Know Your Party Style
As I mentioned at the beginning of this section, there is no right or wrong party style. Whether you are formal or casual, classy or kitschy, traditional or modern, it's important that you host a party that reflects your style and personality. If you are a casual, classy, modern host at heart, then hosting a formal, kitschy, traditional party will only frustrate you, and you will likely pass that frustration on to your guests. Approach your party planning with a style that feels comfortable and natural to you, and your party will be a huge success.
A Party for Every Budget
It might be difficult to believe, but it is possible to throw a party for next to nothing. The trick is to plan your party around your budget, not the other way around.
If money is a serious concern for you (and who isn't worried about cash flow?), make every penny count. Save your party funds in separate envelopes, marked "food," "drinks," "entertainment," "décor," and other key categories, and then only use the money you've set aside in those envelopes. You'll force yourself to think creatively about purchasing supplies.
Traditionally, low-budget parties have included pay-at-the-door keggers or no-host bars, sans appetizers. Although these types of parties are perfectly nice at certain points in our lives, as an adult, you really can do better.
Let's define a low-budget party as one that costs less than $10 per person. To determine how much your low-budget party will cost, simply multiply your projected guest count by the amount you're willing to spend per person, and you'll have your total budget for your venue, invitations, food, drink, tools, décor, entertainment, activities, and favors. If you'd planned to have a party for 50 people, that means you'll spend between $50 and $500.
You'll have to use a little common sense when selecting your actual per-person price for your party. For example, it's going to be tough to spend only $50 on a party for 50 people! However, you can host a wonderful low-budget dinner party for six people on $60.
If you don't have a lot of money to spend, but would like to host a somewhat elegant party, consider inviting fewer guests. For example, I recently threw a party with a budget of $350. Although my intent was to keep the party low-cost, I only wound up inviting 35 people, which meant I was able to spend $10 per person, thus stretching my budget much further than I'd originally thought. My guests reaped the benefits, enjoying sirloin hamburgers and flavored turkey sausage links, instead of the frozen patties and beef links I'd planned.
If you can't spring for a catered affair with a hosted bar and live entertainment, don't despair. Why not try something a little less traditional?
- Wine and cheese party You supply the cheese and the atmosphere, and each guest brings a bottle of wine to share. You'll have a great time pairing your favorite artisan bleu cheese with your friends' favorite vinos, and the potluck theme will ensure you won't spend more than a few dollars per person. Your projected cost: $45 for 15 people.
- Elegant brunch Morning meals traditionally cost less to prepare, so you can go all out creating a graceful menu without breaking the bank. Brunches rarely involve more than a bottle or two of inexpensive champagne (for mimosas), so your booze budget will be nil. Spend a little money on beautiful flowers; set your table with your best linens, dishes, and flatware; and you'll host an affair to remember for relatively little cash. Your projected cost: $100 for 12 people.
- Small dinner party Invite two or three couples; cook a fancy meal with inexpensive ingredients, such as fresh vegetables, grains, and an inexpensive roast; plan a few after-dinner games; and stock the CD player with lively tunes. Most guests will bring a bottle of wine, so you only have to shell out for one or two bottles ahead of time. Your projected cost: $60 for six people.
- Bowling party You make the arrangements with the bowling alley and organize the event, and your guests pay for their own shoe and lane rentals (as you'll indicate on your invitations). Your attitude and your ability to create a fun atmosphere of togetherness and conviviality will keep this Dutch-treat party from seeming like any other bowling night. Your projected cost: $30 for 20 people.
If you have a little extra to spend, focus on one key element, such as the liquor or the dessert. Purchase a top-shelf vodka or wine, or order something succulent from your favorite bakery, and your guests will perceive your party as pricey and plush.
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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.