The thing that I was looking forward to the most, now that I have my own house, is hosting family gatherings for my very large immediate and extended Jamaican family. Parties can be expensive though and can turn into long term regrets if you are not careful and creative with your planning. Because I am the newest house owner, my home was designated as this years venue for Thanksgiving dinner. I am actually looking forward to hosting this year so that I could present a thanksgiving dinner that is fun, jazzy, elegant and complimentary to my homes present décor instead of the usual “we are all here now, lets eat” affairs that I’ve been to in the past. Since thanksgiving is only a few weeks away, I came up with a game plan that you could try in your own space. So without further ado, here are five ways to throw a thanksgiving party on a budget.
Use an Invite such as Paperless Post
Instead of the usual texting or word of mouth, send paperless post evites which help to set the mood for the evening that you are creating. This option is environmentally friendly, affordable and practical. This is not your 90’s evite though. Paperless post offers a large range of aesthetically pleasing designs (including designs by fashion powerhouse Kate Spade and Oscar De La Renta) that you can chose from to create cards or invitations for holiday, birthday and even wedding celebrations. You can also create a personalized evite using your own graphics or photographs.
Pot Luck The Food
I will be expecting minimum, 25 people for Thanksgiving dinner. Food will definitely be my biggest expense and it’s the one thing that you REALLY need to have an abundance of. Serving a grain of rice and a sliver of meat in an effort to stretch the food would definitely not cut it with my Jamaican family. You need enough food so that people have options, to pick and refuse while they are at the party and enough for left overs for them to pack a to go plate. To plan a feast of that size is not only expensive, it’s also quite time consuming and impractical to manage by one person. Besides, my four burner stove and two shelf oven could not handle the volume of food that I would need to accommodate 25 or more people for Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, I will ask each household to bring a pre-assigned protein and side-dish. Pre-assigned so that 5 people don’t show up with potato salad and a turkey in tow. As the host, the turkey might be the one thing that I will prepare for Thanksgiving.
A live band or DJ is not necessary these days when you have options like SoundCloud that allows you to create a playlist that matches the mood and theme that you are trying to create and/or convey in your invites. Put that on loop on an even halfway sounding system and you are good to go. If you have personal photos, it would also be good to have these looping on a television screen somewhere to give guests a view into aspects of your life and interests. Also a nice bingo game, family trivia, or phone raffle (put cell phones into a pillow case and draw one to prevent people from staring at their phones all night) will help to keep people engaged and awake when the tryptofan sets in after the big meal.
Liquor and Desert
Liquor is probably the one thing that I do not want in abundance at my home this Thanksgiving. There are liability issues to consider because there is always that one guest that shows up at a house gathering because they know that there will be free liquor. Then there is that other guest who doesn’t know their limit and drink themselves into family drama. Picking a signature drink or two will set you back $50 or less. For example Jamaican Rum Punch would require one bottle of rum along with syrup and lime and water to make. Two bottles of delicious specialty drinks like Bom Bom will also help to manage cost, expectations and will help reduce your liability. As far as desserts, there usually isn’t much room after a big thanksgiving meal which makes this a manageable (budget wise) item that the host should provide. Consider picking up a gourmet item like Johnny Baldwin Cheesecakes sampler. Combine it with store bought cupcakes (not muffins or sheet pan cake), a tub of ice-cream and store bought fresh baked apple pie will provide enough desert and options and portion for those of us who love to end our meals with sweets.
The Presentation / Decor
If you have made the effort to send out specialty invites, created a jazzy play list to maintain the mood and/or theme introduced in your invites, then you better follow through by creating a stellar presentation at the actual gathering. Go for the WOW’S by bringing out your cherished and best dinnerware, serving dishes and silverware. The cleanup will be long and arduous but if not now, then when will be the best time to show off and use your curated collection of decorative dinnerware? If you have a bar cart, clear it off and repurpose it as a desert bar instead. Use your eclectic collection of decorative bowls to create a salad bar where people can build their own salads. Transfer the pot luck items to dishes and platters that you have (if you don’t have any, start stocking up by picking them up at your favorite thrift store or borrow them from a relative.) The rest of your homes décor will help carry the theme of the evening.
DISCLOSURE: I received gratis/complimentary samples from Paperless Post which allowed me to share my experience with you. My experience might be slightly different from yours but my opinion is honest and was not influenced