How to Entertain at Every Stage of Life Slideshow

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Just Out of College: Work Within Your Limits
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Just Out of College: Work Within Your Limits
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Just because money may be scarce in your early 20s doesn’t mean you can’t host a fabulous party. Focus on the essentials — now is not the time to stress about details like décor or elaborate menus. Work with what is available. Instead of thinking about financial constraints, have fun knowing this is a time in life where you can get away with breaking the rules.

Twenty-something entertainer Maris Cohen puts it this way: "I used to look down on using plastic utensils and paper goods. But I’m a 20-something living on a meager income in the city, not hosting a gala for the elite. People can eat on paper."

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Thinkstock

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In Your Early 20s: Good Alcohol Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank
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In Your Early 20s: Good Alcohol Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank
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"People in their early 20s are more worried about what kind of alcohol they’ll have than the food or décor," says Hovnanian. But a low budget doesn’t have to mean inferior booze — bargain doesn’t always translate to bad. There are plenty of delicious wines for less than $20, and even boxed wines are bettering their reputation. For cocktails, stock up on affordable glassware and research spirits, like Wild Turkey Bourbon or Beefeater Gin, that are well-priced without being rotgut liquor.

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Jochen Sand

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In Your 20s: Make the Most of Your Guests
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In Your 20s: Make the Most of Your Guests
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While it’s probably tacky to do later in life, while you’re still in your 20s and not yet totally financially set, never hesitate to ask guests to BYOB. If you will be providing the alcohol, consider asking guests to bring mixers.

Brainstorm gatherings that require group participation. Potlucks or themed parties such as holiday cookie exchange nights take the bulk of the preparation off one person, and guests enjoy pitching in and showing off their contributions.

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Jupiter Images

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In Your Mid-20s: Showcase Your Talents
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In Your Mid-20s: Showcase Your Talents
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"People in their mid-20s want to showcase their talents and add creative touches that make the host look good," explains Hovnanian. Let your individuality shine through at your event. Love to cook? Devote time and energy to making big meals or complicated recipes. Have a crafty side? Let it shine with homemade place cards. Whatever it is, let your unique talents take center stage when entertaining as a young adult.

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Thinkstock

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In Your 30s: Get Interactive
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In Your 30s: Get Interactive
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Use the energy and financial freedom of your 30s to add new elements into your parties. According to Hovnanian, "Parties are becoming more interactive, and creativity is being added where we used to not see it like using a photo booth instead of a typical event photographer." A photo booth may be out of reach, but think of other ways to get guests more involved. Place disposable cameras throughout the apartment and ask everyone to take pictures, have guests create playlists to shuffle through during the night, or set up an ice cream sundae bar.

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Jack Hollingsworth

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In Your 30s: Own Your Milestones
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In Your 30s: Own Your Milestones
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This stage of life will likely bring the need to plan an occasion for an important milestone. But whether it’s a rehearsal dinner or a baby shower, find ways to make these events your own. It’s far too easy to fall into the trap of making your celebration resemble everyone else’s — don’t be afraid to think outside of the box! Hate the cheesy games at bridal showers? Host a spa day instead. Tired of the traditional women-only baby showers? Go ahead and make it coed.

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Jupiter Images

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In Your 30s and 40s: Be Ready for Small Guests
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In Your 30s and 40s: Be Ready for Small Guests
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When you’re in your 30s and 40s, it’s inevitable that kids will factor into your event planning — either yours or others’. Entertaining for kids requires a unique combination of planning and flexibility. If hosting a kid’s party, think ahead about low-stress games and activities, but leave room for spontaneity. Be ready for messes and tantrums. If you don’t have kids but are hosting a party where they are invited, plan ahead for the energetic guests, but never be afraid to set boundaries in your own home.

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Altrendo Images

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In Your 40s: Plan, Plan, Plan!
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In Your 40s: Plan, Plan, Plan!
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No matter what your age, planning is key to making an occasion run smoothly, but this is even more important as you get older. Hovnanian explains, "Older generations care more about the functionality of the actual events — layout, making sure the music is not too loud, that people are comfortable, and everything is going as planned."

Seasoned entertainer Melanie Rose elaborates on the planning she puts into her dinner parties: "My number one goal is a menu that is comprised of foods that do not require my time once my guests arrive. I want to spend time socializing not cooking. I also have a crazy schtick that with a large crowd there is one salt and one pepper shaker for every two people. I hate when things need to always be passed. Same for sugar and creamer for coffee."

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iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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In Your 50s: Pay Attention to the Details, but Don’t Go Over the Top
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In Your 50s: Pay Attention to the Details, but Don’t Go Over the Top
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When the kids are grown and you have the financial resources to invest in the small details like décor or party favors, go for it! But remember not to get carried away. Rose points out, "I keep the dining environment simple. Don't go crazy with centerpieces. A few low flowers and candles on the table. People want to focus on the conversation and see each other."

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Thomas Northcut

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In Your 50s and Older: Don’t Strain Your Efforts
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In Your 50s and Older: Don’t Strain Your Efforts
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Just because you have the time and resources to plan an elaborate gathering later in life doesn’t mean that you have to. Don’t get carried away, Hovnanian advises, or "it can end up being a lot of elements not done well. Make sure to execute the elements you have to the best of your ability." Strive for simplicity even when hosting to impress. As Rose advises, aim for classic dishes that can be prepared ahead. You’ll wow your guests if you don’t overwhelm yourself, plus you’ll have time to enjoy your own party!

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Goodshot