So you'd like to host a gathering that's well-attended and memorable.
Following are a few basic tips to ensure you've covered the bases:
Budget before guest list: Whether your wallet is a bottomless pit or the purse strings are a little tight, know how and to what extent you would like to entertain your guests, prior to extending invitations.
Space considerations: If you're somehow able to seat eight people at your table, but can barely turn around in your kitchen, perhaps a sit-down, plated dinner is not the best plan. Your guest's comfort and preparation and serving space must be accounted for in advance.
Who makes the cut?: Create your maximum guest list with A and B columns. Extend invites early, so you still have ample time to contact those on the B list should A-listers decline. Dig deep and wide for interesting folks who will hit it off, versus those who travel in the same social circles.
Keep it simple: Cocktail parties require the least effort and time commitment. In case you're thinking "No, potlucks require the least effort", that is not true, as asking guests to bring their own food and/or drink is a topic for a different etiquette column.
Host: Guest Ratio: Can you manage everything on your own, or should you have a co-host(s) or hired help? A gracious host has planned the timing and details so as to allow them to greet, mingle with and bid farewell to guests. Guests should not feel like they barely saw you.
No fixating on faux pas: Guests will do you wrong. They'll arrive with uninvited friends and family members, open and consume the wine which was supposedly a "gift" for you, step on a stray blueberry and track it across your light colored carpet or vomit all over the toilet. Smile, smile, smile, smile, smile. Truly unflappable, gracious hosts receive the highest praise and gratitude and inquiries of "How did they manage that?"
Clean-Up: Takes place after guests have departed. It is truly worth it to ask a neighbor's teen child to assist you, particularly if clean-up and organization will take you away from your guests. Ask yourself what is the point of making the effort to entertain when little time will be spent with your guests. Plan and organize every aspect, then when something goes in a direction not planned, it will be easier to make an abrupt change.
Farewell: Good guests will not infringe on your time and hospitality when the end time for the party has arrived. Allow your guests thirty minutes to wind-up deep conversations, then you may begin silent signals that the gathering has come to a close, or advise them of your plans for the morning and where they may continue the conversation at a bar or alternate location in the area.