Hosting a dinner party is a fun and truly special way to entertain friends.  Below are a few tips to help make your next dinner party as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.

~ Make a list of things to do well in advance and do as much as possible before the day of the party 

~ Expect guests to arrive within 30 minutes of the time stated; plan to eat no later than an hour anda half from the stated time

~ Have an appetizer out and ready when guests arrive

~ Plan in advance which dinnerware will be used for each course

~ If you don't plan to hire servers, serve no more than three courses at the table (otherwise the hosts are up and down too much)

~ Choose a menu that you're comfortable with; don't try and do too much.  Any home-cooked meal is appreciated!

~ If you're short on time, keep the appetizer and dessert simple.  A cheese, fruit and nut plate makes a great starter, and fresh berries with good quality ice cream is always a crowd pleaser for dessert.

~ Serve the main course on warm plates, otherwise food gets cold quickly. (Plates can be heated in a very low oven, a warming drawer, or in the dishwasher on the 'Dry' cycle.)

~ Decide how you will plate each course before the party, that way you can have garnishes at the ready if necessary

~ If the hosts are serving in the kitchen, serve your own plates first (but bring them to the table last); this gives you practice on plating and means if anyone's food gets cold it will be yours

~ People always ask where they should sit; if you don't have name cards think in advance how to arrange guests for the best mix of people and conversation

~ Select music appropriate to the occasion; guests' conversations shouldn't have to compete with the music

~ Lighting is important - not too bright, not too dark; candles are a nice touch

~ Consider having two dinner parties with exactly the same menu back-to-back; the second party will be the easiest dinner party you'll ever give!