Enjoy today’s article by my fabulous mentor Natalie Bradley!

Now that December is quickly approaching, there are some things you should be doing now for your holiday soirée if you want to stay sane while creating a fabulous event. And today that means we need to talk money and invitations.

Save Money Without a Soul Knowing

Usually the rule of thumb with saving money is that the more you can do yourself, the more money you can save. Whether it’s food, décor, details, or anything else, your dollar will go much farther when you make as much as possible from scratch (and honestly it’s a lot more fun too).

Here are a few very simple ways to save in two expensive areas as well. Most hosts usually think you need a huge number of food choices for guests and often have way too much food left over.  While a lot of choices (in smaller quantities) is a great plan for a tapas party or if you want to offer stations and short plates, it’s not always best for a buffet dinner or even a cocktail party…especially if you want to stick to a smaller budget!

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Offering only two or three main dishes of meat, fish or a vegetarian entrée is sufficient. Serve four side dishes and two dessert options with that and you’re in great shape for a brunch or buffet dinner. For cocktails or heavy hors d’oeuvres, vary your selection a bit more, but reduce the quantity you make of each dish so you don’t have a refrigerator packed with left-overs.

Now if you are short on time, by all means get some help from local restaurants, caterers or even something prepared from the grocery store, but it will cost you more.So you’ll have to weigh out the importance of money versus time. (Everyone does at some point.)

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You can also save money with your beverages by buying liter size drinks instead of using individual bottles or cans. You can also make some selections from scratch yourself, like tea, punch, cider or eggnog. It also looks much more polished when you serve your guests from beautiful pitchers, decanters and bowls, instead of store-bought plastic bottles or jugs.

When it comes to serving alcohol, you can very easily save hundreds by remembering that you do not have to serve every type of liquor, beer and wine ever made. I actually suggest to hosts not to serve bottles of liquor unless it’s a serious liquor-drinking crowd. And in that case, only offer the basics. For most hosts, I suggest serving only one or two pre-made signature cocktails (something with champagne, vodka, or even a hot toddy is great), in addition to wine and one or two beer choices. Signature drinks are another tried and true way of upping the elegance of your event while saving money at the same time. Guests just love a fun cocktail … even nonalcoholic versions are a huge hit for non-drinking crowds!

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Invitations are the “Trailer” to Your Event (so Choose Thoughtfully)

If you haven’t sent out your invitations yet, make that a priority to do today! This is one area where I’m a major stickler for etiquette. I firmly believe your invitation needs to be something your guests receive in the mail or at their front door; it is not something that should come via email, Facebook message or a text. I think it’s perfectly fine to send a save the date reminder via email (especially if time slipped up on you this year), but I beg you not to send out an e-vite for your party!

Here’s the thing – invitations are not just information for your guests about the party. They’re also a teaser, like a movie trailer, to get your guests reallyexcited about your event so that they’ll want to come. A beautiful invitations says, “I put enough thought into this that I selected the design, paper, colors and more just for you!” An e-vite screams to me, “I’m just too busy to bother!” All I’m saying is to please consider your guests before you choose. Make them feel wanted and loved through your detail selections.

This is also an easy way to get creative and wow your guests without spending a lot. Think about your senses, and how you can delight your guests before they even arrive. What can you use to essentially transport your guests to your event just by receiving your invitation? I promise you that guests will remember a beautiful invitation and will quickly forget something mediocre. So if you’re going to spend time or money, make it something you’ll be delighted by as well!

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{all photos by ZoomWorks Photography, florals by European Floral Design, table and chairs by Oconee Event Rentals, Food and Venue The Georgia Club and Stationery from plainjane designs}

Allow Yourself Plenty of Time to Get it All Done.

I also suggest that you write down everything and create a party prep timeline for yourself. Otherwise, you’re guaranteed to forget something and feel like a nervous wreck at some point in the process! Whether I’m planning my daughter’s backyard birthday bash, or a wedding for 500, I don’t leave anything to chance … or memory. Professionals document everything, plan it out, and allow for a lot of time!

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© 2003-2013 Soirée! Ltd./Natalie Bradley Events
Southern Event Planner & Designer Natalie Bradley publishes the “Soirée Secrets” blog filled with secrets, tips and how-tos for planning your fabulous event. Get your exclusive inspiration, tips and tricks at http://NatalieBradley.com. Soirée by Natalie Bradley Events is an event planning and design company based in Athens, serving Northeast Georgia, the Carolinas and select destination locations.

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