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How to save money on parties and receptions

Are you involved in planning a party or reception where lots of people need to be fed and watered? Such events can be incredibly expensive to pull off, but they don't have to be. Consider these tips:

1. Avoid ultra-expensive foods. Instead of shrimp, oysters and caviar, opt for goat cheese, cheese puffs and curried chicken. Triangle-cut sirloin costs two-thirds less than filet of beef, shell steak or standing rib roast. And farm-raised salmon or trout are cheaper than their wild equivalents.

2. Keep choices, courses to a minimum. Serve three courses instead of five, and choose one main entree that most people can live with. You can provide fruits, cheese and crackers on a separate table to complement the meal.

3. Remember rolls. By carving meat onto rolls, you're bound to save money because you'll use much less meat than you would by carving onto plates.

4. Ask about special deals. If your caterer has another event planned on the same day as yours, ask for a similar menu. You might score a discount because the caterer won't have to prepare two entirely different meals.

5. Opt for ethnic foods. Mexican, Chinese, Indian and Italian meals often cost less per person than dishes traditionally served at parties and receptions. Is your favorite neighborhood restaurant certified to do off-site catering?

6. Scale back. Instead of an evening meal, think about a late afternoon party with hors d'oeuvres and jazz, a brunch buffet, a cocktail reception or a late-night dessert and champagne reception, all of which cost much less than a full dinner.

7. Do it yourself. Ask family and friends to help you whip up a themed menu of your choosing, whether it's a clambake, a Southern-style barbecue, a picnic or a lasagna feast. Recruit friends to set up, serve and clean up.

8. Borrow, don't rent. Borrow items such as punch bowls, dishes, tables, glasses and linens. If you do rent such items, return everything on time to avoid late fees.

9. Make wise decisions about the bar. You can forgo a full bar and serve wines, champagnes and champagne cocktails instead. If you want a full bar, buy your own liquor so you can return unopened bottles. Limit beverages to soft drinks, juice, water and coffee an hour before the party ends.

10. Save on wine. It's true: You can find many good bottles of wine in the $7 to $11 range. Consult wine magazines and fine-wine merchants in your area for advice.

_ Compiled by Laura T. Coffey.

Source: the Knot (www.theknot.com)

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