By Natasha Wolff

Published on December 21, 2016

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Photography by Merriman Events

Hosting a holiday party for under $100 sounds like a challenge, but it’s doable. “I would stick with a small cocktail or dinner party,” says Serena Merriman Alvarado of  NYC firm Merriman Events. Here’s how to save every step of the way.

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Photography by Christy Gutzeit

Choose Your Food

Candi Naboicheck of NYC firm CND Events suggests boards and platters for guests on a tight budget. “Don’t shy away from stationary hors d’oeuvres like artisanal cheeses with charcuterie, market crudites with dipping sauces and mezzes,” Naboicheck says. Opt for a variety of cheeses—cow, sheep, and goat— and pepper in cornichons, roasted nuts, honey or fig jam, olives, dried figs and dried cherries. “If you are confident enough to arrange dried fruits, nuts, cheeses, crackers, fresh bread, and charcuterie and present it on a simple wood block with a beautiful knife, everyone will love it,” agrees bi-coastal event planner Alice Ryan.

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Photography by Tending the Table

Decorate With Flowers

“Branches of berries or greenery are fragrant and pretty and make it look like you made an effort,” says Alvarado. You can go to your local flower market and buy bunches of seasonal greenery and branches for as little as $8 a bunch. “I love using seasonal fruit on branches, like citrus or persimmon or pomegranate, which looks so pretty. Just lay them down directly onto the table (skip vases).” Whatever you do, says Ryan, keep to a simple theme.

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Photography by Susie Montagna

Lighting is Everything

“Take your inspiration from the magical strings of lights in the Netflix series Stranger Things, and use leftover tangles of lights from holidays past to decorate your home,” says NYC-based event designer David Stark. “There shouldn’t be rhyme or reason to your display—the more haphazard the better!” And stick tea lights in glasses or votives for a warm glow throughout. 

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Photography by Laura Domingo

Streamline Your Cocktail Offering

“Offer one signature cocktail you can make yourself in a large batch, like a mulled wine made with spices, honey, an orange and one or two bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon on the stove,” says Alvarado. “It’s a festive, warming and special drink, and this way you don’t have to spend money on wine.”

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Photography by Merriman Events

Personalize Gifts

“Stuff your own Christmas crackers with homemade treats and little nostalgic games and toys that will delight your guests,” says Alvarado. “My favorites are fortune teller fish, wax candy lips, finger hands, chatter teeth, candy buttons, glow sticks and drink buddies.”

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Photography by Mini Melanie

BYO Cookies

“Host a holiday cookie competition,” says Stark. “Invite your pals to the sweetest competitive cocktail bash where each guest brings their holiday cookie entries, and a “judge” gives out awards for quirky categories like Most Sinful Bite, Most Adorable Holiday Character and so on. You can provide small fun door prizes and the bubbly! Your guests provide the snacks with their fabulous array of cookies.”