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10 Etiquette rules for entertaining

Sandy Smith is a food writer, editor, recipe developer, and pastry chef. She lives in New York's Mid-Hudson Valley with her awesome family of painfully honest, unfailingly supportive taste-testers.

Throw a great party

In addition to planning the menu and theme for the night, a great hostess also follows these 10 etiquette rules to throw a fabulous party and keep guests happy all night long.

Party

Plan for parking

This is one that few hosts remember to consider, but finding a place to park can be a colossal pain in the neck for your guests. If you have a large crowd coming, consider including a few suggestions for parking arrangements in your invite. For example, if you live near a facility with a parking lot that won't be used during party hours, suggest that your guests find parking there. If you know in advance that parking restrictions will be in place on your street, mention that as well.

Corral your pets

To you, nothing is more hilarious than your three labradors playing tug-of-Woobie in the middle of the kitchen floor while your pug makes romantic overtures on each in turn, but your guests might be a little less, er, impressed. For the sake of decorum, sequester your pets for the evening. Give them a room to romp in well away from the party. Discerning celebratory clamor from alarming pandemonium is tough for most animals, and with an agitated pet in a roomful of people, it doesn't take much to breach the line.

Accommodate dietary restrictions

No one's saying that you have to cater to picky eaters, but do bear in mind that a whole lot of folks are subject to a slew of food allergies or sensitivities. Not that you need to plan your menu around them, but consider providing some neutral options for people who are unable to eat gluten or who have peanut allergies. This can be as simple as putting out a nice vegetable platter and not serving anything with peanuts.

It's your job to entertain

If your party includes people of different ages and stages, preparing a few "entertainment stations" to accommodate everyone's interests can make yours the standout bash of the year. Kids coming? Designate a room for them with a DVD player and stack of kid-tastic flicks. Got teens? Rent, buy or borrow a game system and get your hands on a copy of Guitar Hero. They may have to fight off adult guests, but the teens will worship you. Older guests might appreciate a quiet corner where they can sit down and place their cups and plates on a table surface.

Booze is not everybody's cup of tea

You will probably have some teetotalers in your group, even if you don't have kids present. Consider offering the "spike" beside the punchbowl, or serve alcohol-containing mixed drinks in clearly labeled pitchers.

Up next: the top 5 etiquette reminders

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