By: Reba Ray
So yur best friend’s gettin’ married and yur the maid of honor. It’s all good till you figure that by default, you’ve become indebted for a dress and a couple of gifts. Furthermore, you realize this title is an irony because yur job is not to be honored, but to serve. As the friend with top billin’, you’ve got to throw the bridal shower.
Ideas? You’ve got ‘em! How about renting out the local arboretum and catering the affair with mimosas on white linens – a three-piece string ensemble in the background? Classy! Just one problem: you have $50 left over this month to pull this off. Holy smokes, what a predicament.
Girls, those fancified ideas are out of reach, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a classy little affair on yur budget. The best recipe for success is to not go this alone. If you wanna be a control freak – have at it, but two things will surely happen: 1. You’ll foot the bill all by yurself, and 2. You’ll be so dang exhausted by the time the shower rolls around that you won’t be in a proper frame of mind to enjoy it. So get some help from the other bridesmaids or even yur family. At a minimum, you can farm out makin’ some of the food, which’ll save you time and money.
The first thing yur gonna need is a free place. What’s yur place look like when you clean out all the clutter from the front room? Could you push yur stuff in the bedroom and fit in a couple of borrowed tables from yur church, or Grandma’s foldin’ card tables? (You can always count on a grandma to have a foldin’ card table or two.) No? Then inconvenience the bride’s closest friend with the nicest house for the event. If the weather’s nice, you could reserve a pavilion at a park, if it’s free.
Decorations? Keep it simple and start plannin’ early. Go ahead to the dollar store and get ya some of those plastic table covers. If they only come in long rectangles, cut ‘em down to fit yur square and round tables. Or skip the tables and just beg and borrow enough chairs to sit around the room, putting the food and drink on yur dinin’ table and the gifts on the coffee table, pulled to the side.
Brighten up the room with whatever greenery and flowers are in season. Hit some garage sales or yur local thrift store well in advance and pick up some glass vases – there always seem to be bunches of ‘em and people won’t even buy ‘em for a dime. Get ya a half-dozen or more, and tie ribbon around ‘em in the wedding colors. Now fill the vases with whatever you can find. Live near the ocean? Fill ‘em with sand and a tea candle surrounded by shells to top it off. Live in the woods? Fill ‘em with pine cones and juniper branches. The city? Head on over to the park and fill ‘em with whatever’s in bloom. Now I know plenty a’people who’d sooner shoplift a shirt than clip something off a bush or tree in public. Whereas there are some places it’s illegal to pick wildflowers, I’m bettin’ if you keep yur eyes open, you can find some pretty wild something growin’ somewhere it’s OK to pick. If you have any public lands around ya – even if you have to drive half an hour to get to them – you can pick all you want there. How about asking yur local church or someone in yur church for some clippins? There’s a church in my neighborhood that has holly trees with bright red berries on dark green pointy leaves for about four months outta the year. I feel sure if I walked in the office with a smile and asked the secretary if I could have some clippins’ for a bridal shower, she’d say, “Reba, take all ya want!” Flowers and such are expensive, so you really need to find ya a source of free greens and let them and the 10-cent vases be yur décor.
Not feelin’ the free greens? How about decoratin’ with balloons? That dudn’t sound right either? Dang, yur hard to please. You better head on over to the best blog I’ve found for do-it-yurself party themes and décor. Surely you can find something you like at Hostess with the Mostess.
Dishes and the like? You could do paper from the dollar store – perfectly acceptable. But if you want, you could go a little nicer and just make that yur shower gift to the bride. I’m not talkin’ china, but some colorful plastic picnic plates and glasses.
Now for the vittles. If yur on a tight budget, forget a caterer. And don’t bother lookin’ into ordering made up food from a grocery deli either. If you’ve got more time than money, make it work for ya by throwing the vittles together yerself. I’m gonna give ya a sample menu with recipettes that you can prepare for 25 people for well under $50. What?! You read me right! And if you follow my recommendations about preparing the food in advance, you won’t be runnin’ around like a chicken with yur head cut off the day of the shower. Hint: Plan the shower at a non-meal time, like 2 p.m. This says clear as a whistle, “Don’t come hungry to this event.” Yur guests will expect food, but not a meal. And hopefully, the crowd is full of dainty little things who’re too polite to make pigs of themselves in public!
Finally, don’t go blowin’ a wad on fancy servin’ dishes. Ask around to borrow that sort of thing. If everyone you know is as dish-destitute as you, head to the $1 store (that’s not Dollar General, where things cost more than a dollar, but a store where everything is one dollar, like Dollar Tree), and you’ll probably be able to find somethin’ to work in a pinch (a penny pinch, that is).
Chicken Salad Finger Sandwiches on Pumpernickel
Tortilla Pin Wheels
Raspberry Iced Tea
Yur Shoppin’ List – buy generic whenever possible
One box tea $2
48 or 64 oz. cran-raspberry juice $2.50
Package large tortillas $2
Can medium black olives $1.90
2 packages generic but full fat cream cheese $3.40
Small package of lunch meat (ham or roast beef work well) $1.50
One package puff pastry $4
One package chocolate chips $2
Two packages fresh strawberries, the bigger the better $5
2 loaves pumpernickel bread $6
Prepared chicken salad (not from the deli, but in a plastic tub) $11
Cake mix $1.50
Prepared icing $1.50
Fresh mint $3
You’ll Also Need but Probably Have
1 ½ cups of sugar
2 tablespoons flour
Up to 3 eggs
Ice cube trays – beg, borrow or buy from Goodwill or the $1 store
Tortilla Pin Wheels
One package large tortillas, one can black olives, 16 oz. cream cheese, one package cheap lunch meat
Chop olives and lunch meat to smithereens. Spread cream cheese all over the tortillas, about 1/8 of an inch thick. Sprinkle all over with olive and lunch meat smithereens. Roll the tortillas, and cut into ¾” disks. Make the night before and seal in air tight container in the fridge. Bring them out about an hour before the shower to warm to room temp – makes ‘em taste better. Makes a whole heap.
