Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Budget Girl Book Review - Great party guide for those of us on a budget

Love to entertain, but afraid you'll go broke planning a party? Never have any good ideas for what to serve, or how to serve it? How about a quick reference guide that'll help with all of the above? InStyle magazine's InStyle Parties may be the one and only book you'll need to keep handy to answer all of those questions.

I find this book especially helpful, whether I'm looking for specific ideas and recipes, or just using it to do some internal brainstorming. They cover everything from invitations to decorating to recipes, so you're covered beginning to end on any kind of soiree you want to throw.

Invites? It gives you a basic guide for how to word them and when to send them out--and being a stickler for basic etiquette, I strongly approve of this tip-of-the-hat to social custom. While the InStyle guide notes that you can order custom invitations from your local stationery store, Budget Girl would like to note that you can create beautiful invitations all by yourself with the help of a computer and cardstock (along with any kind of snazzy or handmade papers you want to add to the mix) that you can pick up at Target or an office supply store. Much, much cheaper that way, and you can create something truly you.

Will there be any tippling at your party? The guide gives you a rundown on how to stock a basic bar, from booze to glassware. It also offers a short primer on different liquor, beer and wines, and tells you how much alcohol per person to plan for (recipes will come a little later).

The food section is a little lean, but that may be my personal bias (I love to cook, and think party food should get LOTS of attention). Still, it does give you some pointers on how to design a menu, along with a few suggestions for basic party fare such as cheese plates.

The first section concludes with guides on tableware, decor, and--the most important part--the hostess (with a quick reminder of what your responsibilities are to your guests).

And then we're on to the good stuff--party ideas! The main subsections cover dinner parties, holiday parties, occasions and theme parties, and summer parties, with multiple sample party ideas under each category, including sample menus, recipes for those menus, bar drinks (with recipes), and suggestions for decor, tableware and invitations. And there's a timetable for each party idea, beginning with the invitations and going all the way down to when to prep and serve the food.

The recipes are all simple to prepare (and some look quite delicious), and the ideas for decor and tableware are basic enough that any of us on a budget can use them as a starting point and find our way to a fabulous party look at a much lower price. Stick with fresh, seasonal foods, and your food budget for parties will go a long way. I'll write more about that later (but not now, since this post is all about the party guide). As party books go, this one's pretty complete for guiding you through the process from concept to party time; couple that with your own budget ingenuity, and you'll be your own belle of the ball.

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