No matter what kind of party you're giving, advance planning is the most important thing. Make a checklist of all the things that need to be done, and follow it. The amount of preparation depends on the type of party. A large, formal occasion might require invitations, caterers, or musicians, while a neighborhood barbecue can be done with a few phone calls and a trip to the supermarket. When hosting, remember that it's your responsibility to cater to the needs of your guests. Make sure there are menu options if you have guests with special dietary requirements, from vegetarian to Kosher. If alcohol is to be served, remember that you can be found legally responsible for visitors who overindulge. Except for the occasional sit-down business dinner, most parties are buffet-style these days. Limit the menu to proven recipes that you know you do well. For children's parties, let the guests participate. Serve unfrosted cupcakes with a variety of frostings and sprinkles that the kids can decorate themselves. Set a time limit for party games to allow for short attention spans. Teenagers' parties present their own challenges. Consider finding a responsible college student to chaperone so the party won't be spoiled by Mom or Dad intruding. Just stop by occasionally to check on how things are going. And be sure to alert the neighbors that the music might be just a little loud.
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