1) Make a game plan! We made a couple you can adapt, but have one so that you remember everything you need to do. Plus, crossing things off a list is so satisfying.
2) Come up with one simple cocktail to serve. That'll be the drink of the night and can be premixed in pitchers to make bartending a little easier.
3) Pick dishes that get better with time or that can be served at room temperature. That way, you don't need to stress about getting things to the table as soon as they're done. Long braises, quiches and tarts, lasagnas — all those make your life easier.
4) Go with the tried-and-true — if you're famous for a recipe, make that. Knowing you're serving up a sure thing will take some pressure off. But there's nothing wrong with trying new recipes, just give them a trial run ahead of time before serving them to a crowd.
5) Figure out serving platters and utensils ahead of time — no need to scramble at the last minute.
6) If possible, make it in advance- The less you have to think about day-of, the better. You'll be able to take the time to greet your guests while the dishes warm up back in the kitchen.
7) Set aside a tub of salted ice water to quick-chill drinks – If you have the room, this will keep your fridge free for food. Keep a few bar cloths by the tub for wiping down drippy bottles.
8) Designate a friend or family member- to be in charge of refilling drinks, replenishing snacks, or anything that takes some of the burden off you. Bonus points if it's doing something outside of the kitchen, as kitchens get crowded during parties.
9) Serving buffet-style?- Put food and drinks on opposite sides of the room to keep things moving and prevent bottlenecks.
10) Let the store help you- A couple well-chosen store-bought items — delicious cheese, fancy bread, or even a really good appetizer — take some of the work out of hosting.