Frugal Entertaining for Large Groups.

bud_wiJuly 31, 2006

Yes, I KNOW it is always going to be cheaper to entertain a small group at home, but there are some times where this is not practical (apartment living), or is is just too much work for one person to do alone, or it just would not make the event *special* (you need to get out for a change) or as the host you want to enjoy the party too, rather than spending all the time in the kitchen and running around serving.

I recently hosted my parents 50th anniversary party. I wanted a sit down dinner rather than a buffet. Here are some frugal tips I used...........

1.) First of all try not to have your event on a Friday or Saturday. They will FOR SURE charge you room rental. If they want to charge room rental anyway during the week, say you are not interested (because you are not!). Money spent on "room rental" is wasted. They are going to be making money on the food and drink. The room is probably going to sit empty during the week and they will be glad to have your group come to fill it so they can make some money rather than no money. This tip works for independant restaurants. Chains have a strict policy that is not very negotiable on this matter.

2.) Be creative with the menue choices. I was able to feed my guests prime rib. Yes. Rather than serving the pound size dinner with baked potatoe and salad I asked that the *prime rib sandwich* that they had, be served......But wait.........I asked for the sandwich to be served with the *bread on the side*. So they got a small slice of prime rib and the bread was toasted and served on the side next to the slice of fruit that would come with the sandwich. Since a salad did not 'come with' the sandwich like it did the dinner, and they wanted waaaay too much money to have one served ala cart, I ordered a vegetable antipasto platter and had it brought to the tables when guests sat down. Guests passed it around the table and had little appetizer plates to eat it off of.

Everyone enjoyed the antipasto and no one noticed that they did not get indiviual salads. No one complained about the prime rib being small. No food was wasted, like you see at soooo many weddings and events where no one eats everything on their plate and it ends up in the garbage.

3.) Rather than serving the pricey desserts that the place offered I told them that since it was a 50th anniversary party I wanted to get a mineature wedding cake and serve that. I ordered a nice simple one from a small local bakery for about a fourth of the cost of having the restaurant serve their deserts - even with the restaurants "handling charge".

4.) I had a glass of Asti served to everyone, with dinner, rather than champagne. Waaaay cheaper and a lot better than serving crappy American 'champagne'. A lot of people prefer the sweetness of Asti and it was balanced out nicly by the heavy, saltier prime rib. NOTE: Most restaurants will order anything you want for you from their vendors, if you are going to be going through a couple of cases. You do not necesarily have to choose something from off of their printed wine list. These things can be negotiable. You just have to ask if it can be done. Chain restaurants are different though. They have to follow corporate policy and are very image conscious.

Most banquet places will try to talk you into having your "own bartender" for your group. Just say no. Why should you pay the salary of one of their employees? They are making plenty off of the drinks. If your group isn't all that large, your guests can just walk to the main bar in the place to get drinks if they really need a drink all that bad. I don't think alcohol should be a main feature of a gathering anyway.

5.) I knew from eating there, that the restaurant always puts a couple of those chocolate mint Andes candies on top of the bill when they give it to you when you dine in the restaurant. They also have a bowl of them by the entrance. I asked that they serve the coffee after dinner with one of those chocolate mints on the saucer for guests to drop in their coffee if they wish. They said "Sure" and it made the coffee after dinner a little more special and fancy having a choco-mint to drop in the coffee.

These frugal undertakings allowed me to host a gala event without spending an arm and a leg. I got plenty of compliments on "how nice everything was". I think sit down events are a lot more relaxing and have a better presentation. I did this event for less $$$$$$ than what a buffet would have cost me at the same place and nobody had to be standing at the end of the line worrying if all the 'good stuff' would be gone by the time they got to the buffet table and nobody had to eat the scalded scrapings off the bottom of a chaffing dish.

6.) For entertainment, I posted an ad on the bulliten board of a local music school that I was looking for someone to play flute or violin for a dinner party. Students are always looking for a way to make a little money and a music student is going to be MUCH cheaper than hiring from an agency and probably just as talented.

This furgal tip did not turn out so well. They didn't show up!!!! Ahh, kids these days. Well, I knew I wasn't dealing with a *professional* but I did think I was dealing with someone *responsible*. Maybe someone else will have better luck with this frugal tip.

I was so happy with the way things turned out at the restaurant I gave the staff an *extra* tip for their service even though I knew that a service charge tip had already been added to my bill. The staff really went the extra mile for me and my family. The thing is to be FRUGAL not miserly. Everything went Smoooothly. :)

Anyone have any frugal entertaining tips to share????

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These are great suggestions! An added bonus to weeknight entertaining is that people tend to drink less, since they probably have to work the next day. So if you do not serve alcoholic drinks, they aren't likely to be missed and if you do have bar service, you will need to purchase less alchohol.

Here is a link that might be useful: craftfetish blog

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 11:13AM
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Another idea, particularly for weddings, is to think brunch instead of dinner. Much less expensive and can actually be far more elegant. In smaller cities, "brunch" does not book up as fast as evening events.

Also for flowers (this is self-serving!) -- purchase flowers from local flower farmers instead of florists. Much cheaper and often far more unique.

Bud -- your idea of prime rib sandwich with the bread on the side was great! We eat too much as Americans anyway and with the antipasta tray -- a perfect meal.

Great thread!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 11:48AM
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