Entertaining Your Holiday Dinner Guests on the Cheap

Gearing up for your holiday feast doesn't have to be a daunting chore if you're well prepared. That's why iVillage spent some time with Elaina Scotto of the famed Fresco by Scotto restaurant in New York City to get the dish on what goes into planning a fabulous holiday gathering without breaking the bank.

Here are some tried and true, simple ways to make your friends and family only think you went over your party budget:

Keep It Simple!

Using simple items and mixing and matching classic pieces keeps your table in balance without overwhelming your guests.

Try using white china instead of a busy pattern when setting your holiday table. Nationwide stores like Pier 1 are a great place to find pretty dishware at reasonable prices.

Do Your Homework!

The Internet is a great resource for planning a great holiday party.

Google or comb through message boards to find advice from people who've already succeeded (or failed!) with your planned holiday ideas before you waste your time, money, and energy on something you've never attempted for a large group of hungry people!

Tip: Visit sites like plumparty.com and orientaltrading.com for fun theme party ideas and elements to incorporate into your holiday event.

Be Innovative!

Buy some colorful ornaments at your local discount or dollar store and place them inside of glass bowls. These make beautiful centerpieces for your tables. You can also do this with frozen cranberries!

Candles are an inexpensive way to create a beautiful  dining experience and ambiance. Remember: Never use scented candles in this type of setting. They're great for the bathroom, but not for your party! Fresh flowers are okay, but make sure the scent is not overwhelming.

Budget Your Time!

Making foods that can be prepped in advance will free up your time and allow you to spend it with your guests.

Salads, pasta dishes, and selections like bread pudding and cobbler for dessert are some great ways to save time, but not skimp on flavor.

Tip: Although you may think it's easier for clean up, stay away from using disposable dishware. You'll end up wasting half your budget on plastic or paper plates that would be better spent on food.

Don't Break the Bank!

You don't need to spend a lot to get a great bottle of wine to pair with your meal.

Côtes du Rhône (France) and Malbec (Argentina) are two examples of great-tasting wines for under $10 a bottle. Ask your local winery or liquor store for E. Guigal or Tizac brands.

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