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" Style is not the exclusive preserve of the rich and famous. Style can be achieved by anyone and is often most effective when simply executed. We all entertain; it could be a simple dinner at home, or a family gathering at Christmas, a christening or a wedding, or even a children"s party. Whether we entertain on a simple level or with lavish flare depends on our individual style and how we feel we want to show our hospitality, and also on the strength of our budget. So it is very important to plan your entertaining properly, and I will take you through the steps to ensure that your party is a success.
First,have a clear idea of the kind of event you want to hold, and who you want to invite. This is the best way of working out how much it is going to cost and,of course, the numbers you will be catering for. The budget is obviously of great consideration to us all.
Once you have decided on the format of your party, you are then ready to send out the invitations. Make sure you clearly state the venue address, the time of arrival and any dress code (if appropriate). Printed invitations are necessary for formal events, but for a casual "at home" or a family get together a simple phone call will suffice. Always check on the dress code ;there is nothing more embarrassing than arriving at a function in the wrong clothes. Remember that the names printed on the invitation are the only people invited, so partners and children should be indicated if you intend them to come along as well. When planning your invitations be sure to include an RSVP (respondez s'il vous plait ;please reply) and a contact address or telephone number so that you guest can indicate, as soon as possible, whether they will be able to attend. It is polite to reply to an invitation within a week.
As far as timing is concerned, lunch is usually prompt at 1.00pm, in order to allow your guests time for other appointments later in the day. Dinner, although a formal meal, is often more relaxed, and is usually served between 8.00 and 9.00pm. It is polite and customary to invite your guests for a drink before dinner, and you need to specify this on the invitation i.e. 8.00 for 8.30pm or 8.30 for 9.00pm. Pre-dinner drinks and cocktails are an excellent opportunity for your guests to meet, relax and get to know each other, especially if they have never met. Choosing the right mix of people is an important factor in making your party a success. Choose personalities who might mix well; there is nothing more boring than a room full of people who have little in common.
With these things covered, it is time to plan the menu; remember to take into account any special dietary requirements and compile a list of drinks which you wish to serve during the course of your event. You should now check that you have enough china, glass, cutlery and serving utensils. I have compiled the following information which will to take you from choosing china, glass and tableware, to setting the table, and then on to planning your menu and drinks, and choosing flowers for decorating your home and table. Remember that presentation is of the utmost importance.
© 1999 by Paul Burrell