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Birthday & Party Ideas

The post is divided into three sub posts:

Before You Begin
Imaginative Invitations
Party Planner Checklist

Before You Begin

The secret to a sensational party is planning the event so it doesn't stretch your resources, and so you feel comfortable and in control.

What's the Occasion?

Start planning your party by focusing on the occasion. It will determine what type of party works best. A toddler's birthday party may be as simple as cake and ice cream in the kitchen, but a lavish holiday open house may involve hiring a caterer, renting tables and chairs, and, perhaps, bringing in strolling musicians. Consider these points.

* Important occasions -- such as a wedding reception, 50th anniversary party, or dinner for a valued client -- require more formal settings; occasions such as an after-work cocktail party, a weekend brunch, or having some buddies in to watch the game will be more casual.

* A sit-down dinner party at home is best suited for a group of six or eight, while a buffet is better for larger numbers. Also, moving the party outdoors may be the best way to handle a kids' party or a family reunion.

* If you're a first-time host, begin with a simple party. Have friends in for snacks and drinks or dessert and coffee. Or, plan a potluck or picnic. These types of parties allow you to keep planning and work to a minimum, but at the same time gain experience and confidence.

* If you're more experienced, you'll probably feel comfortable with most types of parties, and you may even want to tackle a formal dinner or an elegant cocktail party.

* Choose the date carefully. Make sure it doesn't conflict with other celebrations. For example, you probably don't want to schedule a 25th-anniversary reception for the same day your state university is going to a bowl game.

* Select a party theme that suits the occasion you're celebrating

What's the Budget?

Remember this party-budgeting maxim: "Time is money." Often what you lack of one, you can make up with the other. You don't have to spend lots of money or devote a great deal of time to have a terrific party. What's important is that your guests know how special they are and that you're delighted to have them. When coming up with a budget:

* Begin by jotting down everything you'll need -- food, decorations and flowers, invitations, music, any rentals (such as chairs or tables), even the baby sitter's fee. Don't forget to set aside some money for unexpected expenses.

* If your dream party turns out to be too expensive, look for simple ways to revise your plans. You can scale back the number of guests, substitute chicken for those expensive shrimp, or plan a simpler type of party -- perhaps serving appetizers or dessert rather than a whole meal.

* To entertain with elegance without spending a bundle, consider hosting a participation party -- have the guests help you prepare an extra-special meal. Or, arrange with several other friends to put on a progressive dinner, where each course is served in a different home.

* When budgeting your time, remember to plan time for preparty chores, such as cleaning house, washing little-used serving dishes, and ironing tablecloths or shopping for paper tableware.

* If your time or cooking skills are limited, it may be cheaper in the long run to hire a caterer or order takeout.

Who's Invited?

Once you have a budget in place, decide on how many and which guests to invite. Keep these pointers in mind as you put together your guest list:

* If the occasion permits you to adjust the number of people you invite, decide on whether to treat a few guests lavishly or invite a crowd and keep the cost per person low.

* Make sure the number of people you invite is appropriate for the size of your home. For an extra-large party, you may want to rent a banquet room, reserve a shelter house at a park, or perhaps set up a tent in the backyard.

* The right mix of people at your party is as important as the right food and decorations. Decide whether to invite guests who have common interests or a group that has wide-ranging interests. A dinner party for your boss may require that the guests have similar interests. On the other hand, part of the fun of a holiday open house is that everyone is different.

* A mix of ages can spark lively conversation.

* Don't try to repay all your social obligations in one party. You'll find it hard to spend quality time with each guest.

* Keep the likes and dislikes of your guests in mind. Don't invite your neighbor who dislikes Oriental food to a four-course Japanese dinner.

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