Christine Merser, Owner, Water Mill Party

Food stations are a great idea: "People like to nibble and nibbling is less expensive," she notes. "Use stations rather than serving sit-down meals," says Merser. Her recommendations for what's in vogue (plus our suggestions for party books highlighting each type of food—for your own dinner parties!):

"Stations call for fewer waiters and fewer waiters mean less cost," she says. "Another advantage is that stations allow caterers to do more preparation prior to the event," which can lower a number of costs, including costs for on-site equipment and labor.