Dinner parties can be fun! It’s a great way to spend time with your loved ones and get closer to your friends. I love that we are now in a great place where we can finally see and engage with our friends and family and spend quality time with each other. We have all missed laughing, hugging, drinking, and sharing delicious meals. However, preparing the dinner table for a dinner party can be daunting, especially on a limited budget.
Table decor plays a significant role in making a lasting impression. But there are many lovely ways to decorate and accessorize a dinner party with a limited budget. So, if you are hosting or planning to host a dinner party and could use some inspiration to set the dinner table, check out my dinner party ideas on a budget for your next event or holiday party.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I will earn a small commission if you purchase through my link. Please see the full disclosure policy for more information.
Dinner Party Decorating Ideas on a Budget
Inexpensive plates and glassware
Dinnerware can be the main attraction of the dinner table. However, just because you are on a budget does not mean you need need to opt for disposable dishware. As a matter of fact, please say no to anything disposable for this occasion. There are plenty of surprisingly affordable dinnerware sets available (that are not fine chinaware) that will elevate your home dining experience.
Choose a neutral color for dinnerware sets, such as white or ivory, as it is most versatile and timeless. Try to grab plain white plates, clear glasses, and wine glasses from a dollar store, as they often look much higher-end than their $1 price tag. No one will know the difference as they look classy, elegant, and durable. You can also use the same red wine glass to pour white wine.
For each plate setting, start with a dinner plate and salad plate and finish with a dessert bowl. Tuck linen napkins between the plate and the bowl, or use a napkin ring to give it a casual yet chic look. You can wrap the napkin in twine for an even more budget-friendly option, creating your own DIY napkin ring.
For silverware, I often opt for the discount department stores like Marshalls or Target, which sell them in sets, but you can also buy them individually.
Placemats not only protect the table from scratches and burn, but they can also add liveliness and pizazz to a table. They can really help to brighten up a table. You can use placemats to create a cohesive aesthetic for your table. These vinyl metallic placemats from Amazon are an excellent option for your tablescape that will sure to take the table to the max. Gold accents just make everything look so much prettier and fancier.
Table runner or scarf
Instead of the traditional linen tablecloth, a table runner is a much more cost-effective option when decorating a dinner table. Table runners are excellent decorative pieces that come in a variety of sizes and materials, including cotton, plaid, lace, linen, and burlap runners.
If a table runner is out of the question, then consider repurposing one of your pretty pashmina scarves as a runner. You’d be surprised how fancy this little scarf can make the table look. Spread the scarf in the center of the table and fluff it into shape.
Candles are a must
The ambiance is a huge part of the dining experience. And there’s something charming, intimate, and elegant that a lit candle brings to a dining table. Candlelight adds undeniable charm and softness to your dining experience. Whether it’s the food you’re about to enjoy or the company you’re dining with, the gentle glow of a candle and the flicker of the flame will make the dinner table feel sort of fancy and magical. Add a set of ivory or white candles to your table to elevate the setting.
You can pick up candles from the dollar store, which almost always has a taper, votive, and pillar candles available, or grab this 12-pack of votive candles. Scatter the candles of various heights and sizes across the table. For loose candles, incorporate old vases, glass jars, cups, mason jars, or this taper metal spindle candle holder for a lovely touch. Just a pair of candlesticks can make a simple dinner table setting come to life, and there’s a good chance people will feel a lot more comfortable, calm, and (even vulnerable) when the table is candlelit.
Incorporate fresh greenery or flowers.
Floral arrangements can make a lush centerpiece for any dinner party table. Flowers are a lovely way to make the table more inviting, luscious, and Instagram-worthy. Rather than blowing your entire budget on flowers from a local florist, try walking around your yard to see what tree stems you could use, wildflowers, or a few bunches of seasonal berries. I personally like to pick up cheap flowers from Trader Joe’s or other local grocery stores. They may not last very long, but they will at least survive the duration of the party and cost a fraction of what I would pay for a professional florist.
Utilize herbs as decor.
Herbs are not exclusive for adding spice to food. Similar to flowers and greenery, herbs can serve as a display art piece on the dinner table – a sprig of thyme, basil, parsley, rosemary, or mint. For a holiday table, a sprig of fir is a great alternative. Placing herbs on the top of the plates is a simple way to accentuate and round out the table settings.
DIY place cards
If you want to make the dinner table feel a bit more upscale and personalized, add DIY place cards. Place cards are great for groups that are unfamiliar with each other. It is also an easy way to designate people to a specific seat so that they can feel more comfortable, connect with like-minded people and enjoy one another.
Use cloth napkins
Every little detail matters when it comes to creating an awe-inspiring tablescape, so using cloth napkins is important. The small detail of a table napkin can take your table to the next level and give it a more sophisticated look. Cloth napkins feel warmer to your guests, so they can comfortably clean and wipe up any accidental spills. The right placement of the table napkin will give your table a certain look.
You can tuck the cutlery inside of the linen napkin and wrap them in a small length of twine or fold the napkin and lay it on top of the dinnerware. These affordable white napkins make an excellent choice for your dinner party and other dinner parties to come.
Jazz it up with Fairy Lights
String lights may not be necessary, but it is rather fun. Repurpose fairy lights into table garlands by running along a table runner or winding it around serving dishes.
Create a focal point with food
You don’t have to fill up the center of the dinner table and fill every open space with decor. You can leave an open space for serving dishes or a charcuterie board. A charcuterie board can be a very pretty feature that can add to your decor. A beautifully curated charcuterie could be a great conversation starter for dinner partygoers.
Tips for a Budget-Friendly Dinner Party
- Check for items you already own – With creativity, you can design a stylish party setting using things you already have. Start by taking inventory of what you have in your space and what you might need in order to put together a checklist of supplies needed. Maybe there is something that you own that may spark inspiration.
- Keep it simple – Most of your friends and family will be happy to know they got an invite to this “exclusive” intimate dinner party. Therefore there is no reason to go overboard.
- Set a Budget – it is easy to get lost when shopping without a budget. Setting a budget will allow you to select affordable and necessary items for the party.
- Be Flexible – When shopping on a budget, it is important to be flexible with your decor and style. Mix and match decor if you must.
I hope you have found these ideas helpful. Remember to set up the table how you want in order to show off your personal taste and decorating style. Ultimately, engaging in great conversations and watching people pass platters and plates across the dinner table will be the most memorable part of the dinner party.
Tamara White is the creator and founder of The Thrifty Apartment, a home decor and DIY blog that focuses on affordable and budget-friendly home decorating ideas and projects. Tamara documents her home improvement journey, love of thrifting, tips for space optimization, and creating beautiful spaces.