Chicken Salad on Pumpernickel
One loaf pumpernickel, prepared chicken salad
I’m all for fixin’ from scratch, but c’mon Girls, yur fixin’ a whole mess o’food and you’ve gotta make everything purdy, dress yerself up and a hunderd other things, so let someone else make the chicken salad. It’s not that much cheaper to make it from scratch anyway.
Just plop a scoop of chicken salad on a piece of bread and spread it all the way to the edge. Top with another and either cut in thirds, makin’ long rectangular sandwiches or cut them in one-fourth squares. You shouldn’t need to cut the crust off of pumpernickel – it all looks the same. Can’t find pumpernickel sliced? My local Wal-Mart has a swirled pumpernickel-rye sliced bread that would make a fine substitute. Makes about 36 sandwiches.
One package puff pastry, one package chocolate chips
Make these the day before.
Sprinkle a clean counter with sugar and unfold a thawed puff pastry sheet on to the sugary surface. Brush it with water and sprinkle on some more sugar. Roll the dough from both sides inward like yur foldin’ up the paper on an ancient scroll. Sprinkle the scroll with sugar, wrap ‘er with wax paper and stick ‘er in the fridge for an hour. Repeat this with the second sheet of puff pastry.
When the hour’s up, preheat the oven to 400˚F. Remove one roll from the fridge and the wax paper and cut it into 1/3 to 1/2 –inch slices with a sharp knife. Dip the little butterfly wings into sugar and put ‘em about and inch and a half apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press down just a little on each cookie with the back of a tablespoon, then bake for five to seven minutes on the top rack. Bring ‘em out when the edges are just turning brown. Flip ‘em over and bake ‘em a little more – maybe five more minutes – until they’re golden brown. Get ‘em off the cookie sheet fast when you take ‘em out of the oven. They’re sticky suckers and need to dry on a dish or a wire rack.
After cookies are cooled, heat half the package of chocolate chips in the microwave (90 seconds) or in a small pan, stirring constantly. Dip one side of a cookie in chocolate sauce and set on wax paper to harden. Dip half the cookies and leave the other half naked for those odd sorts that don’t like chocolate. Store the chocolate-dipped cookies in a cool place if you don’t want a sloppy, chocolate mess on yur hands. Makes about 48 cookies.
Spoon out any crumbs from yur chocolate sauce and put it in the fridge, awaitin’ further instructions.
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
When strawberries are in season, they’re pretty cheap, but in the dead of winter, you should substitute something like dried apricots for this. If using strawberries, do this the same day as the shower – no more than a few hours ahead.
Two packages of strawberries, washed. The other half of the bag of chocolate chips
Add the rest of the chocolate chips to the leftover chocolate from the Palmiers and melt it all like you did for the cookies. Then grabbin’ the strawberries by the green, like you were hangin’ a kid by his hair (not like you’d ever do that), swirl that strawberry around in the hot chocolate sauce. Set dipped berries on wax paper and move to the fridge when you get a plate full. Keep these chilled until right before the shower starts. Yur probably gonna run out of chocolate before you run out of strawberries. Not a problem. Set the undipped berries on one side of the plate and the dipped ones on the other – not everybody eats chocolate, ya know. Makes about 35.
OK, Reba’s gonna go no-nonsense here and suggest you use a box mix for yur cake. Lemon or strawberry cake with cream cheese icing is a nice shower cake. If yur skills are up to it, try a two-layer cake. No pans? Head to the dollar store, where you can buy two square or round disposable pans for a dollar. Be sure to follow package directions to the letter, particularly about the part where you grease and flour the pan. Recently Reba’s hubby tried baking a cake all by himself. He applied logic to the package directions and decided that if he was using a nonstick pan, he didn’t need to grease and flour the pan, like the package said. Well, the birds really liked that cake, and fortunately, he started early enough in the mornin’ to get to the store for another box of cake mix. Read and heed! Top the cake with a shower favor, some mint leaves (on a lemon cake) or a plump strawberry with greens still on (on the strawberry cake). Take note: this is the only food yur servin’ that requires an eatin’ implement (a fork). You could avoid this by making mini cupcakes instead, but you’d need a mini muffin pan and some cupcake cups. If you have to buy a pan, might as well buy the plastic forks and make life easier on yurself.
Iced Raspberry Tea, one pitcher sweet, one unsweetened, plus one pitcher water.
Prepare this the night before by making ice cubes with 64 oz. of cran-raspberry juice, and making tea according to package directions for both sweet and unsweetened pitchers. Chill all night. Last thing before the shower starts, fill each clear glass with six raspberry ice cubes. Toss a mint leaf on top of those cubes. Then let yur guests fill their own glasses with sweetened or unsweetened tea. Also set out six or so glasses with regular ice for the plain Jane types. This cran-raspberry ice thing also works well with lemonade, but tea is cheaper.