It's your turn to throw a party. No getting around it. Hospitality requires a rotation of social roles.

After you've chosen a time, date, place and theme, make a flexible guest list. Then send out invitations. It's as simple as that.

Or is it? Too often hosts complicate matters. They want to impress their kith and kin. They overdo.

Consider the following options for party hosts who want their guests to attend the affair with as little stress as possible.

1. Cards. Nothing touches the understated grace of a printed and signed note inviting one to a special party. It need not include spidery calligraphy or embossed insignias. Office supply stores sell classy, inexpensive stationery in bulk, or you can order online from companies such as Mountaincow.com. Software — often available online for free — can help the host format these printed notes. You needn't spend more than $1 — including postage — per guest.

Or you can go fancy. A few months ago, we received an oversized card at home adorned with a watercolor portrait of James Armstrong and Larry Connelly. It invited the receiver to a lavish 80th birthday party for social benefactor Armstrong. The card became a keepsake for an indelible evening.

2. Evites. Let's not mince words: Don't do it. That goes double for Paperless Post

These formatted digital notes attempt to mimic the experience of receiving a printed card. They also help hosts keep track of confirmed guests. Yet the multistep process makes it difficult to check the time, date, place or theme from a mobile device or to transfer the data into another format.

I'm pleased to report that the flood of these annoying notices has ebbed. I don't take any credit for their demise. Others surely complained about them in a polite and gentle manner.

3. Social media. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other networking services have transformed our world. We like them. We use them. They are ubiquitous. Yet they are flawed. For instance, Facebook users "invite" friends to all kinds of events — speeches, concerts, games, shop openings, rock fights. These invitations are too numerous to consider with any care. And clearly they go out indiscriminately. Not cool.

4. Attachments. The alternative is to invite your guests individually through other digital means. One caveat: No attachments. Appending PDFs and other designed products to emails that cannot be opened, stored, shared or retrieved, especially by way of tablets or smart phones, defeats the purpose. I suppose hosts feel that digital pictures are worth a thousand words. They aren't if we can't see them.

5. Email. That's all we really need. Something durable and transferable that tells us the time, date, place and theme in simple text within the body of the email. Beautifully simple and effective.

Of course, if you invite a new acquaintance via email, a short introductory greeting — as in "I met you at ..." — is also appreciated.

Best of all, as long as you maintain access to a computer and an email account, the whole thing is free. And easy.

Contact Michael Barnes at mbarnes@statesman.com.