I've been having people over for dinner a lot these days, and I've kind of developed a system around this. So here are some simple rules to follow when you have people over for dinner.
Music is important. When you're cleaning your place, you want something fast, something that will get you moving. So feel free to play, say, Paul Oakenfold or Babes in Toyland or Iggy and the Stooges. Or other musicians that appeal to you, since I'm reasonably sure that my selections have probably horrified 98% of the people who read this blog. But you get the idea. Play something that will not mellow you out but get you moving.
However, do not play this stuff when you're say, weilding a large sharp knife and trying to slice vegetables. Just trust me on this one, okay? Shaking your butt to some dance music or flinging yourself around to Iggy Pop is not wise with a blade. This is the time to switch to something more mellow, like Spanish guitar or Billie Holiday or some other relaxing music that you're into.
Food is important, but don't go overboard. I never follow this rule, by the way. I tend to make too much and send people home with the leftovers. But by not going overboard, I mean, don't go making special trips to get ingredients that you'll only use once in your life for a particular dish. Make dishes that require what you've already got (or tend to keep) in your pantry. It's one thing to get one or two things you don't normally need--I had naan bread for one get together, and I don't typically have it in my home (though I love the stuff). But don't make dishes that all require things you don't typically keep onhand.
Make sure you know any dietary restrictions. Look, you have someone coming who keeps kosher or halal, you want to make sure you're not serving anything swine based. Make sure you know for sure if someone's vegetarian or if they're full on vegan. Make sure you know if someone has food allergies. Stabbing someone with an epi pen because you made pesto or used a red curry paste that used shellfish kills any dinner buzz.
Don't be afraid to put people to work. Everyone needs a sous-chef. Everyone could use help with cleanup. And speaking strictly for myself, I'm more comfortable as a guest if I'm doing something to help out.
Don't overstress. Do you know why I enjoy going to friends' houses for dinner? Because I don't have to cook! I don't expect a five-star gourmet meal. I expect to eat, and visit, and have fun. That's it. And that's all people expect when you make them food.
If you have a slow cooker, use it. Otherwise, you'll be in the kitchen all day and not hanging out with your friends. And the point is, to hang out with your friends. The friends you want to keep are the ones who'd gladly eat boxed mac and cheese as long as they got to hang out with you. Those are keepers.