As the host, it is a good idea to know the rules of etiquette, even when your dinner party is very casual. When in doubt, your guests will take their cue from you, so it is best to be in a position to lead by example without being fussy or uptight.
You can make your guests feel most relaxed and comfortable by overlooking the occasional etiquette misstep and, hopefully, they will return the favor.
Here are the the major ones, which you may be familiar:
Make sure your cell phone is set to vibrate.
The host is not obliged to put out wine or any other gifts brought by guests.
Do not do any cleaning until guests leave, except clearing of dishes and quick wipe up of spills.
If you are not using place cards, direct guests where to sit as they enter the dining room.
Gentlemen traditionally stand behind their chairs until ladies are seated.
Guests should be punctual for a dinner party, but plan your meal to be flexible by extending the cocktail hour, as needed.
If it is time to sit down to dinner, it is not necessary to delay dinner more than 15 minutes for late guests.
When late guests arrive, serve them along with the other guests, regardless of the number of courses they missed. Do not serve past courses to late guests.
Food dishes to the left, and glasses to the right, of the plate are yours.
Start with silverware farthest from the plate and work in with each course. In other words, if the course requires a fork, use the farthest fork from the plate; if the course requires a spoon, use the farthest spoon from the plate.
The dessert fork or spoon should be above your plate or brought out when the course is served.
Keep used silverware off of the table, use your plate or bread plate.
When finished, place your silverware together in the five o’clock position on your plate, pointed up.