Your guests should feel relaxed and comfortable. Make sure you have enough places to perch, and ample cushions. Have a good selection of chilled soft drinks and adult beverages within easy reach. Ditto for chips and dips, crudites, nuts and other nibbles. If it's buggy, light up citronella candles or torches and have repellent on hand. On cooler evenings, make sure you have heat lamps and soft throw blankets as well.
Prep food ahead of time
Prepare in advance so you can relax with your guests. If you're grilling, have whatever it is, along with snacks, side dishes and desserts, ready ahead of time. Skewers are a great way to grill chunks of meat or fish with mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, squash and other vegetables, making it easy for guests to sample different flavors hot off the grill.
Invest in decorations
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Get festive and accessorize. Colorful tableware, napkins and fresh cut flowers can give even the most casual get-together more flair. After sunset, add the glow of candles, tiki torches, strings of outdoor lights and/or a fire pit. Don't forget to set the mood with the right tunes; the latest portable Bluetooth speakers make it easy to bring mood-enhancing music outdoors.
Don't forget the kids
If children are part of the mix, supply some age-appropriate fun for them. This could be a backyard game, from croquet to hide-and-seek, or indoor diversions like board games or an animated feature. DIY ice cream sundaes are popular with all ages. Remember that parents can linger longer if the kids are enjoying themselves.
Commit to a theme
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Kick it up a notch by creating a theme. We are the kings of theme parties. Call it a luau, ask guests to wear Hawaiian shirts, add some beachy decor and tropical fruit items on the food and drink menus. Whatever theme you choose, the key is to commit to it fully!