Make your list. A to-do list is crucial to track your progress and preserve your sanity.
Check your gear. Before the big day, take stock of all pots, pans, dishes, flatware, glasses, napkins and equipment you'll need for cooking and serving.
Clear your fridge. Make room for ingredients as well as party items after they are prepared.
Clean your place. Don't get fanatical about it. Just straighten up clutter, dust lightly and stock the guest bathroom. Use fresh hand towels and quality toilet paper, such as Charmin® Mega Roll. Clean the night before or early in the morning. Better yet, recruit family members to do their part!
Stay away from the oven. If you can avoid it, provide foods that don't require cooking immediately before serving. That way you can join your guests at dinner instead of waiting for it to heat up.
Bring on the buffet. Serve your main course buffet style at the kitchen counter or on a side table. You'l make it easier and faster to set up (and clean up!).
Skip the experiments. Save yourself stress and a potential mess: Make dishes you know will taste good, turn out well and be enjoyed by all.
Serve it simple. Appetizer parties are easy and allow you to go fancy or casual, yet still keep it simple. Save time by supplementing appetizers you prepare yourself with good-quality snacks such as chips, salsa, nuts and cookies, as well as prepared salads.
Put your guests to work. If the gathering is informal, allow guests to join you in the kitchen and help with serving or setting up. They'll enjoy mingling, and you won't be isolated in the kitchen.
Relax and join the party. This is the most important tip of all!