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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.

Children are a blessing

Accept the fact that some children are less well behaved than others, and plan accordingly. Stock up on dollar-store trinkets, wrap them in festive paper, and pass them out judiciously to keep kids busy while their parents mingle. Rent some kid-friendly movies, set up a DVD player that kids can access, offer some not-gross snacks, and you are a hero to parents and offspring alike.

Take their wraps

Don't make your guests look around awkwardly for a place to hang their coat. If you don't have an obvious coat closet or rack, offer to take their coats when they walk in the door. And let them know where you are putting their coats, so they don't have to go on a scavenger hunt to find them -- or something left in their pockets -- later on.

Where there are smokers, there will be smoking

A sticky subject, but face it: You probably have friends or family members who smoke. You can accommodate them by showing them a place they can go to scratch the nicotine itch -- say, a well-lighted, shoveled back porch. For everyone's benefit, make sure adequate ash trays are available.

Remember the shells and tails

Don't serve items like pistachios, shell-on shrimp, or wrapped candies without placing receptacles nearby to hold the shells and wrappers. It's common sense.

Don't be spilly

Make sure you have plenty of seating for your guests, even if you're not hosting a sit-down dinner. If guests will be eating, make sure there is adequate table space to hold glasses and plates so guests won't have to juggle. Do your guests a favor and save them and your carpet from embarrassing spills.

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