House Beautiful recently featured a list of 101 ways to make your party fabulous...these are some of my favorites..
"Don't come to a party empty-handed."
—Jayne Michaels, designer
"Don't try a new recipe at a party."
—Tricia Foley, designer/author
"Send out a proper invite. A handwritten one is preferable, but the online versions at PaperlessPost are quite wonderful."
—Ken Fulk, designer
"Flowers are overused as centerpieces. Use seasonal fruit, a tureen, or an interesting sculptural centerpiece instead."
—Christopher Spitzmiller, ceramic designer
"Let guests make their own cocktails. I have a few favorite recipes on cards, and all the ingredients on hand. People mix and shake and think it's super-fun."
—Paul Lowe, food/prop stylist, Sweet Paul
"Don't wait for late guests. People resent being hungry."
—Isaac Mizrahi, fashion designer
"We all look better with light on our faces. Put lamps on your buffet or server."
—Jan Showers, designer
"Never, never, never run out of ice."
—Bryan Batt, actor/shop owner
"Always, always make introductions. If you're going to make a guest feel alienated, why invite them?"
—Jessica Nell Graves, thelovelist.net
"You should always have a cold bottle of bubbly stashed in your refrigerator in case friends drop by, and a bottle of something sparkly for nondrinkers."
—Christopher Hirsheimer, Co-founder, Canal House Cooking
"I cannot tell you how many parties with great food have been ruined by operating-room lighting. Atmosphere is half the battle. A low-lit atmosphere with candles can even give pizza old-movie glamour."
—Mary McDonald, designer
"Don't be afraid to throw a party because you think it will cost too much. You can have a good time for $10 with a bottle of wine and a bag of nuts."
—Thomas Jayne, designer
"In case of an entertaining crisis, take a deep breath and ask, 'What would Auntie Mame do?' If a guest accidentally breaks something, regardless of value, simply say, 'Thank you. I've been looking for a reason to replace that old thing.'"
—Bryan Batt, actor/shop owner
"When I was in Italy one summer, our hosts served cashews and potato chips in crystal bowls while we sipped Prosecco. It was a revelation: right-out-of-the-bag snacks become sophisticated when they're served in a gorgeous dish."
—Stephanie Ballard, covetliving.com
"Don't cancel a dinner invitation the day of the dinner unless you are on an IV drip in a hospital." —Harry Slatkin, fragrance guru
"If you are having an elaborate dinner, then keep your hors d'oeuvres simple. And if you are planning an easy dinner, make your hors d'oeuvres a little fancier."
—Madeline Weinrib, textile designer
"Serve an amazing dessert. Even the worst main course will be forgotten if it's followed by a spectacular dessert. Extra points for making it yourself."
—Michael Devine, shop owner/textile designer
"Never underestimate the power of a great powder room. It is your gift to your guests. Every detail will be noticed, and it will reveal much about you, so don't skimp."
—Windsor Smith, designer
"Don't leave without saying good-bye to the host."
—Kathryn M. Ireland, designer
The complete list is available at www.housebeautiful.com