"But What Else Will You Do With It?" A Story About How We Bargain Hunt for Our Literary Dinner Parties
Fun fact: we thrift almost everything for our literary dinner parties. Actually, a combination of thrifting and a bit of scouring the clearance sections at HomeGoods and Target is probably more accurate. We do this as a hobby, friends— so our budget for these things is basically non-existent. I think the most we've ever spent for one dinner (excluding food/flower costs) is about $30, but we generally stay under $10. We've always tried to emphasize that these dinners are doable for anyone, and since we've covered the basic how-to's, we decided to share a little more about how we source our decor.
The first step, honestly, is to have a vision, or at least some kind of aesthetic feel that you want to create. We generally use Pinterest to do this! Next, round up everything you already have that fits your vision, and identify where the gaps are. Maybe you need a serving tray, or candle holders, or napkins. Whatever it is, keep those items in mind when you go to the store.
Now here's the tricky part: try not to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff in the store. When I walk in, I try to really focus on finding those couple things I need first and foremost. Sometimes it's glassware, or a table runner I need to complete the scene in my head, but I also have my eyes open for items that fit the aesthetic I want, and if I come across something, then I think about how I want to incorporate it.
Also, whenever I find an item I'm interested in, I ask myself "but what else will I do with this?" If it's just too specific to one dinner, and costs more than a dollar or two, I have a hard time purchasing it...because then what? I store it indefinitely? I toss or donate it? It feels like a waste. I make a point to prioritize items: if I think it's going to completely make the set up, I go for it, but if it's just an accent and it's really too specific, I pass.
Some trips are more successful than others, and that's okay. I prefer to think of the whole process as a treasure hunt instead of something stressful, and it's okay if I don't strike gold every time. One thing that does increase my success rate is looking at creative uses for things. Can that jar be a vase? Can that cool piece of lace be cut into a table runner? Can I put a pillar candle on that little plate? You have to think a little outside the box sometimes!
It’s also worth noting that we plan for our next buddy read and dinner well in advance. As we're reading, we each take our own notes and develop a vision that we'll talk about and combine. If we had only a few days of planning and gathering materials, we would like be more stressed and would have a harder time including so many details. And really, the details are our favorite elements of a dinner party: the menu, drinks, and decor, we've found that they add a richness to the experience and aesthetic quality. Lastly, we really do compliment each other in setting up these dinners. From styling to small adjustments, photos, and food, we couldn't create what we do alone, at least not as wonderfully. Of course, that isn't to say you need a best friend to throw your own dinner party with, but it certainly helps!
If you have any thoughts or questions, we’d love to hear!