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Know Your Party Style

Before you even attempt to throw a party, do yourself – and your guests – a favor and figure out what kind of event suits you best. A good place to start is with this chapter, where you learn a few basics about planning a party that matches your style and budget.

What Kind of Host Are You?
Ask yourself a question: Do you prefer sit-down dinners or casual barbecues? Be honest. Not everyone loves to give a fully catered sit-down dinner for 20. Although eating in elegance can be a real pleasure, so can toasting your own dessert-on-a-stick over a blazing fire.

Many hosts might not consider throwing a party unless they were able to arrange for a karaoke machine, Japanese food, and a full sushi bar – although other hosts might be horrified at that sort of party, much preferring the understated chic of a martini bar, personalized cocktail napkins, and a jazz trio.

Similarly, not everyone wants to rack her brain for a super-creative party theme – why not just give a dinner or cocktail party? People love those!

There is no right or wrong party style. If you put your personality into a party, you're going to be a success. The key is figuring out what suits you, and then putting your heart into throwing the very best party you can.

Although you might aspire to be Hostess of the Year, don't take on a huge project unless you have the time, money, and energy to do so. Your friends won't disrespect you for hosting low-key affairs – they'll respect you for being fabulous at something at which you are really good.

Time and Money: Formal Versus Casual
If you love planning and executing elegant affairs, complete with numerous floral arrangements, elaborate décor, haute cuisine, and table settings that rival those in the Ritz Carlton's dining room, you are a formal host. If you prefer to keep things simple – a great barbecue, uncomplicated décor, and some good friends lounging in the backyard – you a casual host. Most of us are somewhere in between, but it is good to know the direction in which you lean and plan accordingly.

Ask yourself two questions: How much work do you want to do? How much money can you afford to spend? Although a fair amount of cash and effort go into hosting a casual party, a successful formal party requires more abundant quantities of time and money. Think about formal parties you have attended, such as a wedding reception, large dinner party, or banquet. Although you may have had a wonderful time, you doubtlessly noted that the scope of the event was much grander than a simple cocktail party or mixer. The hostess may have seemed smiling, relaxed, and radiant, but she had to expend a great deal of effort to throw her fabulous party.

Now think about the more casual get-togethers you have attended, such as an open house, birthday party, or backyard barbecue. Although the host probably spent valuable time and money in making the experience fun and comfortable for everyone, his efforts weren't nearly as complex as those of our formal hostess.

Chances are good that you enjoyed yourself at both types of parties, but what you really need to determine is how much fun you'll have hosting either party. Some people absolutely adore throwing large, scrumptious formal parties, and others shudder at the thought. Decide which you prefer, and focus on throwing those types of parties.

Of course, it's entirely possible that you enjoy hosting formal and casual parties. In this case, let your schedule and budget dictate which type of party you select. If you have a huge budget and a lot of free time, by all means put both to good use and throw a huge, elaborate gala. However, if you are like most of us, you're always looking for ways to save time and money. In this case, opt for more casual parties – or throw formal parties for fewer people.

If you're dying to host a formal dinner party, but you just don't have the time or money, consider a formal dinner party for four people. You'll experience the same pleasure of preparing a five-star meal and gussying up your home, but you won't expend as much time or money as you would for a larger formal party.

Keep in mind that even traditionally formal events, such as the aforementioned wedding receptions, banquets, or dinner parties, can be thrown with a casual spirit. If the bride does not have an easy schedule or a large budget, she can get creative, hosting a fun picnic or cocktail party instead of a formal reception. Likewise, a host with plenty of time and money can formalize a traditionally casual event, such as an open house or barbecue, by providing sumptuous extras, including a full bar, haute cuisine, and elaborate decorations.

Please note that "casual" does not entitle you to be "cheesy." Expect to purchase the same quality of food you would provide at a formal party: extra-lean meats; fresh, healthy vegetables and fruits; and an assortment of appetizers that stimulate the palate. Even if your budget is small, you can still provide appetizing fare for your guests. No delivery pizza, please!



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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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