Use this guide to count down to your party, so that when the big day arrives, everything's sure to be in order.
Four to six weeks ahead: Send written invitations, if desired, or e-vitations (invitations via e-mail).
Two weeks ahead: Telephone guests who haven't responded to written invitations. For casual parties, phone your invitation at this time. Order any special flowers or decorations.
Two or three days before: Shop for everything but highly perishable foods. Thoroughly clean the house.
The day before: Arrange and set your tables. Recheck to ensure you have all ingredients. Buy highly perishable items. Plan a timetable for cooking, and prepare as many dishes as possible.
The day of the party: Reclean the house one last time. Prepare food according to your timetable so that everything hot finishes at the same time and cold dishes are well chilled. Wash dishes as you go to save cleanup time later.
Finally, reserve an hour for yourself to relax and listen to a little music before guests arrive.