Hosting Large Dinner Parties made pretty easy

We're having 18 for dinner tonight to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. We have around this many every fall, and at Passover, a couple of seders. The first usually has 18-20, the second fewer but still more than a dozen.

it's not that bad, really. Here's how we do it.

First, the key is, have guests who are helpful and friendly and who make everyone there feel happy to be there. This is the expectation for me from guests (also they don't make scenes). 

Guests - do have them bring food. I have a great friend who always brings the brisket (I know, really, isn't that great?). Friends feel that if they bring food, they don't have to reciprocate at a later date, which is fine with me, and they get into the spirit. Of course, I control who brings what. 

OK, now on details. I have a room in your house large enough for a couple of 8 foot tables, and a place to store same tables (the garage?). Then stackable chairs (or folding chairs, you know your audience). I also need a pretty large table/counter space to serve the buffet, because buffet works easier for me.

I used to get paper/plastic everything. Over time, I fugured out the white polyester table cloths from Sams Club/Costco are cheap and you can bleach them clean after any meal. Napkins - I find Party City has cheap pretty washable napkins (buck each?). Other stuff - just keep in mind the tradeoff between having to store it all year and the fact it is much cheaper to buy reusable stuff. Maybe buy one thing a year that's reusable, see if it works, is easy to store, easy to clean up, and build year by year.

Set a timeline and try and bake/cook things ahead of time. You're not cooking everything, remember? Some things taste better cooked ahead, some freeze well.

Send emails to all of the guests together so they have a clue who else is coming, who they know, names of people they don't know so they know who to get to know.

Staff - I personally haven't used staff but I know lots of people really say it makes the event much smoother.