How to Host a Philadelphia Society Party on the Cheap

So your guests will be rolling in from the cobblestone streets of Society Hill, PA, to the lush suburban greenery of Parsippany-Troy Hills, NJ. It is time to merge the elegance of Philadelphia with New Jersey chic for a get-together that will leave people gossiping for all the right reasons. Just because you are planning a fancy event for a hoity-toity guestlist, a night to remember does not need to break the bank. Our list of simple tricks will help you forge an unforgettable semi-sophisticated soiree!


Choosing a tasteful theme is an easy way to make the party seem artsy and slightly highfalutin. Whether your guests are from the historic streets of Berwyn or exclusive Penn Wynne, they are bound to arrive dressed-up and mildly excited to visit your 1920s Gatsby-style speakeasy or a candle-filled lunch tribute to the Diwali festival in India. A color aesthetic like a black and white party can also be effective. One major money-saving theme is a fancy potluck event you can slyly turn into a competition. Having artsy, erudite people each bring a tray of their favorite dish while trying to outdo one another is an invaluable way to ensure top quality food.

Cooking and drinking

If you prefer spending a few hours in the kitchen, say, with a glass of boxed wine in one hand, cooking is the easiest way to save money without being considered cheap. Start in your own pantry. No matter how sparse the shelves may seem, you will be surprised at how quickly loose foods can be transformed into delicious appetizers, like creamy hummus from a blender. Two potentially inexpensive ways to stay stocked all-party-long: Try sourcing your ingredients in bulk through your local Costco or Sam’s Club. Don’t have a membership? Borrow a friend’s (we won’t tell). Or compare prices online and order delivery.

When it comes to drinks, do a little bit of research. Choose your region first. You might want to find the perfect New Jersey–sourced wine pairings, or welcome the tastes of the Brandywine Artisan Trail from Philly. Whatever your choice, drop into your local liquor store Lawrenceville, NJ, and check on bulk-buying deals across a selection of adult beverages, picking out at least one bubbly. You’ll also need to grab at least one top shelf hard liquor to parade around.

Create a facade

Do you have a passable outdoor patio for a “gourmet” char-grilled brunch? Does your front yard have curb appeal? Hosting at home is a cost-effective launch-pad for ideas, and a faux-haute display may only be a clip, trim or decoration away. Need a helping hand? Now it’s as easy as going to your laptop to find cheap labor on sites like TaskRabbit or a neighborhood connector like NextDoor. Search peer review platforms such as Yelp for affordable landscaping services in New Jersey. Also check out other events in Central Jersey and the surrounding area for inspiration.

At the same time, try to tap your home’s inner beauty and make a striking impression with sophisticated-looking choices of indoor décor. Consider a sparse gallery setting with a view art pieces visible, even if they’re something abstract that a five-year-old made. And don’t obscure your paintings with too many decorations. If your walls are looking a bit too white, Philadelphia’s Da Vinci Art Alliance can offer some visual inspiration for prints — providing an ice breaker or two for your gathering.

For a daytime affair, dust off those china plates that have been stacked on the shelf since Thanksgiving 2003 and add an air of class to your amuse-bouches. Repurpose your colorless Christmas lights, and string them in the main guest areas, or elevate the atmosphere with the soft glow of candlelight or lanterns. Then, you will want get creative with your table settings. Treat your senses, and those of your guests, with the fragrant touch of New Jersey’s finest flowers. Try adding them to a neat vase or placing them in a visually arrested arrangement.

Look the part

As the host, you will be the center of attention and judged for your outfit. You will want to be comfortable without sacrificing style. More importantly, you’ll want to portray an effortless nonchalance. While exploring your wardrobe, think about rapper P. Diddy’s annual White Party. In any occasion, the flow of a long white dress can be simultaneously casual and elegant. It will force you to move gracefully and deliberately, lest you spill something on it. Match your look with a pair of heeled sandals, and loose, natural curls, to bring a fresh New Jerseyan touch to your ensemble.

When planning the party for your in-laws, society friends, or wife’s established artistic crowd, the right ingredients are often closer than you think. Plan wisely and appear more sophisticated with these simple steps to host the finest of folks without straining your budget.

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