Party planner David Stark reveals his foolproof entertaining tricks.

By Real Simple
Updated May 28, 2013
David Meredith
  • Be smart during set-up. Stark sets up two tables: one for dining and one for food and drinks. Guests serve themselves. “Place the buffet where you want the action to be,” he suggests. Stack plates and prerolled silverware at each end to prevent traffic jams. “Put only the hot food on the buffet. All your toppings—ketchup, mustard, cheese—go on the dining table,” he says.
  • Make easy look elegant. For a casual party, Stark decorates with nothing but small pots of herbs from his kitchen windowsill.
  • Reinvent the home bar. To make the bar easy, he says, “I don’t offer any drinks that call for ice or mixers.” Near the tub of beverages, he sets a colored tray with glasses, bottle openers, and cloth napkins to catch spills.
  • Prep for a perfect ending. And as for those guests who never want the party to end, says Stark, “just say, ‘What food can I send you home with?’ It works every time.”