No. 1 Pick a theme and stick with it. Bright or neutral, modern or organic- they're all great. Just make sure it carries through the whole evening.
No. 2 Set the table in advance so you know exactly where everything should be placed to your specific taste. This way, set up will be a breeze. It also allows you to only iron the exact number of napkins and tablecloths, only wash the exact number of plates, etc. Don't waste time doing extra work.
No. 3 Keep the menu simple and cook what you know. You may have always wanted to try Julia Child's boeuf bourguignon, but unless you've mastered it, it's not the time to try a new recipe.
No. 4 Create ambiance with candlelight and flowers. Candles provide that glow that makes everything look great.
Don't worry too much about the bouquet. Use what is in season.
No. 5 Use real linens. They instantly make the table feel warmer. Try a solid linen tablecloth with patterned placemats. Layering is a great way to add texture.
No. 6 Do as much as possible in advance- cooking, cleaning, ironing, etc. This leaves you free to relax during the day of the party. Take a nap... if the evening goes as well as you hope, it might be a long night!
No. 7 Leave out appetizers and drinks so guests can help themselves. Make dinner buffet style. This leaves you free to enjoy the party, and often helps guests feel more comfortable as well.
No. 8 Decide on a schedule for the night ahead of time so you know exactly how much time you want to spend on drinks and appetizers, then dinner. This way the party flows nicely and you don't have to feel rushed.
No. 9 Assign Seats. You'd be surprised how many people actually like this. No awkward pauses, just nice and easy seating arrangements, leaving all parties happy. And place cards are so fun to make!
No. 10 Take pictures! Reliving all the great moments the next day can be just as fun as the first hand experience. And you will always have documentation of the hard work you put into this fantastic party.