When planning a party, I'm all about functional decorating. Instead of treating the essentials and decorations as two separate components, I try to do whatever I can to use the essentials AS decorations.
An informal party, especially one taking place outdoors, is an opportunity to do something fun with your paper products. For example: instead of having your cutlery in a basket or cups, you can make it into a cute decoration that can be either placed on tables where guests will be dining, or creatively displayed on a buffet table.
Here is an idea for a July 4th party. Not only does it add a decorative element to your get-together, it will keep you from having to chase napkins around your yard if the wind is blowing. (Once your guests untie them, they can chase their own napkins.)
Supplies used to make 16:
Pack of 48 assorted cutlery, red (from the dollar store)
Pack of blue napkins (from the dollar store)
Blue curling ribbon (from a spool I've been using for at least 6 years)
Construction paper (stolen from my daughter's arts and crafts box)
Glue stick (borrowed - and returned, to my daughter's arts and crafts box)
Scissors (they were actually mine)
1. Fold a napkin in half.
2. Place a fork, knife and spoon, crossing over each other, in the middle of the napkin.
3. Cut a piece of ribbon and slip it behind the napkin and then tie it into a bow, gathering the napkin to the cutlery.
4. Cut stars out of construction paper and use a glue stick if you want to use multiple layers.
5. Slip the paper star in between the cutlery, any way you want.
16 total sets
Time spent: One episode of Glee (minus commercials)
Out of pocket cost: $2.16