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Imaginative Invitations

Lively invitations will energize a party before it begins by priming guests for fun to come.

Mail, Phone, or High-Tech

* A written invitation always provides a special touch. Guests will have a record of when and where the party is, and any extra details -- a map, theme, or special requests -- are down on paper. Include your phone number and an RSVP request so you'll know how many guests to expect. Written doesn't have to mean stodgy or boring. Match the invitation to the party's spirit, and it'll give everyone a preview of what's to come.

* For a casual party, a cheery telephone call will probably suffice. You'll get an immediate response and guests will have a chance to ask questions. For telephone invitations, try to call everyone on the same day. That way no one will feel he or she is an afterthought.

* If everyone on your guest list has a computer, consider sending an invitation by e-mail for very informal parties. If you want an invitation with a little pizzazz, consider using an electronic card as an invitation. As with invitations by phone, make sure all guests get their e-mails on the same day. Don't forget to have guests RSVP so you're sure they've received the invitation. BHG.com Plan-A-Party lets you make all your party arrangements, from menus to invitations, right from your computer.

It's All in the Timing

* For formal parties, send invitations 3 to 4 weeks ahead of time; for casual get-togethers, aim for about 2 weeks ahead. (During holiday parties in December, you'll probably want to plan further in advance.)

* For appetizer parties or open houses, you can stagger the invitations. Invite the business and social acquaintances for the first couple of hours, then your close friends to close the party down. This way you'll have a chance to relax and have a good time with your close friends before the evening's over.

Ideas for Adult Party Invitations

* For a family reunion, include a family tree with the invitation or a request for information so a family tree can be handed out at the big event.

* To invite guests to a spring party, enclose a packet of flower or herb seeds.

* For a holiday party, place the invitation inside a small box and wrap it as a "present." Then deliver the boxes to people's doors.

Ideas for Kids' Party Invitations

* For a baseball party, cut invitation "pennants" from felt, or pen the invite onto plastic balls that you hand-deliver.

* Fishing theme? Tie the invitation to a small bag of fish crackers or worm-shaped candy.

* For a zoo or safari party, tie the invitation to a box or small bag of animal crackers.

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