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9 Tricks to Make Your Next Outdoor Dinner Party Look Expensive

Updated: Nov. 11, 2021

These cheap and easy tricks are sure to impress your dinner party guests—without breaking the bank.


Start with a monochromatic palette

Great news, minimalists: monochrome is all the rage. “You can pull off a polished look without overdoing it,” says Real Simple. White, ivory, or grey tables and chairs will give your backyard a modern, sophisticated appearance. For a low-budget makeover, try sanding and spray-painting an old kitchen set, or using monochrome pillowcases to cover outdated seat cushions.


Add colorful accents

If all white or grey isn’t your style, spice up plain patio furniture with lively embellishments. “A terrace gets a bold pick-me-up from cushions in vibrant colors and modern prints,” advises Real Simple. Bright pillows, dishes, and napkins add a splash of color and lighten the mood, creating an eye-catching space for your guests to roam. Get a cheap and colorful set of dishes from the dollar store that you can use over and over again.

Ali Blumenthal for Reader's Digest

Spruce up old furniture

Make your well-loved set of table and chairs look brand new by polishing them with a little WD-40. This washes away the grease and dirt, creating a smooth and shiny appearance.


Improve the mood with lighting

Decorative hanging lanterns or string lights create a soft evening glow and add a pop of color to your backyard as the sun sets.


Skip elaborate centerpieces

Big, flowery embellishments can make the space look busy—plus, they’re pricey and can make it hard for your guests to socialize around them. Place floating peonies and other stemless flowers in a small, flat bowl of water for a simple yet sophisticated table centerpiece.


Get crafty

Instead of buying the usual plastic tablecloth from the dollar store, try lining your table with brown craft paper. This will create a contemporary, polished look—and makes for an easy clean-up at the end of the night.


Focus on display

Use your favorite vase to act as a stylish cupcake or cocktail display. By turning it upside down and topping it with a decorative dish to hold the food, you can make any dish look gourmet.


Go vintage

Repurpose old glass jars as candleholders by wrapping the top with metal wire and hanging them from tree branches. Use battery-operated candles instead of real ones—they create the same amount of light, but don’t leave behind any of that messy, hot wax.


Choose bold patterns

Boldly patterned napkins can make eye-catching placemats. Better yet, laying the napkins across the width of the table will cover enough space for two placemats instead of just one—a money saver as well as chic decor. Large, vibrant outdoor rugs also add flair without breaking the bank, and you can find them practically everywhere, from thrift shops to Target.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest