PUBLISHED: 1:20 PM on Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Add your personal touch with homemade invitations

If you are throwing a party, part of the planning will involve letting the guests know about the event. Invitations sent through the mail are one of the easiest and most traditional ways of sharing the news. Yet, your invitations don't just have to be the preprinted ones bought at your local card shop. You can use creativity and some items at hand to design invitations geared to the theme of your party. Here are some ideas for creating winning invitations:

• Cut and paste. Here's a way to let your creativity shine. Cut out pictures from magazines, printed from the Internet or any other media, that follow the theme of your party and paste them on card stock of your choice. Purchase the stock at a stationary store or a craft center. For example, if you're hosting a bridal shower, select pictures of wedding dresses, bouquets and cakes. Include the information about the party in the same way - cut out the date, address and party location from similar sources. One advantage is that each guest will have a unique invite to remember the event.

• Use creative materials. For smaller parties (where you won't want to incur large postage costs), consider using decorative bottles, tubes and other interesting packaging materials to hold a rolled-up invitation. It will lend an old-fashioned, romantic feel, and be an invitation your guests will certainly remember.

• Let food lead the way. How about using food items as invites? Bake a batch of sugar cookies in a shape that correlates with the theme of your party (like a balloon, gift box, etc.) Frost them, then use edible decorating pens to write the information on the cookies. Just be sure to package carefully so the cookies won't crumble en route!

• Consult the inner graphic designer. A home computer is a perfect tool for creating invitations. Whether you choose to design and print your invitation from scratch use specialty papers with decorative borders and themes. Or use the many invitation kits available at stationery and office-supply stores. The possibilities are endless. Embellish your invitations with ribbon, vellum paper, or confetti tucked inside the envelope.

• Get computer savvy. If you prefer not to use snail mail to send out your invitations, you can design e-mail cards as well. Many online sites offer guest list maintenance and reply options to make it convenient. Just point and click to invite your friends and family.

• A photo tells the story. A simple design strategy is just to place a favorite photo on the invitation (such as a portrait or candid of your child for a birthday party). You can print them up yourself, or use a service that will print photo cards, like one at a neighborhood store or through the Internet, for a cost slightly above normal photo developing charges.

Whatever method of inviting your guests you choose, just remember to clearly spell out the details of the event and include a "respond by" (RSVP) date and phone number. In addition, include directions to the party location for out-of-town guests.