First, choose a date, and then set a rain date. This is essential for outdoor parties, but if it isn't possible, be sure to have a backup plan for indoor games and fun in case inclement weather drives the party inside. Next, decide on a location. This may be as simple as your own backyard or as complicated as renting campsites or even a cottage.
Picture the gathering in progress, and ask yourself, "What will guests need?" If there will be swimming, they will require swimsuits and towels. You may want guests to bring their own lawn chairs or outdoor games to play. Are you having a bonfire in the evening? If so, guests will need appropriate clothing and perhaps bug spray. Make a list.
Determine if you will provide the food and drinks or if you will hold a potluck. You may opt to do a barbecue and have each guest bring a side dish, or just have everyone bring a dish so that no one gets stuck sweating over a hot barbecue and missing out on the fun. It's also a good idea to provide some basic non-alcoholic beverages and maybe beer and a blender cocktail option. Don't forget snacks for outside of mealtimes and goodies for the campfire if you're having one. If kids are attending, be sure to have options on hand just for them.
Contact each guest. Whether you issue invitations, create a Facebook event or make phone calls, be sure to tell family members what they need to bring (from the list you made previously), and keep track of who is bringing what dish if you're hosting a potluck so you don't wind up with eight potato salads! Try to get commitments with regard to attendance so you have firm numbers.
Go out and buy anything you can ahead of time, such as outdoor tablecloths, paper plates, cases of drinks, etc. Get in touch with neighbours, if necessary, to give them a heads-up. Plan for activities, music and seating. If you're hosting a large group, consider renting an outdoor porta-potty to cut down on people tracking in and out of the house or cottage. A few days before the party, let those bringing food know the final head count, and make a firm decision about your rain date if weather is an issue.
Set up what you can the night before the party so you're not scrambling and stressed at the gathering. Greet your guests completely prepared, relax and join in the fun!
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