A soiree? Swell! Here's how to plan it, prep it, and bring it. Hostess swagger, commence.

By Julia Rutland
November 26, 2012
Photo: Jennifer Davick

1. Calendars fill up quickly at year's end, so increase your odds of a fab turn-out by hosting on a Thursday instead of a weekend.

2. Plan to serve a mix of make-ahead and hot-from-the-oven items.

3. Rearrange furniture for good flow. Place the buffet table in an open space, but away from areas where people mix and mingle. Set up at least one beverage table in another room.

4. Guests may be happily anticipating a tasty cocktail, but always be sure to have nonalcoholic drinks available, too.

5. For guests who want to sit a minute (6-inch heels can occasionally tax even the poshest partygoer), make sure there's a cozy seating nook or two that doesn't block serving tables.

6. Set aside all the serving utensils you'll need the day before so there are no surprises when it's time to plate up.

7. Label serving dishes with sticky notes to remind yourself what food goes in each one.

8. Candles set a party vibe and make platters shimmer-and complexions flawless! Light low votives instead of tapers near the food.

9. Use metallics in your decor. They bounce light around in an instantly fun and festive way.

10. Line luminaries along the path to the front door so the party starts the minute guests step out of their cars.