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Fête Accompli

The party line: Publicist Lara Shriftman tells how to use homespun invitations and heady Indian ambience to surprisingly chic effect.

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We all know how a fabulous party looks: the flowers, the table settings, the flattering light. But being a great host isn't just about coughing up the money for engraved invitations. "Often we'll have to work on a budget," says Lara Shriftman, a partner in Harrison & Shriftman, the firm that organizes some of New York's most glamorous events. "It just means that you have to be more creative." Here are her tips on hosting a shindig that seems far costlier than it is.

Invitations: "Use your computer," Shriftman says, but never send a mass e-mail. Check out Tiffany's or Kate's Paperie for inspiration. Then make up your own invitations and print them on colored card stock from Jam Paper. Don't forget the details: "It's always important to have a cute stamp."

Music: "Contact a favorite D.J. and ask if he has a compilation," Shriftman says. "And make copies for goody bags." Or pick up ready-made mixes: Two of Shriftman's favorites are Pure 80's and the Cruel Intentions soundtrack (available at Tower Records or HMV stores).

Decorations: "At Ikea, they sell all shapes of glasses for a dollar," Shriftman says. "Put votive candles in the bottom and then put them everywhere." She also suggests using amber-tinted lightbulbs (at Kmart stores) to create a sexy mood.

Food: "The key is the way you serve things," says Shriftman. "Try Ben & Jerry's bars served on a colorful tray, or make ice-cream sandwiches using frozen dough or store-bought cookies. I like to empty a watermelon and fill it with fruit salad soaked in vodka. When all else fails, fill up big glass bowls with M&Ms."

Location: If you can't fit the party in your pad, take over a cheap, ethnic, BYOB restaurant -- Shriftman has used Rose of Bombay (326 E. 6th St.; 212-982-8848) -- and invite enough people to fill it. For around $20 a person, you get a multicourse meal and the run of the place. Bring your own booze, place cards, and party favors, and tell the waiters how you want things served. Commandeer the CD player, and it's your party.

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