11/30/2011 12:05 am ET | Updated Jan 29, 2012

Champagne Parties on a Beer Budget

Entertaining shouldn't be a burden, emotionally or financially during the holidays. It will be go, go, go for most of us through the New Year and instead of feeling stressed, think of throwing a dinner party as a great way to reconnect with friends and family. With these tips you can throw a classy bash on a holiday budget without the stress.

Spread some holiday cheer this season with these five fabulously frugal dinner party tips:

The Invite. Your invitations set the tone but don't feel pressured to go have something fancy printed up. It's more important that the invites are creative and unique -- give your guests a reason to look forward to your party! For a small, intimate gathering, hit up a craft store like Michael's for some great arts and crafts to customize an invitation. Having a larger fete? People are sending out free Evites for everything from BBQs to baby showers these days and with so many choices your Evites can look festive while getting to your guests fast.

The Trimmings. Chances are you already have some type of holiday décor around the house. Take it up a notch and grab a few value packs of votive candles to scatter around your home -- don't forget the bathroom! They give rooms a warm, romantic glow that will distract from any imperfections you'd rather guests not notice. And when you can get 24 ivory votive candles on sale for only $4 at -- why not?

White is the universal color for winter, so try for white or cream colored dinnerware ( has white serveware on sale right now for under $20) and accent with gold, silver, and crimson. To save money, search through decorations you've got hidden away in the attic like candleholders, vases, garland or a wreath. And if you can dine outdoors (this is Miami, after all), string some inexpensive tree lights!

A centerpiece is a must for the dining table. Go glam with cheap and chic clear vases; you can find some fab ones online at Crate & Barrel. Fill them with flowers or go rustic with a large pillar candle and branches with sprigs of holly. One of my favorite things to do is to take real fruit, apples, oranges, and pears -- and spray paint them gold for stunning centerpieces.

The Feast. For a cozy get-together, a sit-down dinner is a lovely option that won't cost too much because the headcount is less. But if you've invited family, friends and co-workers, cooking for that many people can be a daunting task. Make the food fun while saving money with these menu ideas:

  • Try tapas. In Spain, tapas-style appetizers are common and I prefer to eat this way when out with a big group. Because everyone shares, tapas are a fantastic icebreaker!
  • Think about grouping the food in different areas of the house to give friends and family who don't know one another that well a chance to mingle.
  • Take a boring veggie platter to a new level by placing them in individual glass votive candleholders that people can pick up and carry while mingling.
  • Ask guests to specify in their RSVP a dinner or dessert they will bring. Set up the delicious food on a long buffet table with a card that lists the ingredients and who made it.
  • Custom cocktails are the hottest event trend. You can save big by creating one signature, holiday-themed drink. Martha Stewart has a Holiday Cocktails, Punches and Drinks recipe list on her website -- the Eggnog Martini, Apple Ginger Sparkler and Pear and Cranberry Bellini are to die for. Elegant, pretty drinks will definitely make for an unforgettable bash!

The Entertainment. 'Tis the season! I adore classic holiday music by Frank Sinatra and Mariah Carey; it's infectious and absolutely impossible for me not to sing along when it comes on the radio. Make a playlist with your favorites or ask a party guest to play some tunes if they are musically inclined. But if you're the Queen of Karaoke like me, you'll organize a singing sesh after dinner to really get the party started.

The Guest Gifts. Send yours guests home with something that will remind them of your fantastic holiday dinner party. Be thoughtful with wrapping -- tissue paper and twine cost next to nothing but adds a thoughtful touch.

  • If you love to cook, individually package cupcakes you made from scratch or bake Christmas cookies.
  • Have a green thumb? Create mini bouquets for your dinner table centerpiece for partygoers to take with them.
  • If your visitors are familiar with one another, throw out the idea of a grab bag or Secret Santa. Everyone wins and it's cost-conscious since you will only need to purchase one gift.

Stop stressing and start celebrating this season without throwing off your budget. It's all about champagne parties on a beer budget. Happy holidays. XO