How to Host a Themed Dinner Party for Under $100 | Articulate

How to Host a Themed Dinner Party for Under $100

You finally have your own place. You’re no longer surviving on instant noodles and peanut butter straight from the jar. You have work shoes. Let’s face it: you’ve ascended to the status of “young professional.” And do you know what young professionals do? They know how to host a dinner party.

Of course, this new life stage doesn’t mean you’re required to throw lavish, budget-busting dinner parties that mean you won’t eat until your next paycheck. It also doesn’t mean you have to suddenly lose your sense of humor, or — gosh forbid — your style. We’re here to show you how you can show off both with three themed dinner party ideas — all for under $100. 

Andrea of Harlow and Thistle prepares a greenery bouquet to prep before hosting a simple dinner party.
Hosting doesn’t have to be complicated. Andrea of Harlow and Thistle adds life to her table with a simple greenery bouquet, while her Ceres chairs juxtapose with an antique table for a modern look.

How to Host an Upscale Childhood Favorites Dinner Party

There are certain foods that can take you right back to your rough and tumble sandbox days. You didn’t have to pay taxes, you’d never even heard of retinol, and the only time you ever saw strangers argue was over the latest Tickle-Me-Elmo doll. Give your guests the joy of these simpler times with a dinner party featuring elevated versions of their favorite childhood foods. Think smoky, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches and bourbon banana splits. 

Set the Scene 

Setting a kiddish theme doesn’t mean regressing your style. Eschew a set table and lay out a cozy pillow-scape of your pretty throws and pillows. Center it around your sofa, like the Abisko, so everyone has a comfy place to sit: this party has all the makings of a movie marathon. Keep the sleepover feeling going by adding ambient lighting, like that from our Orb table lamp. If you’re weird about people eating on your furniture, no worries. You are now the mom of this party, and everyone can give your Sede stools a spin and eat at the counter in the kitchen before retiring to the chill zone.

The Menu

When planning your menu, think about what foods played a role in your happiest childhood memories. Then, consider how you can elevate them to grown-up status on the cheap. Love Taiwanese chicken and rice? Only interested in mac and cheese from age 4 through 19? Cola fiend? This is the opportunity to combine your personal history with your sophisticated taste.

For example, perhaps you met your current best friend over a shared after-school lemonade. Use this memory as inspiration for your big batch spiked rosemary lemonade recipe. Grab some lemons or pre-made lemonade, a couple sprigs of rosemary from your mom’s garden or the grocery store, and a small bottle of cheap gin. Your guests will be thrilled with this throwback, and they’ll never know it probably cost less than $15 for all of the ingredients.

Blogger Sugar and Cloth's dining room featuring Article Svelti chairs in Aloe green.
Blogger Ashley Rose of Sugar and Cloth uses the Svelti chairs and Sede stools to create multiple seating options for guests. The pop of aloe green keeps things light and fresh — perfect for an upscale childhood favorites dinner party.

Maybe your grandma used to make you the best grilled cheese whenever you paid her a visit. We’re talking white bread, American cheese, slathered with margarine. Turn up the fancy factor for your guests and grab a chunk of smoky aged cheddar or gouda (whichever’s on sale), a loaf of rustic bread, a handful of scallions, and a few jalapeños from your local supermarket. You now have the ingredients for enough of this very grown-up recipe to feed a crowd — all for about $25. 

The main motivation to eat dinner as a kid? Dessert. Bring back memories of those baseball team celebrations at your local ice cream parlour with a very grown-up easy peasy bourbon banana split. Melt a few tablespoons of butter on a pan and throw about a quarter cup of brown sugar in there. Mix it around until it starts lightly bubbling. Then, take a few bananas (about 29 cents each) and slice them lengthwise down the middle. Add them to the pan, along with a healthy splash of cheap bourbon. You only need a bit, so one of those mini bottles from the checkout line of the liquor store work great — and keep costs low. Once the bananas are caramelized, add them to a bowl of your favorite vanilla ice cream. Total cost for this dessert? Around $20 for all. 

While these are some of our favorite menu suggestions, feel free to put your own spin on things. Head on over to Pinterest or your favorite recipe website and simply type in “Adult” + [childhood food or drink item] for more great recipe ideas. 

How to Host a 70’s Dinner Party

The 70’s was an era full of free-love, bell-bottoms, and questionable dining decisions. If the notorious Twitter account 70’s Dinner Party has taught us anything, it’s that the culinary time period celebrated unidentifiable meat mousse, Jell-O salads, and adventurous flavor combos (ham and bananas-hollandaise, anyone?). Meals were immersive, involved, and often grotesque.

While it would be fun to watch your guests’ faces as you serve a fish-shaped salmon mousse, we don’t want you to waste time and money on something that will just end up as an inside joke. We’re here to show you how you can take some of that 70’s flair and make something memorable — and edible — for your guests. 

Blogger Anita Yokota's dining room features mid-century modern furniture, plants, and natural materials.
The dining room of interior designer Anita Yokota is ready to host a 70’s themed dinner party. Natural materials, a mix of organic tones, and mid-century furniture, like the Ecole dining chairs and Madera table, come together for the perfect 70’s backdrop.

