Ice cream dessert from Pileggi's

Tips for elegant entertaining on a budget

Stretch food dollars: Serve dishes that stretch, such as beef bourguignon or beef stroganoff. Do a soup buffet, with several soups in gorgeous tureens.

For floral accents on table, hearth or floor:

• Go gathering in your yard for pine, holly, bare branches and seed pods.
• Put an armful of forsythia branches in tall vase.
• Force bulbs, including daffodils, tulips, lilies, hyacinths.

Stretch food dollars:

• Serve dishes that stretch, such as beef bourguignon or beef stroganoff.
• Do a soup buffet, with several soups in gorgeous tureens.

Decorating tips

• Use quirky bracelets or antique rings as napkin holders.
• Layer for effect: tablecloths, place mats, runners, chargers, different-colored and different-shaped dishes, napkins, ribbon and place cards.
• Browse a fabric store for inspiration and affordable runners, napkins.

More ways to save:

• Whimsical theme parties: Mexican fiesta. Poker party. Fondue party. Chocolate and coffee tasting. Beer tasting. Tapas. Potluck.
• Co-host a party with a friend; share the work, the cost and the fun.
• Borrow instead of buy. If you need extra silverware, serving pieces, punch bowl or soup tureen, borrow from mom, sister or a friend.
• Do something unexpected! Cover a cylindrical glass vase with fresh asparagus spears, then put a candle inside. Caterer Joe Pileggi puts three of these in a row down the center of a table.