1. Share the work: One strategy: Come up with a menu, prepare the main dish, and ask other guests to bring the appetizer, sides, and dessert.
2. Think bigger: Plan for more food and beverages than you'll need. It's better to enjoy leftovers than to run out of either.
3. Supply snacks: Offer assorted munchies before dinner, such as a crudité platter, cheese and crackers, or dips, which will keep guests from growing peckish as you put the finishing touches on the meal. But avoid anything too substantial; you don't want to spoil appetites.
4. Learn their limitations: Ask your guests a few days in advance if they have any food allergies or strong aversions that would prevent them from enjoying your offerings. If you know ahead of time, you can adjust menu items to suit their needs.
5. Cook ahead: Prepare food in advance whenever possible, which leaves less chance for mishaps and more time for fun.
6. Get set: Have your table set before guests arrive; it will make them feel welcome and spare you last-minute stress.
7. Clean as you go: Clear countertops and load the dishwasher when you find a free minute. This will save work later in the evening and keep your kitchen uncluttered.
8. Keep it casual: A low-key vibe is most comfortable for both you and your guests. Remember, your guests are likely to enjoy themselves if you do.