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Sharing your space, putting in effort and honoring your people with food are not only fun, but important. Breaking bread with friends, family and neighbors is the quintessential way to reconnect. But we also realize it can be a lot of work, and for some of us, a little intimidating.

Make it easy on yourself and pick a day and date that gives you enough time to prepare without being rushed. Choose a cause for celebration, it will set the tone and anchor all the elements of your party. Is this an informal gathering with a few friends, a backyard picnic, and a low-key cocktail party? The reason for the party and its style provides the structure for all other components to hang on. From food to music to decor, your theme sets the stage. Write down your ideas ahead of time and make sure that you order invitations early. It is best to be formal for any event and they will set the tone of you gathering.

Wine and Cheese Invitations A full wine glass adorns these invitations which set the tone for your occasion.

Classic Placesetting Invitations Set the tone for your occasion with this invitation. A placesetting with fine silverware adorns these lovely invitations.

Colorful Balloons Invitations Festive balloons adorn these party invitations which are perfect for any occasion.

Compile the guest list and send out invitations. Casual affairs need a few days to a week’s advance notice by phone or e-mail, while written invitations to formal dinners might be mailed a full month ahead. First decide how many people you can comfortably fit in your space. Don’t invite too many people! There’s no reason to stress yourself out and try to prepare for too many people, it’s difficult to do and more costly. You don’t have to invite your closest friends by default. They don’t have to know each other yet, and in fact, that can be the point of the party. But once you decide how many people you can accommodate, you can start inviting.

Get an RSVP by a certain date so you can get invite others if not everyone can make it.

Ask in your invitation if anyone has any food restrictions; allergies, vegetarian, etc.

Write down a timetable for the day of the party, counting back from party time. Leave plenty of time for food preparation, baking, cooling and decorating, setting the table, arranging flowers, planning music or games, and getting yourself ready.

Find a way to keep your guests occupied and happy. This shouldn’t be difficult, after all they are your friends and they will be happy for the free evening as it is. Dinner parties aren’t all about the food. It’s also about being a good and generous host. Offer drinks as soon as your guests arrive and if you’re serving hors d’oeuvres, have them out from the get go. Don’t stress your guests by being stressed out yourself. That means you should also let them help when they offer if you need it most people like feeling useful.

Big Football Invitations Use this giant football invitation for your next event, it’s perfect for tailgating events, and gatherings in your man cave.

The most important element of the party is the dinner. Plan your menu. It’s a good idea to never make a recipe for the first time for a party. Try to make a realistic assessment of your cooking and baking skill levels, and the time you’ll be able to commit to the party. Have fun with this, but don’t overreach! If you are a beginning cook, choose a main dish that you have made before and enjoy, then build upon it by buying dessert, a premade salad, and some fabulous crusty bakery bread. There are ways to make things easier like a takeout and deli foods or you can have a cookout, picnic, or a potluck party.

A sit down dinner party is more formal than a cookout or a buffet, so think carefully about what type of party makes you the most comfortable.

Red Filigree Border Invitations – Horizontal A vibrant Red border decorated with a White filigree design makes these invitations perfect for any event.

Make comfort food. Macaroni and cheese or meatloaf and mashed potatoes–these foods often make people think of their childhood, which can promote a feeling of comfort. This has been known to put a smile on a person’s face.  Think about your favorite holiday, place, color or music, and build an event around that. We have a Solstice party and serve comfort food such as pumpkin/bacon soup and green bean casserole.

Winter Snow Invitations – Horizontal Red, White and Light Blue snowflakes against a Dark Blue background adds a festive frame to your invitation wording on these single panel cards.

Be aware of presentation. Serve inexpensive food and beverage but glam it up. Pour water from a pitcher with slices of lemon or cucumber in it, pour cheap wine from a decanter for a better look and taste and use elegant serving platters for food. Also, take note of your plating and garnish your foods. Make them look pretty after all the effort you’ve put into cooking. After you determine what you’ll need for each dish, you can start to address your budget. Be thrifty and plan dishes that use similar ingredients – this makes it cheaper. Substitute premium items for everyday items. Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best. Prepare anything ahead of time that you can to ease the evening of stress. Prep soups, salads and vegetables. It will save you time and pressure so you can focus on enjoying the party while it’s going on, even as the host/hostess. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when planning your party. From the butcher at the grocery store to the florist, most people are happy to give advice.

Serve numerous courses in smaller portions. There’s no need to stuff people, after all you want them to enjoy every course right up to the dessert. By serving small portions you can not only save money, but also allow people to appreciate the great flavors in each course.

For starters cheese, crackers, veggie trays and fruits such as grapes do well. Always serve a salad course; try something different with your salad that will wow your guests like cherry blossoms or mandarin oranges with chicken. Serve lots of vegetables or follow your theme with vegetables that are in harvest. It’s always good to incorporate fruits into your dessert. Think carefully through the entire party menu. If you have only one oven, don’t plan two baked dishes that require different cooking temperatures that need to be baked just before serving. Match your food to the type of service too. Foods for a sit down dinner party may be difficult to handle at a buffet. If you cook the foods you love, your guests will love it too.

These few suggestions are very easy and affordable if you bargain shop or plan well ahead.

Take inventory of your supplies: table and chairs, serving pieces, cutlery, crystal, plates, candlesticks, serving areas, and of course your kitchen. Think about renting or borrowing items you don’t have. Make sure the things you own are sparkling clean and in good repair.

Now that you know what you need for your party it’s time to start shopping. If it’s perishable, save it for last and make sure there’s room in your fridge for it all.

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