There are a few elements to remember if you want to be a good host. The most important thing is to relax. There is nothing worse then a host on the verge of a nervous breakdown, so remember that entertaining is about fun and relaxation. Take deep breaths and don't sweat the small stuff, as something will always go wrong and you cannot plan for everything.
Below are a few ways to ensure that both you and your guests enjoy the event and breeze through the unnecessary stresses of entertaining:
1. Invite people that you know you can relax around. This means no disapproving in-laws or that obnoxious neighbor. Make sure everyone is social and open to a casual atmosphere. This will make everyone feel welcome and at home. Absolutely no critics!
2. Try as much as you can to plan ahead. Draw up a shopping list and go grocery shopping over a period of days, not the day before. Buy wine weeks in advance and try it out if you're scared it will not fit with the food or mood. Start planning the decorations and set the table early - that way you're not scrambling the day of.
3. Imagine situations which might create anxiety for you. This may mean offering a few vegetarian options if you're serving food, buying non-alcoholic drinks, stocking up on ice, and marking clear areas for trash. Although you should be open to improvisation there are ways to plan for the unexpected.
4. Make sure there are fresh flowers at the party. Nothing makes a room more memorable or peaceful then blossoms, so go buy some and brighten everyone's day.
5. Save a few things for you guests to do. People will always ask "what can I help with?" and instead of going with the typical answer "nothing", put people to work. Have someone pour wine, hand out silverware, or put out appetizers. Utilize the help you have.
6. Never skimp on the wine or drinks. It is always better to over-buy, or ask people to bring more, then to run out of drinks at a party. That will kill the mood. So stock up and count on at least 3 drinks per person throughout the night.
7. Always offer some kind of small party favor for your guests. You can box up leftover food or hand out small gift bags - whatever works. It is nice for your guests to never leave empty handed. It will guarantee they will come back.
Remember that entertaining is fun and you as a host determine the mood of the evening. So relax, sit back, and enjoy your party.