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Planning Ahead for the Perfect Party

Looking at my calendar, May seems like a good time for my next party. It's not quite summer, but late enough in the year that it will be warm in the evening. I prefer a Saturday afternoon/evening party, which will give me most of the day to prepare and a whole day to recover. At the end of the month, I'll be visiting my grandmother in another state, so the first two weeks will be best for the party.

Let's say the first Saturday in May, at about four o'clock. We'll have plenty of daylight until about seven o'clock, after which the party will continue until everyone goes home. I don't need an ending time because I will have all day Sunday to sleep, clean, and laze about.

Final party date: Saturday, May 4 at 4:00 p.m.

Before you set your date, take a good look at your work and personal calendars. Do you have any big deadlines coming up at work? Are other friends hosting parties or events? Avoid over committing yourself, and you'll save yourself a lot of stress.

Choosing a Theme
As it happens, Cinco de Mayo, Mexican Independence Day, is May 5, which coincides nicely with my party theme. I happen to love cooking Mexican food, and Mexican-themed parties are always fun—plus, they're cheap!

Deciding on the Party's Venue
Because I have a large backyard with a fairly nice patio and grill, I'll have the party at my house. I won't need to rent any chairs or tables, and I can clean my house myself, so I don't have to enter anything into the budget sheet except a big, fat zero.

Although many rented venues will supply everything you need to host a party, not everything will be to your liking or standards. If you're shelling out big bucks to host a party in a lovely space, make sure you are getting your money's worth! Ask to see linens, dishes, décor, and anything else you'd like to be in top shape.

I usually invite about 50 people to my parties, of which 40 or so actually show up. I'll plan for 50, though, just in case I get stragglers, surprise-shows, or posses.

Because my party will be a big mixer, with folks eating and drinking and socializing, I'm not afraid to invite people from disparate groups. My guest list will include people from my book group, my writing group, the dog park, a few neighbors, several of my husband's work friends, about a dozen couples we know, and all my single girlfriends, of course! I'll let people know they can bring friends, as long as they give me an idea of how many people they're bringing.

Sending Out Invitations
Although sending out handwritten invitations would be a cute touch, especially if I could find Cinco de Mayo invites, I think it would be wasted money for this particular party. With 50 invited guests, the postage alone would eat a hole in my budget!

Instead, I'll use a web-based invitation system to notify my guests. I prefer Evite (www.evite.com) because I have been using it for years with great success. Without trying to sound like a spokesperson for the company, I can say that using Evite enables me to invite everyone in my address book, customize my invitations with a Mexican theme, include all the details (date, time, and location), and track my guests' responses. I can keep an eye on how many people are planning to come and adjust my shopping list accordingly. Best of all, Evite is free! I won't have to spend a dime on invitations or postage, so I'll enter another zero on the budget sheet.

More on: Pop Culture

Reproduced from Plan a Fabulous Party In No Time, by Tamar Love, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing.

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