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12 ways to get your backyard barbecue-ready

Julie Sprankles is a freelance writer living in the storied city of Charleston, SC. When she isn't slinging sass for SheKnows, she enjoys watching campy SyFy creature features (Pirahnaconda, anyone?), trolling the internet for dance work...

Follow these easy steps to ensure your outdoor party goes off without a hitch

Who doesn't love a good outdoor party? Food might actually taste better when you're sitting outside with the warm sunshine on your shoulders. And by putting in a bit of prep work prior to the party, you can ensure your alfresco entertaining is picture perfect.

1. Show your lawn some TLC

Follow these easy steps to ensure your outdoor party goes off without a hitch
Image: G. Northcutt

Depending on what the weather has been doing in your neck of the woods prior to your party, you may need to mow, rake or even re-sod patches of your lawn where it has yellowed or died off. It's also a good idea to do a quick walk of the grounds to check for holes or other possible tripping hazards.

2. Break out the pruning shears

Even if your lawn is perfectly manicured, a few errant sprigs on an overgrown shrub can make your yard feel unkempt. If you regularly maintain shrubs, bushes and flowering plants, the task of trimming overgrowth will only take a few minutes. If you tend to let it go a bit too long between prunings, like me, you might need to break a sweat.

3. Clear any walkways

Not only do you not want anyone stumbling or having to step over stuff to get to the entertaining area, but having clear walking paths simply looks more put together. Use a blower to clear the driveway and walkways of grass and other debris, or just give them a quick sweep with the broom.

4. Check the deck

Follow these easy steps to ensure your outdoor party goes off without a hitch
Image: BowerPower

Aesthetically, look for any spots on your deck that might need a touch of paint or a vigorous scrub. And be on the lookout for any signs your deck might not be structurally prepared for an influx of people lingering on it. This includes checking its stability, looking for wood rot or termites and removing any stray nails, where applicable.

5. Pest-proof your entertaining area

Bugs are the bane of outdoor parties everywhere. How's a gal supposed to enjoy her mango-rita while the fellas play ladder ball if no one can stop swatting the air to shoo away pesky insects? Not to mention the havoc they can wreak on food. Prior to the party, eliminate any standing water on your property — bugs breed in it. The day of the party, take measures such as plugging in fans, burning citronella and having bug spray/wipes on hand to keep bugs at bay. It's also not a bad idea to consider having your yard treated for mosquitoes by a professional.

6. Set up seating stations

While people will be up and about throughout the party, you want to make sure everyone has a spot to sit should they want to rest their feet. Before guests begin arriving, gather and arrange seats in designated seating areas, being sure to give them a thorough wipe-down.

7. Create a kid-friendly zone

Even if you only intend to have one child in attendance at your outdoor party, do the parents a favor and create a kid-friendly zone. This could include ladder ball, cornhole, horseshoes, hopscotch, sidewalk chalk or any other games and activities that will keep a child happy long enough for Mama and Daddy to enjoy themselves.

8. Light the way

Follow these easy steps to ensure your outdoor party goes off without a hitch
Image: Like a Saturday

Lighting is one of the quickest — and often most affordable — ways to enhance an outdoor party. Line walkways with solar lights to light the way, and amp up the ambiance with mood lighting like globe lights (pictured above).

9. Give your grill the royal treatment

What would a great outdoor party be without grilled food? Regardless of what you'll be sizzling, you'll want to spend some QT with your grill to get it in top form. Scrape it down and clean it off to clear the way for the food of your choice. Also handy? Having a coordinating station to stash all of the tools you'll need to cook the food so they are never more than an arm's reach away.

10. Whip up a bar cart

Bar cars are not only cool, they also meet a primary need of outdoor dinner parties: quenching everyone's thirst. Plus, having a central station to store drinks, ice and any necessary accoutrements eliminates the need for people to be traipsing in and out of the house in search of the bottle opener.

11. Prep the fire pit

Winding down an outdoor party in the cozy glow of a fire pit is pretty much heaven on earth. By having yours stocked with wood and surrounded by chairs beforehand, you don't have to worry about it while your guests are waiting. And you know what that means — more time for R&R.

12. Accessorize

Follow these easy steps to ensure your outdoor party goes off without a hitch
Image: Kojo Designs

Here's the fun part — once all the major prep work is out of the way, you get to jazz the place up. Whether you head to your local home goods store and go all out with themed decor or you pick up a piñata and some other party supplies from a dollar store, accessorizing will lend your outdoor party a decidedly festive feel.

This post was sponsored by Marie Callender's.

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