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How to host the ultimate summer patio 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...

Patio party prep

There's nothing quite like sitting around with friends in your backyard, eating great food that’s been grilled to perfection and drinking fruity beverages you can only get away with serving between now and Labor Day. But what goes into hosting a fabulous backyard bash? We’re here to tell you! From décor and organization to ideas on what to serve and how to keep everyone entertained and mingling, consider this your go-to outdoor entertaining guide for summer 2011.

Signature cocktailsGetting organized

Prepping for your party is often the least fun aspect of hosting a summer gathering, but it's a necessary evil. A well-organized soirée runs smoothly, so the host -- you -- can actually enjoy yourself and not have to spend the majority of the event trapped in the kitchen or continually refilling drinks. You can use a pre-party checklist to help ensure all of your must-do tasks are taken care of. We've listed some of the most important below.

  • Get rid of clutter indoors and out.
  • Mow the lawn and clean the pool if you have one.
  • Make sure you have enough seating. If you don't, go out and get some folding chairs for any overflow.
  • Choose one or two signature drinks and serve them from drink dispensers to make things easier on everyone. Remember to also provide non-alcoholic options.
  • Prep as much as possible before guests arrive so you aren't chopping when you should be hosting.
  • Borrow or buy small side tables to place around your yard as extra space for guests to place food and drinks.

DÉcor

How you decorate your backyard or patio sets the tone for the evening. The key is to find a balance between creating a fun, festive atmosphere and not going over the top. Having too many decorative elements just looks cluttered, and guests will have to constantly work at not knocking things over. If you're not sure where to start, here are a few ideas.

  • Make sure you have all your patio party essentials, from colorful plates to pretty placemats. Summer entertaining is all about color, so when it comes to serveware and dinnerware, the brighter the better.
  • Define the space with large urns planted with ornamental grasses and cascading plants like creeping Jenny or ivy.
  • Create warmth and ambiance with fire bowls, an easy way to add an instant dose of drama to your space.
  • Small pots planted with fragrant herbs make for a lovely and summery centerpiece, especially when grouped together. If you have enough, you can send guests home with them as parting gifts.

Up next: Food & drinks for your summer patio party >>

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