How To Entertain on a Budget According To 4 Stylish Pros

Your Pinterest boards serve as perfect proof: you know how to entertain in style. Pulling things together for a last minute weekend gathering however – sans florist, caterer and wedding-sized budget – can be a whole different story.

We asked a few LA pros we love how they entertain on a budget and they shared the insights and ideas below. A-list hyper-local caterer, Tara Maxey of Heirloom LA, is all about that self-service bar; local restaurateur, Hayley Collins Feldman of Venice’s Chez Tex sings Spotify’s praises; top wedding blogger, Amanda Dawbarn of 100 Layer Cake lives for a Moroccan braise; cooking instructor and cookbook author, Pamela Salzman, throws votives everywhere

The Restaurateur:
Hayley Collins Feldman of Chez Tex

Serve Sexy Wines. I strongly believe that a great party comes down to good wine and music. Mix up the under $20 wine selections with a few sexy bottles you can start your guests off with.  I love Cruse’s Valdiguie Nouveau, which hovers right under $30 bucks and has a little spirtz to it.

Music Matters. For music, my Spotify rotates between Billie Holiday and Rhye radio (which we play at the restaurant).

Bring on The Bubbles. And one last thing no party should be without (budget or not): LaCroix!

The Caterer:
Tara Maxey of Heirloom LA

Start Early. Entertaining for a crowd on a budget is about getting ahead. Picking up your wines and sparkling waters early so then you can set them out for a self-service bar.

Forget The Florals. Consider platters rather than flowers which can really eat up a budget. Instead opt for fresh herbs and edible flowers to place in small little vases and as garnish on your platters that can sit out and look nice without having to attend to them throughout the night. It’s all about presentation! Strategically place these little noshing beauties in communal areas.

Tend to The Vibe. Don’t forget the music playlist because that sets the tone of the event — and it’s free!


The Cooking Instructor:
Pamela Salzman of Kitchen Matters

Get PotLuck-y. This is something that I learned after I moved from LA to the beach: People are so happy to be invited to someone’s house for dinner and most people ask what they can bring. Take them up on it! The host can provide the main dish, but there’s nothing wrong with assigning guests one item, whether it’s a dip and chips, a dessert or a bottle of wine.

Go Plant-Based. No one will ask, “where’s the meat?” which is usually the most expensive ingredient on a menu.  There are loads of great meatless recipes that will make for a great centerpiece dish and save you some cash in the meantime. Think vegetable and chickpea curry, veggie lasagne, or baked vegetable risotto, all of which can be made in large quantities. (If you must serve meat, look no further than your slow cooker which can transform tough, inexpensive cuts of meat like chuck, brisket or pork shoulder to meltingly tender).

Decorate With Food. I love to use seasonal fruits and vegetables on my table mixed with lots of inexpensive votive candles. Choose different produce in one color or choose lots of colors. Don’t be afraid to cut open items to expose their color, like citrus, pomegranate and melons. You’ll still be able to use and eat your table decorations the next day!

The Wedding Blogger:
Amanda Dawbarn of 100 Layer Cake

Cook For A Crowd. When I host a dinner party, I’ll oftentimes make a big one pot braise, like Moroccan chicken with potatoes and carrots. It’s inexpensive, easy, and it tastes like I’ve been cooking away in the kitchen all day (when in reality, it took me all but 20 mins to assemble).

Pour A Pitcher. A big pitcher of sangria always a hit at a party in lieu of fancy mixed drinks if you’re trying to keep the cost down. The fruit infusion looks beautiful and tastes pretty darn delicious too. Get seasonally creative with a light peach sangria during the summer months and deep red pomegranate version in the winter.

How do you entertaining on a budget when it’s last-minute?
These easy tips will guide you through. 

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