6 Steps to Foolproof Entertaining

Does "dinner at eight" really mean "don't even think of arriving before 8:30"? What's the most timeless china pattern for a formal table? domino tackles the burning questions and offers solutions to cut stress and ramp up the festivity.

1. Have a House Cocktail
Save your guests the tough decision and yourself from having to play barkeep.

Minty GimletMinty Gimlet

Minty Gimlet
1½ oz. vodka
1 oz. lime juice
simple syrup
chopped mint

2. Make Your Place Smell Fab
Used judiciously-none near the dinner table-fragrant candles help set the mood.

Fig and Fireside ScentFig and Fireside Scent

3. Get the Light Right

No Overheads
Nothing guarantees a short, unhappy party like harsh, top-down illumination. If you want your guests to stay, the overheads must go.

Soft Glow
Low light instantly renders every room (and everyone) more attractive. For the night, put 25-watts in all table and floor lamps.

Votives Galore
Clear-glass holders with unscented white candles are dependably festive, sexy, flattering and inexpensive.

Create a soft glow when entertainingCreate a soft glow when entertaining


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4. Edit Your Playlist

Resist the urge to hit "shuffle," which will leave your guests feeling jangly. Instead, compile a music mix the night before and listen to it all the way through, so you can be sure it has just the right arc.

5. Serve Just Enough Food
Easy-to-handle snacks to keep guests going strong at a drinks party.
Cocktail Sausages & Grey Poupon

6. Think Outside the Table Setting
Use unexpected table setting elements, such as grape vines, to liven up a table setting.

Beautiful table setting