Casual or Cocktail Parties
1. Invite guests at least two weeks in advance so they can plan accordingly.
2. Advise them regarding directions, parking issues, public transport instructions, and smoking rules upon acceptance.
3. Keep any extreme allergies (like nuts) or medical issues in mind when planning the menu.
4. When preparing your home be sure to clear away anything fragile or extremely valuable if it's in a vulnerable place. Now is not the time to display the Ming vase.
5. Be sure the bathroom is clean and you have adequate bathroom tissue, soap, and hand towels. If your cats' litter box is there, be sure it is clean.
6. Keep pets in the spare bedroom if necessary; most will flee the activity anyway.
7. Keep your level of mess tolerance in mind when planning the menu. Chicken wings, clams casino, and spare ribs create more mess and garbage because of the bones; you may want to stick with deviled eggs, caviar on toast points, and sandwiches on cocktail rye.
8. Choose foods that require minimum attention once they meet the heat so that you spend as little time in the kitchen as possible.
9. Don't skimp when shopping for groceries and drinks. Purchase bags of ice if your freezer doesn't make enough at once. And if a guest volunteers to bring more, graciously accept.
10. If you're not having anything catered, do as much food preparation as possible in advance. You should not be cleaning, trimming, chopping, marinating, or mixing as your guests begin arriving.
11. The bar (if applicable): Don't be obsessed with having every mixed drink ingredient; creating a cocktail theme works well and provides adequate variety.
12. Have chips and veggies (or whatever) on the table when the guests begin arriving.
13. With a few major exceptions (e.g., Super Bowl Sunday) a moratorium should be called on computer use or television during the gathering. Background music, however, is usually desirable.
14. Wear relatively comfortable shoes if you are running back and forth with trays or anything else.
15. If you don't have paid help, don't allow garbage to pile up too much before beginning to get rid of it. Make a garbage run at the halfway mark or have your SO do it so the end won't look like Armageddon.
16. Enjoy yourself!