Keep it cool. If you’re expecting more than five guests, make sure to turn the air conditioner down to 65 degrees about an hour before the party. Lots of people in a small space will heat up a room fast, make sure to keep everyone comfortable by planning ahead.
Break out your label maker. Serving appetizers? Good for you! Make sure guests know what they are about to eat by putting labels on all your foods. This is especially important if you are serving cheeses! Make sure your guests do not have to bother you to ask which one is gruyere and which one is Havarti. Get creative with your labels if you are having a themed fete. Halloween party? Print those snack names on tombstone cutouts or pumpkin shaped cards.
Set the mood with music. Make sure you have something on in the background for your guests to enjoy, but make sure it is set at a low enough level for chatting with your neighbor.
Put out your glasses. Everyone knows the party always ends up in the kitchen. So keep guests out of your kitchen cabinets by arranging everything they made need neatly on the counter or sideboard like glasses, napkins, and silverware.
Turn on the right lights. Install dimmer switches on big overhead lights, or bring in extra lamps and candles. Soft lighting is more flattering and will make your guests want to linger. Need help in the kitchen? Purchase a few touch lights and install them under the cabinets. That way you can search for that extra box of toothpicks without totally killing the mood by flipping the overhead lights on.
Keep it simple. You do not have to spend $100 to have a stellar party. Take guests up when they ask if there is anything they can bring or throw a theme party and ask all your guests to bring something to lighten the load. Have everyone bring their favorite Champagne while you supply the cheese for an informal champagne tasting or throw a “just desserts” evening and have everyone bake their favorite sweet treat.
Be a guest at your own party. Yes, it is important to make sure your guests are comfortable and carrying around full glasses, but do not forget to take time and enjoy your own party. If you are constantly flitting around in the kitchen or doing dishes, your guests will feel obligated to help you. Tidy up occasionally, but leave that stack of silverware in the sink, do not load the dishwasher until after everyone leaves.
A champagne I recommend for your sure to be smashing cocktail party? Gruet Brut, a dry, crisp, and bubbly taste, perfect for those who want champagne that is not too sweet. Around $13 per bottle, available at Binnys and Whole Foods.