What are your best dishes and styles? It always helps to work from strength. I'm talking about YOUR strength, not someone else's.
Given the amount of time you're willing to spend at dinner, and the length of breaks you're willing to take between courses -- this should not be any kind of problem. Planning is key, but you've given yourself a lot of leeway, which is good.
Having something ready to go when people walk in the door is a good thing. However, figure that anything on the cocktail table or passed before dinner, will take away from what you can serve at the actual dinner. Budget your food amounts accordingly. You want generous, not excessive.
Doing as much as possible ahead of time is a good thing. You knew that.
If you need to borrow large pans, arrange to borrow them and pick them up earlier than the day before. If you plan on cooking large quantities in a single pan, you need a large pan -- don't overcrowd. Overcrowding kills.
Prep your serving pieces well in advance. Put them where you can get to them when you need them.
Assuming a slightly higher than normal skill level than for most home cooks, when cooking for more than four, it's not a good idea to do sautes or other hot-pan dishes which call for more than two pans with timing issues going at the same time.
You seem to have a group which has eaten together more than a few times, and must have established some of its own traditions. Do people gather in the kitchen to socialize while the cooking is ongoing? If they do, you can get away with some tricky stuff. You can probably even get someone to take over a pan for you.
Mise, mise, mise, and mise. Everything ready to go.
Speaking of your group's traditions -- how are you planning on handling cocktails, dinner drinks, and after dinner drinks? That has a lot to do with planning, or can, or should, or whatever. What about coffee and dessert service? How do you get old courses off the table and new ones on? Do you do any cleaning between courses?
With the coming of autumn, it might be interesting to go seasonal as well as (or even instead of) regional.
Any chance that you'll be able to work with an outdoor grill? That takes a lot of pressure off the kitchen, and gets the boys involved as well.
Fish and chips is probably not a great idea for a six or eight person dinner party. The amounts are difficult to handle without some really big fryers -- but mostly it's the smell. Unless you cook outside your house will smell like fried fish for the entire evening (and the next day, too).
Where do you live? Your own region might provide a lot of possibilities.
Lots of questions, eh.
I'm thinking along the lines of:
Passed and cocktail table apps;
Sorbet or salad;
Let's work on getting specific,