Frugal Oscar Party Ideas


Ah, the Oscars. That magical awards ceremony where Hollywood's finest don their most elegant regalia, vie for the most prestigious honors in their industry, and get drowned out by music when they try to thank too many people. Whether you're a film fan or crave celebrity gossip, watching the Oscars with friends and family can be a lot of fun. (See also: Three Cinematic Theme Parties for the Home Entertainment Crowd)

Hosting an Oscars-watching party can also get pricey, though, as you try to replicate all the swankiness of Hollywood. Here are some suggestions for having an enjoyable, classy, and/or amusing gala, even if you didn't make half a million on your last film.

Make It BYOB

Offer Oscar-worthy cocktails for less by creating a BYOB cocktail bar. Tell your guests that you'll provide a variety of mixers and garnishes, and ask them to bring their own alcohol. This works best if you let your guests know what you'll have ahead of time so they have an idea of what will mix well; you can even provide some recommended recipes in your invitation or at the event. Some good suggestions for items to have on hand include lemon and/or lime juice, club soda, tonic water, sliced lemons and/or limes, maraschino cherries, bitters, simple syrup, and cranberry juice. Don't forget the ice!

Pop Your Own Popcorn

Popcorn is standard movie-watching fare. But if the threat of popcorn lung isn't terrifying enough to turn you away from those microwave bags, the sheer frugality of popping your own should be enough to convince you — a 32 oz. bag of kernels is around $2. And you don't need one of those air poppers to get perfectly fluffy kernels. Personally, I like popping mine in a big pot on the stovetop with a little bit of olive oil. Just add three tablespoons of oil over medium high heat, then pour in a 1/3 cup of popcorn. Put a lid on the pot, and, using oven mitts or pot holders, hold on to the handles and shake the popcorn around until most of it is popped. Just be careful not to leave it still for too long; the kernels on the bottom will burn.

If you want a more hands-off approach, Get Rich Slowly details how you can microwave popcorn in a paper bag.

Focus on Finger Foods

Okay, you'll probably want to serve more than just popcorn to your guests. Keep food cheap but high-class by offering simple finger foods that can be presented elegantly. Combine chopped tomatoes with garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and place on top of slices of toasted baguette for a simple bruschetta, then top each piece with a single basil leaf. Serve chopped vegetables or fruit on wooden skewers. Bake dips like Myscha's canned clam dip in individual ramekins, and place them throughout the viewing area with different types of crackers, chips, or vegetables.

Walk the Red Carpet

Play paparazzi, and take "red carpet" photos of your guests. Decorate a well-lit area with finds from the dollar-store (leftover star decorations from the holidays are especially great), and take guests' photos with a digital camera. Email the photos out, or post them online for everyone to see so you don't have to pay for photo printing.

Switch Decades for Dress-Up

If you enjoy having your guests dress up like Hollywood stars for your party, consider throwing back the dress code a decade or two. Challenge guests to find 80s formal wear hidden in their closets or at the thrift store, and vote for the best (and worst) dressed. At the very least, you're sure to get more of a laugh than if everybody arrives dressed in modern-day swank.

Take Advantage of Official Freebies

The Academy Awards' website features two free print-outs: an Oscars ballot (PDF), where your guests can check the films and actors they think will win, and a variety of Oscar bingo cards (PDF).

Put a Mustache on the TV (Really)

I'm a huge fan of Mustache TV, the "game" where you place a mustache in the middle of your TV screen and get to experience hilarious joy when the people behind the podium line up perfectly and look like they're wearing the mustache. Comedian Andy Daly used to sell actual Mustache TV kits, but you can do the same thing for free (as I was taught in an Atom and His Package song) by just drawing a mustache on scotch tape and placing it on your TV screen.

Do you have any frugal Oscar party plans? Share them in the comments!

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Andrea Karim's picture

We also love to dissect outfits and do our own fashion critiques. Reading Go Fug Yourself the next day is fun, but I love doing my own snarking.

Also, in regards to popcorn - I cannot recommend flavored popcorn enough. Masala, rosemary, and truffle oil with parmesan are some of my favorite toppings.

Meg Favreau's picture

Mmmm. I want to make popcorn with rosemary, truffle oil, and parmesan right now. I know you didn't necessarily mean for those to all be served together, but that sounds SO good.