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Hosting how-to: How to host the ultimate pool party

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

Pool party primer

From SheKnows Canada
Have a pool? You might as well make good use of it this summer by hosting the ultimate pool party! Not sure where to start? We're here to help with our tips for what to serve, how to decorate and how to make sure guests of all ages have a blast.
People having fun at a pool party

We asked Debi Lilly, celebrity party planner and founder of A Perfect Event, for her tips and tricks on putting together a chic pool party this summer.

Decorate with whites or brights

Both white and bright colours can create an ideal palette for a summer party, depending on what you're going for. White offers an elegant yet laid-back look, while bolder hues help add to the sense of summer fun. Going the vibrant route? Start by setting bright, candy-coloured florals atop sunny, summery fabrics (even quilts or patterned sheets do the trick), suggests Lilly. Feel like keeping things more subdued? You can easily create a South Beach–chic vibe at your pool party with all-white decor. "Pop-up tents create instant boutique hotel pool cabanas with inexpensive white fabric hung at each corner," she says.

Make the white pop even more with some simple but stylish natural elements. "Wheat grass makes a fast and easy centrepiece, as do floating cymbidium orchids in small stacked glass bowls," Lilly says.

Add ambiance with the right lighting

The right lighting can do wonders for your pool party decor once the sun goes down. "Nothing says 'party' like stringing twinkling lights overhead across your pool, patio, garden or porch," says Lilly. She suggests picking up some bistro or globe lights (old-fashioned strung bulbs), which are inexpensive ($12 for 25 lights on a string) yet elegant. "They add instant enchanted-garden charm when criss-crossed across your backyard."

Create a self-serve bar

green cocktail with lime garnish

Set up a colourful self-serve bar, using oversized apothecary drinking jars (or Mason jars) with grab-and-go beverages to keep the focus on fun, not on mixing drinks all day. "Fill each with summertime cocktails, like Champagne, St. Germain, rosemary and raspberries in one and tequila, beer, limeade, ginger beer and sliced key limes in the second," says Lilly. Each makes for a refreshing summertime drink, ideal for sipping around the pool.

For a family pool party, Lilly suggests filling jars with non-alcoholic punch or mocktails for kids and keeping alcohol on the side (and out of reach) so the adults can mix in something stronger themselves. "Set up jars of fresh market berries, fruits and herbs cut into small squares to muddle into cocktails for a taste of summer," she adds.

Set up a savoury buffet

Buffets keep things simple and allow partygoers to graze in between dips in the pool. "Stock a savoury buffet, with oversized wheels of brie, pecorino and goat cheese; glass jars of spiced jams and honeys; tapenades; charcuterie; grilled shrimp; sausages and vegetables; berries; figs; grapes; breadsticks; toasts and more," says Lilly. "It creates an edible centrepiece guests love to taste and looks just as lovely all the while." She also suggests fast and easy summer "lollipops," like melon balls with bacon, mango shrimp, and tuna with watermelon and cucumber.

Ensure there's lots of shade

Guests might be cool while in the pool, but shade is a must for any outdoor summer party, since nothing — from party decor to menu items — is happy in heat and sun. "Make sure to plan the event flow, with tables, flowers, bar and buffets in constant shade," advises Lilly. "If needed, rent oversized patio umbrellas to create instant shade for the party. These add function and fashion."

More entertaining tips

Delicious beer and cheese pairings to try
5 Cooking don'ts when entertaining
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