Hosting a Dinner Party
When hosting a dinner party, do as much as you can before the guests arrive. Lay the table, sort out the crockery, prepare as much food as possible - you will be able to spend more time with your guests rather than in the kitchen.
Offer them a drink upon arrival. Spirits should be available as well as wine and beer. A glass of champagne is also a good option.
If someone brings a bottle you may like to open it at some point in the evening, but have your own bottle ready and opened, in case your guests don't bring wine. If you do not open your guests' wine on the night, make sure you tell them that their wine is too exceptional for the assembled group and that you're saving it for a special occasion.
A seating plan, or placement, is a good way of organising your guests. Name cards are not necessary at casual gatherings, but it is the host's prerogative to seat guests where he or she thinks is most appropriate.
If you want the atmosphere to feel laid back and spontaneous, let people choose where they want to sit; just make sure that couples are separated and - if possible - genders alternate.
Sit those with similar interests together and balance loudmouths by sitting them at opposite ends of the table. The host should sit near the door/kitchen. Keep a close eye on proceedings during the first couple of courses, pay particular attention to guests who are shy or have come alone.
As host it is your duty to ensure conversation flows throughout the meal. Steer it away from topics that you know will be awkward for any of your guests. A compulsory swapping of seats for pudding and coffee can rescue flagging conversation.