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By Charles Hopkins Published 04/7/2006 | Social Issues

The best party is always the one that the host enjoys as much as the guests. Sadly, though, such parties are fewer in number than you think, because the hassle of planning for a party often drains a host of energy and enjoyment, thus leaving him or her to slump down on the sofa and watch as others have a good time. To prevent that happening to you, take a look at our pre-party preparation tips:

Plan ahead: The least you can do is give yourself at least a month to a month-and-a-half if you wish to organize a really good party. Whatever you do, dont let your guests see you in a frazzled and harried state once they arrive. That way, the evening is ruined before it has even begun. So make out your guest list, plan your food and drinks menu and dont take on more cooking than you think you can handle. Write out detailed shopping lists of all the items you will need, including food ingredients and tableware. As far as possible, complete your shopping at one go instead of buying different items on different days to minimize the chances of forgetting.

Settle on your menu: A cocktail party with finger foods only is an excellent party option if you dont want too much of pre-party preparation. That way, your guests mingle freely without the bother of having to sit down in one place and talk to immediate neighbors only. Make sure you know which of your guests must follow dietary restrictions so that you dont serve Chicken Stroganoff to a vegetarian, or a chocolate pastry to a diabetic. Include an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Choose dishes that are quick and easy to prepare, so that you dont spend too much time in the kitchen once the guests have arrived. If necessary, dont cook at all, and outsource all your food. Your task will be made easier if you include items such as nuts, cheese, and chips in the menu. You can also opt for a selection of breads such as tortilla chips, bagels, garlic toast, pita bread, and pretzels. When you serve vegetables, concentrate on carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, asparagus spears, snow peas etc. Similarly, focus on appetizing fruits like strawberries, cherries, pineapples, kiwi fruit, seedless grapes, and papayas.

Fix the drinks: Keep in mind the average quantity that a guest will drink and plan accordingly. Depending on the number of guests, buy 750 ml bottles of wine or other alcoholic drinks to save on costs. Make sure there are plenty of ice cubes and enough glasses to go around, including an extra supply should your guests change glasses during the evening.

Have backup: Always ensure that you arent stumped if your guests arrive with three or four extra people in tow. They may be out of town visitors who have no place else to go, for example. Welcome them graciously, confident in the knowledge that you have provisions to welcome at least five extra guests.

In the end, remember that you dont always have to spend a great deal of time and money to make the party a success. A little pre-party preparation can work wonders in this regard. If you plan ahead, and plan carefully, you neednt worry about the other things.