Don't be afraid to use your good china! "So many people collect beautiful china, and it goes to the closet and comes out at Thanksgiving and New Year's," Colin complained. "You've got to use it all the time."
Colin also likes to use place cards, not for formality, but to balance the energy at the table. "So you don't have the 'Chatty Cathys' at one end and the librarians at the other." Place cards also eliminate the awkwardness of figuring out where to sit, and encourage mingling.