9. Rotate the hand towels half-way through the evening. While you're reapplying your lip gloss check the saturation level on the hand towels. You may only need to switch the back to the front but if they're soaked through you can replace with fresh towels. It's a small thing that your guests notice.
8. Split the food in half. Cut wedges of cheese in two; keep a bag of shrimp on reserve and an un-open box of crackers. This way you can replenish and refresh -- it keeps the buffet table looking good and ensures food isn't sitting out for several hours at a time.
7. Don't ask your guests to remove their shoes. Unless there's a snow-fall coinciding with your party there's really no excuse. Shoes are part of the ensemble, for both men and women, and sock-feet clash with almost all décor. Hardwood, laminate and tile floors can be cleaned with a quick mop. Carpet floors, well, invest in a heavy-duty vacuum or consider resurfacing.
6. Roll up area rugs, stash the fragile objet d'art and clear space for chat circles and a possible dance floor -- it's the holidays, guests want to dance off all the extra calories.
5. Rent glassware, dishes and linens. Party rentals are relatively inexpensive and they show up clean and go away dirty. No dishes and no worries about breakage -- worth every penny the next day, and so much more sophisticated than plastic, not to mention environmentally friendlier.
More tips on the next page!4. Hire help. Dinner parties larger than 12, and cocktail parties in excess of 30 should be catered. Even if you insist on preparing all of the food yourself, hire one or two servers and a bartender to man the ovens, clear the mess and mix the drinks. It's your party and you should be mingling with your guest not stuck in the kitchen.
3. Create a playlist. Music should never be overlooked yet often is put off until the end of the party planning stage. Having five hours (8pm to 1am) of music preprogrammed means you'll have time to focus on your guests and not frantically tossing CDs into the stereo. Start with mellow lounge music and progress into more upbeat and danceable tunes later on.
2. Lighting, lighting, lighting. Invest in dimmer switches and accent that with candlelight. Everyone looks (and feels) wonderful in subdued lighting. If you can't switch all your lighting to dimmers (say in the kitchen or bathroom) change the bulbs to 25 or 40 watts for the night and add candles to brighten the space if necessary.
1. Brew some coffee when you want your guests to leave. It's a sure-fire way to hammer the point home that the party's over and your guests will get the hint. If they don't start washing dishes, that'll do it.
Ryan Jennings is the author of the bestselling book Cooking with Booze. For more entertaining advice, recipes and cocktail ideas visit cookingwithbooze.com.