Dim the Lights
Use 25-watt bulbs to give the room a subtle glow.
Set out a few large platters and let guests dig in. It'll get people mingling and save you from setting the table.
Count it Out
Plan on having five to six bites per guest per hour, and assume one gallon of punch makes about 32 drinks.
Mix Your Dishes
Sneak in everyday dishes with your fancier serving pieces. Use ceramic platters for food and give guests melamine plates, or serve drinks in fancy pitchers and pair with clear plastic cups.
Use What You Have
Make your own centerpiece with items from around the house. Simply line a table with votive candles in sets of three or five, or fill a serving bowl with lemons and limes, mixed nuts, garlic bulbs or colorful pears.
Guests' arrival: Raise the volume one click for every 10 people who show up.
Dinner: Should be low enough to talk over. If you leave the room, shut the door and can still hear it, it's too loud.
End of the night: Readjust based on the size of your crowd as people take off.
Dinner party with family: The room should be as light as a restaurant during lunchtime.
Dinner party with friends: Line up candles down the table's center. Keep adjacent rooms dark.
Cocktail party: Dimmed lights and scattered candles will set the mood and let guests see each other.
75 degrees: Unless there's a blizzard outside, you don't want the thermostat higher than this.
70 degrees: This is ideal, and a good place to start with 10 guests or fewer. (Turn the temp down a notch per additional 10 guests.)
67 degrees: Even if cooking helps kill the chill, don't go any lower.
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