Set the Scene 

When it comes to the decor for your 70’s dinner party, we recommend a more refined vibe rather than a groovy disco ball and peace sign theme. Warm natural tones and materials with hits of orange, yellow, and maroon, provide the perfect backdrop for your retro get-together. Think the rich wood of the Seno sideboard, and a leather sofa like the Texada adorned with a couple of ochre yellow or mossy green Lucca cushions. 

Dinner parties in the 70’s featured cocktail hour followed by a sit-down affair, so the table is the star of the show. The expandable Seno dining table is great for communal gatherings where a cheese ball can get can get passed around, while a round table like the Conan gives everyone equal access to a fondue centerpiece. 

The Menu

If you weren’t yet born in the 1970’s, we recommend asking a family member about their favorite retro foods. If they’d all rather forget about that time period, a quick Google or Pinterest search for 70’s dinner party recipes will conjure countless results. Here are some of our low-cost favorites. 

When it came to canapés or appetizers, the creamier the better. With a loaf of bread, a cookie cutter, cucumber, and some cream cheese, you’ve got these on-theme canapés

If you want to lean in harder to the cream theme, you can try your hand at a hedgehog cheese ball. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Pick up some basic cheddar cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream and mix together with your choice of spice and herb mix. While this recipe calls for almonds, we know those can get pricey. Pretzel sticks work just as well for the spikes — and as a vehicle for all that cheese. 

Another fun and cheesy option? Fondue. While we wouldn’t recommend it as a main course to a hedgehog cheeseball appetizer (unless you’re providing Lactaid to all of your guests), it’s a food experience that just screams 1970’s. Borrow a fondue set or find one at your local thrift store where they usually abound, grab a couple packs of cheese fondue, a baguette, and some grape tomatoes. Dinner is done — and for under $30. 

Emily Henderson designed this dining room with dark teal walls, leather Article chairs, and a light wood table.
This dining room from Emily Henderson is a nod to vintage style. Dramatic teal walls, an art deco style light fixture, and the natural leather of the Kissa chairs make it the perfect space for a 70’s dinner party.

How to Host a Breakfast for Dinner Party

Before you go clutching your pearls at the idea of serving your guests soggy scrambled eggs and a bowl of dry Cheerios, let us show you the ways you can throw this kind of bash in an elegant, but economically-friendly, way. 

Set the Scene

The inspiration for this dinner party is a lazy Sunday morning — without the morning part. The house is warm, and you’ve got all the time in the world. Let your guests luxuriate in this feeling with the atmosphere you create. Thankfully for your budget, there isn’t much you need to do decor-wise besides perhaps a few bouquets of wildflowers. 

With comfort the driving force behind your dinner party, make sure there are lots of pillows and throws around so guests can get as cozy as possible. When it’s dinner time, encourage guests to eat wherever they’re most at-home. Perhaps they want to get cozy on a sofa like the Gaba sectional. Maybe they want to perch on some Esse counter stools at the kitchen island like they do every morning at home. Or, they could know their klutzy selves well enough to know that sitting at a table like the Madera is the best place to enjoy their breakfast feast. 

The Menu

You could definitely keep things simple and go for a bacon and eggs with toast kind of breakfast, but we’ve got a few suggestions if you want to take things up a notch. 

Level up your menu by providing a chic crepe bar for your guests. With their core ingredients being flour, milk, eggs, and butter, crepes are one of the most cost-effective — and inherently fancy — foods you can make. 

Make a whole batch of plain crepes before your guests arrive and keep them warm in the oven. Once your guests walk through the door, place your platter of beautiful crepes on your sideboard, like the Envelo, and provide a few toppings. We love offering guests both sweet and savory options, so feel free to mix it up with whichever berries are on sale, whipped cream, hazelnut spread, along with pieces of deli ham or bacon, spinach, mushrooms, and shredded cheese. A budget of around $30 for all of these ingredients should be plenty. 

Love It Or List It featured this dining room with an Article Madera table and white chairs.
The Madera dining table offers plenty of room for your guests to gather — whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The Love It or List It crew set the table with coffee mugs and juice glasses to ensure everything’s good to go when guests arrive.

As for drinks, offer your guests their choice of Irish cream coffees or mimosas. For the Irish cream coffees, provide fresh coffee, including decaf, and a bottle of Irish cream liqueur. 

You might be thinking that mimosas are going to drive this party budget over the one-hundred dollar mark, but a cheap champagne is perfectly acceptable in this case. It’s getting mixed with orange juice, so your guests probably aren’t going to be able to discern between a poppin’ bottles kind of variety and a bottom shelf option. You can flaunt your inner fancy diva with the orange juice, though. Take that carton of grocery store juice and decant it into the pitcher you’ve been using as decor for the last few years. According to our calculations, the Irish cream liqueur, champagne, and orange juice will come in around $40, bringing the total food and beverage cost to around $70 so far. Not too shabby.  

Blogger Craftberry Bush's eat-in kitchen features the Article round Conan table and Ceres chairs.
An eat-in kitchen makes serving up your dinner party fare a breeze. All that counter space? The perfect crepe buffet. We love how blogger Craftberry Bush creates a stylish dinner party setup in her kitchen with the Conan dining table and Ceres chairs.

A themed dinner party of any kind lets you take an often-stodgy event and really make it your own. With these three under $100 dinner party ideas, we’re saying goodbye to knowing which tiny fork is meant for your salad course, and saying hello to food-focused gatherings that are stylish — but never taken too seriously.

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