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Rules for hosting a party

Karen Leland is the bestselling author of Time Management in an Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day. She is featured columnist for The Huffington Post Living section. Read her blog and contact her at karenleland.com.

Proper party etiquette

My husband, Jon, and I recently threw a small birthday party for our good friend, Charles. Our soiree was set to start at 7:30 sharp. Just as we were congratulating ourselves on our superior organizational skills, the doorbell rang, and four of our guests stood on our doorstep at 7:00 -- half an hour early. Luckily, I'd been doing the research for this article, so I knew exactly what to do. While no party comes off without a hitch, every hostess with the mostess has these top six etiquette rules for hosting a party up her well mannered sleeve.

1. Be the life of your own party.

As the hostess, you will serve as head cheerleader, psychologist, group facilitator and expert conversationalist. Mingling, listening authentically to what your guests have to say, asking intelligent questions and introducing guests who don't know each other put everyone at ease and creates a party where people feel connected. Don't wait for the guests to generate the energy of your party -- show them the way with your own attitude and actions. If the hostess ain't happy, nobody's happy.

2. Keep your cool.

If you host enough parties, at some point, you'll encounter guests who will arrive early, leave late, spill red wine on your white couch and show up with uninvited dogs and kids. Handle all these snafus and more with a smile. Accept apologies graciously, don't make a public fuss, and remember: Part and parcel of having a party is putting up with unexpected events.

3. Drink your fill -- of water, that is.

Unfortunately, being the hostess means pouring the alcoholic drinks, but not partaking of too many. Getting drunk, or even a bit tipsy, at your own party can put your guests in an uncomfortable position. Know your limits, and keep your imbibing to a few glasses of wine or champagne. On the other hand, drink as much water as you possibly can, since dehydration can lead to lightheadedness.

4. Dress like you mean it.

After all that party planning, you deserve to dress up and play the part of the mistress of the manor. Regardless of your guests' sartorial choices, make sure you sparkle in whatever makes you feel like queen bee and head hostess. One caution: Watch the super-high heels. Shoes that make your legs look great but make your dogs bark ultimately make for a cranky hostess.

5. Focus on the guests, not the cleanup.

Yes, glasses, plates, silverware, empty bottles and paper napkins will pile up during a party, and no, you don't need to clean them up right away. Resist the temptation to clean as you go. Instead, create out-of-the-way places to put garbage, recycling and dirty dishes to deal with later. If you're having a huge event, consider hiring some help.

6. Put your foot down.

If you're hosting the party at your house, you have a measure of responsibility for your guests' safety, as well as their happiness. If a guest cleary has drank too much, quietly and privately take her car keys and call a cab.

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