Invite a crowd. Have people who know each other and people who don't. Mix age groups. It will make for more interesting dinner conversation.
Forget ironing. If you have a nice wood table, invest in some attractive woven straw mats or some matelasse place mats that require a minimum of upkeep.
Set up your music in advance. Start the evening with something lively, hip and fun. Then, for dining, switch to classical background music.
Keep centerpieces simple. The flowers should not distract from the food or the setting. And you should not have to remove a fancy, large arrangement from the center of the table so guests can see one another. Place several small, low vases in the middle, filling each with a cluster of peach roses or one pale green orchid.
Create party traditions. The Willeys have an annual Christmas party where everyone sings "The Twelve Days of Christmas" at the piano. It started as a hot-chocolate-and-cookies party for their daughters' friends 20 years ago. Now, they invite 150 friends for a major bash with oyster bars and red and green cosmos. Friends start lobbying to sing solos of their favorite parts of the song months in advance.