In this time of tight money and even tighter time, hosting a dinner party can feel perilous. But it doesn’t have to, if you plan right and use our party tips to get you through. While there are plenty of posts that will give you all kinds of great recipes for what to serve at this dinner, from yummy smoked turkey to amazing fresh fruit pies, we are offering something different.

Because while the food is really what this dinner is about, planning is what will pull it off so you can enjoy it as much as your guests. Ready to make that checklist to ensure you have a great dinner party for everyone involved? Here we go.

Start with Your Music List

With all the many choices of how to plan your music, you would be crazy to not choreograph this little thing using a digital music stream. So many of them today allow you to create a list that you keep that you can even plan this one ahead of time. If you love to listen to a specific music service such as Rhapsody or you have a huge list of your own music on your computer, you can plan this one the week before.

Just take some time each night to listen to music on your service and put everything you feel would be great background music into a list. It might be upbeat reggae for while you are cooking, laidback piano jazz for while the guests are arriving and soft classical during dinner. Just take the time to craft a music thread and you will find you can use it again and again.

Basics to Always Have on Hand

There are a few things you want to be sure you have on hand regardless of what you are serving. The first two involve the time before you sit down to dinner, when drinks are usually being served. This means you want to have plenty of ice for those drinks, and sparkling water for those who don’t drink alcohol or choose not to tonight.

There is nothing worse than having guests and discovering you aren’t prepared for the pre-dinner drinks time. Finally – even though your guests will probably bring wine, make sure you have several bottles of what you know will go with dinner. This will ensure you have enough wine to cover the basics and never are embarrassed when you run out.

Start Early and Breathe

Have you ever walked into a friend’s home for dinner and they were red-faced and still running around getting everything ready? You can avoid this by getting everything ready an hour before you expect your guests to begin to arrive. There will always be the person who comes early, so be prepared. Set the table, have dinner ready and last minute dishes like vegetables that need to be steamed prepped and ready to go.

If you can, make desserts ahead of time so that they are ready to be popped in the oven or brought to the table at the right time. By planning ahead, you can greet your guests calm and collected, music playing softly (or loudly, you know your friends) and everything under control.