How to host a budget party this festive season

At last! The holiday season is here, packed with endless parties and summer fun. But how are you planning on showing your friends a good time without busting your Christmas budget? Here’s our guide to impressing your guests for less.

We asked chef and owner of Salle á Manger Bespoke Catering, Tamara LePine-Williams*, for some of her favourite budget Christmas recipes:

Pork rillets with melba toast and sundried peppadew or apply jelly and crackling
“Retro, old-fashioned and downright unhealthy. People fall on it like it is their last meal,” says Tamara, “I serve it either in a rustic earthenware pot with strips of crackling or in a glass container topped with a few juniper berries and apple jelly cubes – either way, no-one can leave it alone.”

Citrus cured Kinglip Carpaccio with red onion and fennel shavings, served on bamboo knotted skewers
“This alternative to Sushi/Sashimi is delicious, easy to execute and very cost effective for larger numbers,” says Tamara.

Ice cream with mulled wine reduction
Serve in juice glasses with long soda spoons, or go for the holiday feel by serving it in cones stuck in a champagne cooler filled with coloured sugar. The mulled wine syrup keeps the Christmas note without the heat and is delicious poured over or folded into the ice cream.

Click here for all the recipes.

“Whatever you are serving on a budget, keep it simple and make it abundant,” says Tamara. “Think ‘Babette’s Feast’ and then add a bit more.”

Check out our guide to great wines and sparkling wines that won’t make you look cheap. Tell guests that you will be providing the sparkling wine and wine, and they can bring a bottle of something else should they wish. Usually, guests tend to drink an average of two drinks in the first hour and one drink per hour thereafter. It is best to estimate one bottle of wine for five to six guests, depending on the crowd.  Hand your guests a glass of bubbly on arrival to get them into the party spirit.

“The most important thing here is to choose a theme and a colour scheme – and stick to it,” says Giselle O’Connor, interior designer at Dominico House. The quickest and cheapest way to add magic to any room? Candles. Low, warm lighting is essential to setting an atmosphere.

“When choosing a playlist, consider your crowd carefully,” says DJ UltraMel, a popular function and party DJ from Johannesburg (tel: +27 72 607 6045). “Think of factors such as their age group and their culture. Also consider the time of day. A well-chosen track at sunset can really set the tone for a lovely evening.” Start with low-volume, background music, and increase the volume gradually as the party gets going.

DJ UltraMel’s top tip? Make three playlists: a chill playlist, a mid playlist and a party playlist. That way, you can put each one on shuffle and when the time is right, step up to the next level. It’s important to watch your crowd. If people are occasionally bobbing their heads or tapping their feet, then you are heading in the right direction.

Moneybags’ top tip
Aim not to entertain during a mealtime, as your guests will get increasingly hungry as they drink. Label your party as a pre-dinner sundowner so guests can move on by 8pm or 9pm. Should you wish to extend the party into the evening, make sure you ask your friends to bring a platter. “Most importantly, enjoy yourself!” says DJ UltraMel. “If the host is having a good time and looking relaxed and happy, it sets the tone for everybody else.”

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All information correct at time of publication and subject to change thereafter.

*Tamara LePine-Williams has run Salle á Manger for over 10 years.  She catered for the launch of the 46664 clothing range for the Mandela Foundation and Her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday celebrated at the residence in the presence of Prince William and Prince Harry.  She also broadcasts on the Wine Programme for Classic FM and is a regular contributor to Classic Wine Magazine. Email or call +27 11 784 8334 for more information.