Party-planning can be tricky, but you don't have to be Martha Stewart to be a good host.
Step 1: Decide whom to invite Decide whom to invite. Choose guests who will get along, but don't be afraid to push the envelope. Mix Democrats with Republicans, book-lovers with TV junkies, artists with tycoons.
TIP: There are limits, of course—if you've invited the Hatfields, have the McCoys another time.
Step 2: Issue invitations Issue invitations by mail, phone, email, or in person. The more formal the event, the more notice you should give. A wedding needs at least six weeks, but a potluck only days.
TIP: If you anticipate a noise level that might annoy your neighbors, make sure to invite them! Even if they don't come, it's harder to complain about a party you were invited to.
Step 3: Prepare early Prepare early. If it's a dinner party, set the table before the doorbell rings. If kids or pets are coming, put away breakables (ditto for Super Bowl parties). Choose foods you can make ahead of time.
TIP: If your budget allows, hire someone to set up, take coats, and clear dishes, even if it's just an eager high school kid. You'll be free to ease conversation and smooth over social wrinkles, which is a host's real job.
Step 4: Get guest drink & introduce Make sure each guest has two things within minutes of arriving: a drink and an introduction to at least a few other guests. This isn't a library or funeral parlor, so give people that initial incentive to talk.
TIP: Use alcohol judiciously. A little might be good to loosen up both you and your guests—but break out the club soda well before the brawling begins.
Step 5: List for disharmony & silence Listen for disharmony or awkward silence. If your buttoned-up boss is struggling to talk to your pet psychic, jump in with an introduction to someone new—like your neighbor, who's wondering why he was invited.
Step 6: Relax Relax. Once everyone's in the room, there's a limit to what you can do. Let the event take its course and try to have some fun.
FACT: The Korean monster movie, The Host, features a creature that emerges from the river and eats people.