all of the sweet stuff and not feel too guilty about it until the next day. There are loads of dessert ideas that you can consider such as summer pudding, sticky toffee pudding, microwave sponge pudding, bread and butter pudding or chocolate sponge cake. In addition to the ones mentioned, you can also try apple and rhubarb crumble, apple and strawberry crumble, apple pie, mince pies and fruit pudding. For those who aren't too keen on sugar-filled desserts some healthier alternatives that you can consider include marbled banana bread, frozen yogurt dots, low-fat cheesecake, mini-ice cream sandwiches or no-bake peanut butter chocolate bars. You can try making some of these on your own if you have time, but if not consider frozen desserts that you can simply pop in the oven as an alternative.

Get the right entertainment

Depending on the theme of the party, you should also think about how you're going to entertain people while they're there. If, for instance, you're having an outdoor party, you could decide to get some live music going if you know any friends who are good with instruments. Alternatively, you could just play some soft music in the background or create a playlist on one of your favourite music platforms. There's also the choice of hiring a DJ if dancing is going to be the order of the night. You can ask around with friends to see if they know any DJs or check online to see if you can find a decent upcoming DJ that will not cost the earth to hire. Whatever you decide, try and ensure you choose entertainment that both align with the theme of the party as well as the sort of people that you're going to be inviting.


Throwing a dinner party can be a lot of fun, especially if you enjoy putting parties together. It's a chance to socialise, gather your friends together, and enjoy good company. You should know that it doesn't have to cost an arm and leg just to put together a good party. With a realistic budget, creativity, a little improvising, and DIY, you should be able to host a cheap dinner party from time to time.

If you have some great ideas for saving money when it comes to fun dinner parties, then give us a shout on our social media pages. If you want some more hints and tips to help budget for social occasions then check out the BBC good food pages.

Entertaining on a budget does not just mean cutting corners, it means being savvy. Just like the way you can be on point about the way you borrow and save. Check this page if you want to know more about our online loans.