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Video:How to Throw a Great Party

with Anne-Marie Barton

Before you throw your next party, find out how to make it an occasion that your guests will be talking about until the next time you entertain.See Transcript

Transcript:How to Throw a Great Party

Everyone wants to be the life of the party, but what happens when party planning itself nearly does you in? Here's how to pull off the perfect party and still have energy left to enjoy your own festivities.

Invitation to a Party

Start off on the right foot with a printed invitation. Your first opportunity to set the tone of the party is also a great way to make your gathering the most anticipated event of the season one that really feels like an occasion.

When It's a Potluck Party

And don't make the mistake I once did by asking guests to bring an appetizer or dessert., and ending up with 20 starters and no sweets! If your party is potluck, be clear on what guests should bring.

Be Prepared Before a Party

Do yourself a favor that will last the rest of the night: Be ready. That way, you'll look and feel your best when your guests arrive. Take their coats, but lay them on a bed or over the banister for easy access. Have your music playing, so guests feel like they've arrived, not caught you unprepared.

Self Service at a Party

The trend in house parties is toward bringing self-service and informality to a whole new level. People are even designing their kitchens with these values in mind. Placing dishes and glasses on exposed shelves or counters, assembling a visible self-serve bar so guests can play bartender and featuring finger food prominently are just a few ways you can make everyone feel right at home.

A Dinner Party

If you're having a dinner party, keep this philosophy in mind. You can't keep 'em out of the kitchen, so why not put 'em to use? The truth is, most party guests are more comfortable in the kitchen than anywhere else, and more comfortable, at least at the start of the get-together, with something to do besides stuff themselves with olives and salmon pate. The key is to leave some food preparation undone. But be strategic about it. After offering hoverers a glass of wine, set them to work slicing lemons or stirring soup... not whipping up a 10-course meal. Before you know it, your meal will be ready and the conversation will be flowing, all within your cozy kitchen.

Appetizers for a Party

Set out appetizers in various places throughout the party rooms to lure the crowd away from the kitchen bar when it's getting close to dinner time.

Party Theme and Ambiance

Whether it's a buffet or sit-down meal, you can design table settings to match the room's colors or the seasonal palette. As for ambiance, some party practices are tried and true. Dim the lights and be sure to light candles. Background music also adds to the mood. iPods or other programmable music takes care of itself, leaving you free to enjoy your guests.

Additional Party Etiquette

Finally, while the casual vibe abounds and lack of ceremony rules the day, there are a few basic rules of etiquette that most guests will appreciate. First, never ask your guests to take off their shoes have you ever tried to salvage a pantsuit that just lost four inches of stiletto? Not fun. Second, don't start cleaning up when your guests are still around, next to forcible eviction, it's the harshest thing you can do to an avowed party animal.

Nowadays, parties really are about having fun, not about using the right salad fork. As hostess, the days of doing everything yourself are over, now it's time to relax and give your guests what they really came for, time with you!

I'm Anne-Marie Barton, About Home & Garden.
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