Something Borrowed, Something Blue on a Budget

Summer is finally here which means the wedding season is in full throttle. Anxious brides are planning for their special day as the tulips and daffodils bloom. At the beginning of the year, my friend asked me to help plan her daughter’s July outdoor pre-wedding dinner party before her big day in August. Immediately, I thought this would be easy breezy but not so fast. I was informed she wanted a high-end look on a Dollar Store budget. Here comes the difficult part, Tiffany-style dreams on a budget. The fun part is that with a little extra time and creativity, it can be done.

For this Design & Dine article, I thought you might enjoy reading about my design process for budget-conscience special occasions with the hope that it will help you if you are planning a similar event.


When planning any event, I always start with color. The first step is determining the color and then the theme which was already pre-determined in this case, outdoor dining. You can select your theme just as easily by using the seasons which makes this step quick and effortless.

When looking for décor pieces, place settings, etc., seek out all high-end images in luxury magazines, exclusive retail store windows and fine china and crystal table displays. It was easy for me because while I was shopping for my design clients’ projects, I also was getting design ideas for my friend’s daughter’s dinner party. Retail store windows and catalogs are good resources. I call this being a copycat and why not, they have done all the work for you.


If you are short on time, like I am most days, wherever you go look for inspiration. I call it double dipping. I always double dip doing multiple tasks at the same time. Since we have busy schedules, simply keep your eyes and mind open as you go through your day. Keep it fun. You will be surprised by simply focusing on inspiration, you find it all around you.

Budget-conscience events usually means spending less money out-of-pocket and more time “window” shopping for ideas. Cut your time in half by surfing the internet while relaxing at home. Start by searching images of high-end luxury dining and let the fun begin. While driving the kids around or driving to work, look out the window to get ideas from the sights you see. I also love getting ideas while out dining. I’ve been known to make reservations for one at a white linen table restaurant. I pre-plan by checking out the menu online ahead of time and then order at least one appetizer so that I can take pictures of the tabletop and food presentation. I even take pictures of the bathroom.

I was recently in Detroit touring the Charles Wright African-American Museum of History looking for inspiration. Soon after walking around, I noticed an Australian Aborigines art exhibit. I was so inspired by the bright vibrate blue colors juxtaposed against the contrasting small white dots in the art. The art was simple yet impactful. Immediately it became clear, the oil paint on the canvas called BODY ART was my inspiration for the pre-wedding party. Bingo…my color for the dinner party is blue which would go nicely with their theme.


For years I borrowed my best friend’s crystal platter wedding gift and after 10 years she just gave it to me. Now, I am not advocating that you take over your friend’s wedding gifts but borrowing an heirloom is just as good. You can borrow a tablecloth, crystal, china etc. Keep in mind that it must have sentimental value. It does not have to be a wedding for you to use something borrowed for your dining party.

In addition, thrift shops, consignment and import stores are the best places to find true cost saving bargains that originally were owned by others. You’ll find a lot of treasures that you can now permanently “borrow.”

You can also “borrow” everything you need for your design theme of the day by renting pieces from a local party rental company. I have done this a thousand times and they can help you achieve what you need within your set budget.

Lastly, in addition to these three tips, there are a lot great retailers who have everything you need for a great event that won’t break the bank so you can save money, in this case, for the main event to come. Some of my favorites continue to be Cost Plus, Pier 1 and Target. And don’t forget Hobby Lobby if you have one near you as well as Michaels.

This pre-wedding party is now less than a month away, so I am off to start wrapping up the final touches. Let me know if these design tips help and if you have any addition questions, please feel free to leave them below.

Photo credit: V. Sheree Publishing

Shot on location at Cost Plus World Market in San Francisco

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Phyllis has a unique combination of varied experience for over 20 years as an interior designer, a decade in the television and film industry, a writer, speaker, corporate IT professional and a former officer in the U.S. Air Force. She loves to share all her experiences from around the world and proven tools on living a balanced lifestyle independent of the economy.