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Pretty, Yes. Pricey, No.

Event designer Jung Lee of Fête explains how to do black tie on a budget.


1. The Table
"Rent 36-inch-wide, long, narrow tables—each place setting takes thirteen inches on each side, so you have only ten inches to fill with décor. They’re more conducive to conversation than round tables, and more elegant.”

2. The Flowers
“I used star-of-Bethlehem, Irish moss, and hyacinth, and topped dusty miller with blackberries. Three of these clusters are perfect for a long table of ten.”

3. The Glassware
“Opaque glass gives an otherwise traditional setting some edge. The price is probably about 50 cents more per glass, so the choice is really an aesthetic one.”

4. The Ribbon Runner
“Use inexpensive grosgrain ribbon from M&J Trimming to create a cheap ‘runner’. Use double-sided tape to hold it down.”

5. The China
“You can mix patterns, even if it’s black-tie.”

6. The Napkin and Ring “This is plain gold wire from the Home Depot. You can make five napkin rings from one $7.99 roll. Always go for 100-percent cotton napkins rather than polyester or god awful silk. Cotton napkins are 90 cents each, as opposed to $5 linen napkins.”

7. The Silverware
“Don’t skimp and get lightweight aluminum. The weight and the texture are important, as this is what your guests touch. This pattern is affordable, simple, and elegant.”

8. The Menu–Place Card
“Have your menu double as a place card, writing your guest’s name in a large font at the top of each. Something like this from Crane’s costs only $154 for 150 guests.”

9. The Salt and Pepper
“It’s bad when the salt and pepper shakers look like they came from a diner. I like this tray—for a table of ten guests, you only need two.”

10. The Containers
“Use anything from votive holders to mint-julep cups. Should you want to purchase instead of rent, CB2, West Elm, and Pearl River Mart have all kinds for about $3 each.”


Bite-size Delights for Two Elegant Parties
How to Personalize a Loft
Where to Find Furniture and Prop Rentals
Unique, and Cost-Friendly, Reception Ideas

All rentals, not including floral containers, are from Classic Party Rentals (212-752-7661; classicpartyrentals.com). Venezia dinner plate, $2.50 each; Vienna soup bowl, $1.75 each; Carre red-wine goblet, $2.25 each; water glass, $2.25 each; Christian dinner flatware, $1.75 each; navy cotton cloth, $34.50 for a ten-person rectangular table; porcelain salt-and-pepper cellar, $2 each; napkin, 90 cents each; and table, $20 for an eight-foot-long table.

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