Entertaining with Minimal Stress
I love entertaining and would prefer to have an imperfect party versus not having a 'perfect' one. Here are some tips to help you enjoy (not stress) having folks over:
Remember the big picture. You want to enjoy the time with your guests, not be stressing over details all night. Anytime you feel yourself getting into stress-mode, take a deep breath and remember your true goal.
Get help. A game changer for me was hiring a babysitter for all my parties. This meant that I could actually socialize with friends versus chasing after toddlers. Bonus points if you negotiate to help clean up after.
Keep it simple. One year, I spent forever creating the perfect hot chocolate station. Of course, hardly anyone touched it. Just have some good (yet easy) food, plenty of drinks and the right mix of people.
Outsource food. I used to cook everything for my parties. Then I discovered the joy of placing store-bought food in my cooking containers. Other ideas that reduce your work:
Cookie exchange: everyone brings 2 dozen cookies and each guests gets to take one of each home.
Food tour: Buy chocolate chip cookies, donuts, or any treat from the top spots in your town, so people can try them and compare.
Create a 'moment.' Keep it simple, but create a special moment in for your party. Do a balloon drop, light sparklers, hand out poppers, or a special treat (like Popsicles). This can be as easy as placing an Amazon Prime order.
Don't stress about your house being clean. After a few people with young kids get there, it will look a mess anyhow. If you do need it to be clean, get the babysitter to either help clean or help you watch the kids while you do it.
Take a deep breath, enjoy the chaos and remember to have fun.