Throwing a summer party doesn’t mean spending a month’s salary. There’s so much that you can do on a budget.
I am not much of a party planner, but my husband is. For our housewarming party in Abu Dhabi, he checked the guest list of 12 people once, discussed with me what he would like to cook, and that was it. It was probably the first stress-free party that I had seen; we only visited the grocery stores a handful of times.
Our table was set with several snacks that included chips and a homemade dip, along with potato wedges that we had made. We offered our guests a variety of cooling drinks, with lemons, cucumbers and even frozen blueberries that acted as ice. Of course, the real winner was ironically cold coffee, which turned out to be the favourite of most of the guests. Dinner was chicken satay, chilli and there was an option of pizza as well, for variety. No party is complete without dessert, and so we served ice cream along with homemade coconut soufflé.
We didn’t need to spend much, except on fruits and the snacks. It was a small, simple party, with friends gathered in our small apartment, with much laughter and compliments for the food. And it was in the midst of the UAE summer.
So, if you’re reluctant about hosting a party in the UAE this summer, you can put your doubts to rest. It’s not a Herculean task; you can make a thrilling bash with just what you have. For starters, take several factors into account. You need to first know how many people are coming to your party, so you know exactly how much food to make or order. See if your list needs to be pared down. If it’s a kid’s birthday party, decide if you want to call the entire class for the birthday. Choose being practical and realistic.
After looking at the guest list, consider your budget and see how much you would like to spend.
A fun theme makes for a fun party
Do as much as you can by yourself so that you don’t need to rely on a party planner, advises Aisha Leitner, the owner of Party Camel, a party supplies store. That’s one way of reducing costs. Start your party planning by selecting a theme, which sets the tone for the party and keeps you focused on the budget. If it’s a kid’s birthday party, it should be according to their preferences, like unicorns or pirates. Look around your house to see what you can use for decorations, so you don’t need to keep making trips to the markets. Channel your creativity, make masks for the kids, if you need to. Try recycling old decorations, or use whatever you can around the house. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. Those old empty buckets lying around your house, can be painted and used as décor too.
Do as much as you can by yourself so that you don’t need to rely on a party planner. Select a theme, and if it's a kid's birthday, it should be according to their preferences...
For older kids, you can organise a gamer party if they are gamers, so that they can mostly stay indoors and play on the playstation, suggests Leitner. “That way, they won’t be running around so much,” she says.
Pool party and popsicles
In the UAE, there are pools everywhere, says Leitner. “Every building, community probably has a pool. So you can have a couple of friends over and take them to the pool. You can have popsicles, ice-cream or a fruit cake,” she says. Ice-cream always works wonders in hot weather, so you can opt for a fun ice-cream party at the pool. Dessert parties are always a great hit with people.
For locations, she suggests preferably try organising it at your home or a friend’s house, as that is won’t burn a hole in your pocket. Otherwise scout for locations like restaurants that are affordable too, or offering discounts.
You don’t always need too many décor elements.
Jardel Silva CEO of Eventchic Designs, a Dubai-based event management company, offers some advice for a dinner party to look elegant and chic. “Use the right ones in a perfect combination to get the desired outcome. When I have friends over or when I am designing an intimate dinner party, I usually prefer to have one element that offers a statement, one showstopper for example a floral arrangement,” he explains. This can be a centrepiece, or a candle display. It’s something that everyone can see or talk about.
Silva advises that you can even use normal table glasses as mini vases across the table, which can be combined with the right flowers. These flowers can be purchased in the supermarket. “Tea lights are also inexpensive and at night give the table setting a bright warm feel with the flowers,” he says. Silva also suggests using fruits, which are colourful and play the role of a vibrant centerpiece if placed and matched correctly. “You can always get really creative with them,” he says. Scented flowers and candles are not such a bad idea, either.
Potluck dinner and keeping it light
It’s not only fun, but so easy on the budget. In a potluck dinner, everyone is responsible for bringing their own dish, while you handle the main dish or dessert, advises Radhika Gulati, a former food caterer, based in Abu Dhabi. A veteran party planner as she calls herself, she says that some of the best dos in a UAE summer party involve finger foods, which people can eat with a toothpick on a plate. Get creative with your salads and try out new dips. If it’s hot, it’s best to keep the menu light and easy, like small sandwiches and cheese platters with meat.
Cooling drinks on entry
Find ways to beat the heat; don’t let your guests sweat it out.
Silva suggests offering a refreshing cooling drink to your guests as they enter. He also has some ideas for decorative ice cubes for the drinks. “Prepare it all the night before, add chopped lemons, mint to make the ice cubes look decorative. As it melts in the cup it’s also a perfect touch as the flavours go together,” he says.
Thirty-six year old Siddharth Tampi, an Abu Dhabi-based engineer has a skill of whipping up different kinds of refreshing summer drinks for parties. He suggests a blend of soda, cucumber, a dash of lime juice and a little syrup. Combine all the ingredients and shake with ice. Add a rolled cucumber on top for effect. Another idea is a mint cooler, where you can add 4 cups of coconut water, two thinly sliced cucumbers, half a cup of lime juice, a dash of sugar and mint leaves. Let it chill for two hours before serving.
Music and ambience
The music for a party is so important, adds Silva. “It sets the guests in the right mood and ambience and gives a hint of the party’s mood.”
See what everyone’s up for, whether they just want relaxed music in the background or favourite bopping hits. If the temperature in the room is relatively cool, you can even try having a dance party.