1. Don't make it too formal
The key to any good dinner party is to make sure everyone is relaxed and involved. Naturally you'll want to impress but this doesn't have to be achieved by making everything super formal. This can make certain people intimated so just concentrate on making sure everyone has an enjoyable time.
2. Keep the numbers down
Just remember that you're hosting a simple dinner party, not a corporate conference. Be sensible when inviting guests and keep the numbers under double figures. You'll be going for quality not quantity with the food so try and apply the same mandate to the guests.
3. To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail
Make sure you do plenty of planning and leave yourself plenty of time to do it. Leaving everything to the last minute is just going to result in lots of stress.
4. Keep the food simple
No one will be expecting a three-star Michelin dinner so it might be best to stick with summer simple or something that you've successfully cooked before so there will be fewer opportunities to mess up.
5. Consider a theme
Picking a theme can help put guests at ease by letting them know it's going to be relaxed and more importantly, fun! Themes also provide a great opening topic of conversation for all the guests.
6. Serious serving
Make sure you have a think about how you're going to serve the food. It's no good serving up perfectly cooked steak if there aren't enough steak knives to go round
7. Quality not quantity
Don't feel pressured to cook a five-course meal with a 20-strong cheese plate to finish. Just stick with a starter and a main. You could even link with the point above and introduce a communal starter.
8. Don't mix your drinks
Well, you can really but more importantly...match your drinks. Something light and refreshing is best for an aperitif during the summer and makes you have a non-alcoholic option ready. Don't be afraid to ask people to bring a bottle if you're on a budget - that way everyone can drink what they like.
9. Real-time mood management
From setting the lighting and music right at the start of the evening to making sure the drinks and conversation is flowing, it's up to you to manage the mood.
10. The mess
Sometimes it's nice to involve guests in the cooking and clearing away but certainly don't make them stick around to tidy the mess when they are tired and lubricated. You might want to consider leaving the tidying up until the next day. One handy tip is having some stain remover like Vanish Oxi Action on hand if anyone has any spills on the night. There's nothing worse for a guest than thinking they have ruined your best tablecloth with red wine stains. Be ready to jump in with the Vanish and you'll look even more like the perfect host.