1) The Groundwork
Plan your venue, a multicourse menu, food and beverage pairings, and the guest list (10 to 12 is the ideal size). Send invitations electronically several days in advance.

2) Plan Ahead
Give yourself two days to shop for ingredients, opting for farmers’ markets whenever possible. Develop your table-scape the day of using fresh flowers, eclectic borrowed dishware, and homemade place settings. Group compatible guests together on the seating chart.

3) Make Merry
Throw the party. Select music with a steady beat (Van Stee recommends jazz tunes from Wilmoth Houdini); the volume should be neither too loud nor too soft. Keep drinks flowing, but not too fast. Serve dishes family-style. Enjoy!