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Hosting Tips

Invitations

Cut down on postage costs by creating postcard invitations yourself. Or, send e-invites for an innovative, inexpensive touch.

Tailor your invitations to fit your theme. Try creating your own on your home computer and dress them up with decorative paper and specialized stickers found in craft or scrapbooking stores.

Setup

For formal parties, consider setting the table the night before. There will be less stress the morning of the party if you prepare what you can ahead of time, and you’ll be able to finish all the little things that tend to pop up right before the party.

Assign seats with place cards and direct guests to their seats. This avoids confusion on where to sit.

Set up an easily accessible area for your guests to get their own food and dishes for casual parties.

Want a stylish, new way to display your flatware at a buffet? Try wrapping each set of knife, fork and spoon in a napkin, then tie it with a festive bow. Not only does it make an especially attractive presentation, but guests have an easier time helping themselves.

Save ironing time and smooth your tablecloth by laying it out on the table with a pad or towel underneath. Lightly spray it with water and let gravity pull it smooth overnight.

A table runner is an excellent finishing touch and perfectly ties the look of the table setting together. Get a matching runner with a vibrant design if you choose a solid tablecloth or vice versa if you decide on a printed tablecloth. Complete the look with a decorative centerpiece, and voilá! Your table will be ready for royalty or the relatives!

Personalize the place cards by taking a Polaroid photo of the guest upon entry, and use it as a fun, innovative place card. Or, place a small, inexpensive gift at each place setting for your guests to take home, like a scented candle or a small, individual floral arrangement.

Decorations

No table looks complete without some sort of centerpiece. This can be as elegant or as informal as your dinner party, but always follow one guideline: Your guests should be able to easily see each other above the centerpiece. So, keep those flowers or candles to a manageable height so your guests won't strain their necks attempting conversation.

Have something appealing on the door or in the entryway, like wreaths, plants, garden tealights or holiday decorations. These welcoming signs always make guests feel at home.

Easy recipes that center around the party's theme add a special touch to your party. Feel free to experiment!

Set up a do-it-yourself drink table or area. Provide all the bar necessities (i.e., juices and sodas for mixing, bowl of olives, limes, fruit garnishes, swizzle sticks), so the guests can make their own drinks; thus, freeing up your time to mingle!

Don’t spend the rest of the party cleaning up after everyone. LEAVE the kitchen and enjoy your guests. The dishes will still be there after your guests have left.

Timing

Designate a greeter. Pick someone to greet and direct guests to the drinks and appetizers as well as a place they can store their belongings. This is a perfect task for kids.

Serve dinner 20-30 minutes after your guests have arrived. If it’s a formal dinner, try to have the first course on the table when you call your guests to dinner.