By Allrecipes Staff

Food creates a sense of occasion and gives everyone something to do while they're meeting new people, chatting with old friends, and sizing up the in-laws.

What you serve depends upon the time of day, the mood you want to convey, and your budget. The simplest menus are the most enjoyable, if only because you don't have to fuss over too many details. A tried and true array of finger foods, desserts, and champagne punch can be tweaked to suit your tastes but still frees you up to enjoy the party.

Fabulous Finger Food

A beautiful buffet can be crafted from simple dishes artfully displayed—like this Spring Herb Hummus Vegetable Garden.

Photo by Allrecipes

Embellish any spread with thin slices of lemon and lime, citrus zest, sprigs of parsley and other fresh herbs, long snips of chives, whole tiny radishes, and true baby carrots. Frost whole fruits for an easy and impressive flourish: brush on egg white, roll in sugar, and let dry before displaying. Add height to your table with a grand centerpiece or by serving food on tiered trays.

Easy Classic Recipes

Photo by Allrecipes

Simply Elegant Recipes

Photo by Molly

Impressive Dessert Recipes

Photo by Kim's Cooking Now

Celebratory Punch Recipes

Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

More Advice

How much should I serve? For a party after lunchtime but before dinner, plan on seven to nine bites per person. A substantial brunch or evening meal calls for twelve to fourteen bites per person. Hint: use the scaling function on Allrecipes to size recipes up or down to suit your head count.

How many drinks? One bottle of wine serves five, while a bottle of champagne serves about six (champagne glasses are generally smaller). A gallon of punch yields approximately 30 servings of five ounces each. Be sure to stock non-alcohol choices, and brew coffee and tea as well.

Can showers be potluck? Yes, unless the party is very formal. But this is one time when you don't want to leave things up to chance. Do give menu suggestions and keep track of who is bringing what.

Other things to consider. Study the guest list and the menu to calculate the plates, utensils, glasses, cups, serving pieces, and linens you'll need. Think about how to keep hot things hot and cold things cold. Is this a sit-down affair (you'll need tables and chairs) or will guests eat on their feet? Plan your menu accordingly, and rent or borrow the equipment you need.