Cocktail Party at a Studio or Gallery

PLANNER: Jessica Pennington, Stella Event Design, St. Joseph, MI

VENUE: An artist's studio or gallery with architectural features like an open floor plan, brick walls, and big windows offers flexibility and built-in interest. Think beyond the usual party spaces, and approach artists or galleries that don't advertise their venues for event rentals; you may snag a great deal. $2,000

DECOR: Go for a modern yet eclectic look—think black and white with bold pops of turquoise, lemon, and guava. Add colorful glass pieces like vases in different sizes, which you can find at flea markets or online. Sprigs of yellow oncidium orchids, used sparingly, can add an elegant touch (as well as height) without big cost. Spread a mix of white, black, and black-and-white damask linens on bistro tables throughout the room. Add candles in glass holders of different heights, textures, and shapes. $840

FOOD: Tapas stations will entertain your guests and save you space and money by cutting down on formal seating. Choose fun and interactive stations, like salads mixed cocktail-style in shakers and served in martini glasses, and a bar featuring both savory and dessert crepes. $4,200

DRINK: A space at which you can provide your own alcohol will save you a fortune, and having the bartenders mix drinks to go with each dish will limit the types of alcohol you need. Use three signature drinks to bring in more color—try a red cranberry margarita, a blue sapphire cocktail, and fresh lemonade as the nonalcoholic option. $1,125

MUSIC: A Latin trio will not only create a festive atmosphere, which encourages mingling during the cocktail hour, but also put people in the mood for dancing later. $1,200

RENTALS: While tall cocktail tables will be a perfect complement to the tapas stations, you'll also want to offer some traditional tables with seating for older guests. $585

TOTAL: $9,950

Back to all budget wedding ideas.

Photo: Getty Images
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