What is your best tip for hosting a gathering, get-together or party that is enjoyable and stress-free for both the host and guests?
So excited to answer this question as I've had so much fun throwing birthday parties for my kids!
My biggest tip is to organize in advance--cook in advance, if you can; decorate in advance, lay everything out the day before, and use a theme to tie everything together and the ideas seem to flow.
For the kids' parties, rather than focusing on ridiculous amounts of food and activities, I much prefer pinpointing what we want to do and scheduling a plan.
Faith's Strawberry Shortcake 6th birthday party was excessively simple on one hand, but it turned out beautifully. We took a page from the book of "kids' parties I had as a kid" and played all sorts of fun party games, decorated cookies, and had cupcakes; all themed to match Faith's favorite book at the time (Meet Strawberry Shortcake).
For her 8th birthday, we did a craft themed party, also at the house, with Perler Bead crafts for the girls. The activity filled up a good bit of party time and we had lots of bowls of "bead-like" snacks on the table (M&Ms, Skittles, etc). We even made cupcake picks from Perler beads to keep the theme going.