-Lists are your friends! We had a list for food prep, a list for decoration, a list for odd jobs, a timed plan of when everything needed to be in the oven. It was great! In the day we could tick everything off as we did it and clearly see what else we had to do and then in the evening we weren't flapping around because we knew exactly when everything had to be done. Perfect!
-Plan your menu conservatively. We knew we wanted to do a big homely meal with lots of courses but we also knew lots of courses meant lots of cooking and we didn't want to be in the kitchen the whole night. We made sure our starter was really easy (French onion soup), our second course didn't need cooking (pate and amazing bread from our local baker), our main was the big old cook off (roast dinner with absolutely every possible trimming!). Everything else was just plating up cheese and desserts (cheese, cake, macarons). The only time we spent in the kitchen was before the party and adding the finishing touches to our main.
-Use your cooking time wisely. We had three slow cookers whirring away! One cooking the meat for our main and two cooking our French Onion soup for our starter. It was great to put those on in the morning and know that was taken care of.
As for a decoration goes we did most of it during the day in between prepping the food. We decided it was best to focus on a few major things so we covered the gazebo frames in fairy lights and ivy and let that do the talking. I also wanted to the table to look really snazzy so made those little menus to go around the napkins. I think they really made the table.
The thing which totally saved the day was hiring all the plates. We just didn't have that many matching anything, let alone fancy matching anything so we were pretty sure we would have to hire plates and glasses. After ringing around loads of places I was sooo surprised at the price! For place settings for 13 people we paid just over £12. And that was a plate for every course, two wine glasses and a champagne flute each! It is definitely worth ringing around because some places were a little more but that was a general price with a lot of the places I phoned. I would definitely recommend hiring!