1. Shop early and think plastic. Yup: disposable is NOT my first choice for anything besides dental floss, but for parties, it works. We keep paper plates, napkins & cutlery in the house for both camping and parties.
2. Know your location. Is it in the house? Do you have enough chairs? Outside--- got a plan B for rain? Plan B can simply be a tent.
3. Know your people. Is this a drinking crowd? Kids? Beverage choices are key here-- as is keeping an eye on your guests.
4. Make ahead. I like to make the cookies, desserts, etc ahead of time and keep in the fridge/freezer. Also, a few days before, get what you can ahead of time.
5. keep people employed. :) I get deli trays, veggie platters, sandwich platters, etc. It's someone's job to do it and they will do MUCH better than you will.
6. When in doubt: order out. Our friends did this for their 3 year old's party last year: pizza delivery. 10 pizzas delivered: happy kids, happy adults, one very chillaxed mama. (that's you, Laura!)
7. Mingle. Introduce your friend Sally to your friend Bob and his wife. You can't talk to all of your guests at once, but you can introduce them to someone else, interesting, of course, to talk to.
8. Accept help. I struggle with this one. But, now I know, when my SIL says "can I make something?" I say yes. Same with my bff's Sylvie & Mari. They are all phenomenal cooks and I take them up on it.
9. Pre-feed the cat. I know it sounds silly, but if you have pets, be mindful of them during the party. Give them safe space to do their thing.
10. Relax---it's a party! No one is going to notice/comment on if you forgot to dust the lightbulbs or if your couches look tatty (ahem: sound familiar?). And if they do, do you really want them at a party? :)