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.

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Croquet at patio partyTheme & activities

It's not mandatory to have a theme or planned activities at your summer soirée but offering something extra can make for a more energetic evening where guests are more likely to mingle, especially at larger gatherings (more than 10 people). If you want to give your summer festivities some flair, here are some ideas.

Beer-tasting bash: Wine and cheese is so last year (or at least more of a winter thing), so opt instead for interesting suds, either locally brewed or international. Place party tubs (we love this one from CB2) at various stations around your yard filled with ice and one type of beer. Provide small notepads and pens for guests to jot down tasting notes (fruity, hoppy, dry, smoky, etc.) and what their favorites are. Pair each beer with a simple snack – roasted or spiced nuts, fruit skewers, tortilla chips and homemade salsa, or anything else conducive to nibbling while sipping.

Tropical paradise: Deck out your yard with tiki torches, large urns overflowing with brightly colored flowers and twinkle lights. Ask guests to come in their Hawaiian finest and serve fruity cocktails featuring island flavors (pineapple, coconut, papaya, mango) and build a menu using similar flavor notes. Top burgers with grilled pineapple, grill skewers of chicken and tofu topped with tropical marinade and make a fruit salad for a colorful and healthy side dish.

Game day: If it's not too hot and humid and you have a shady backyard, think about introducing some friendly competition into your party. Pick up some inexpensive outdoor games like bocce ball, croquet and badminton and set up events around the yard. Have some small prizes on hand for all the winners, and if there are kids and they're old enough to play, make sure they get in on the fun, too.

Most importantly, remember to have fun!

More outdoor tips & ideas

Backyard makeover, city style
10 Finds for your garden under $25
How to set an outdoor table

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