Follow these simple steps that the party planning pros use to create impressive parties for less:
* Start with a theme. A theme can be a fun way to start the party-planning process and get your guests enthused. Themes can be a simple concept such as a color or a word. More complex themes might include a sport, a particular movie or a famous location. Whatever you choose, infuse the theme throughout the party decor, food and activities, creating a fun atmosphere and natural conversation starters.
* Determine location. A backyard barbecue is a classic choice that never goes out of style; but to spice up your gathering, consider affordable alternatives. Cities often have pavilions or picnic spaces in local parks that can be rented for a relatively small fee; just be sure to get the proper permits. Nonprofit gardens or nature centers are also good places to seek out for an outside gathering. And, of course, it wouldn’t be summer without water – so a community pool or shady space at the beach is always a fit.
* Focus on handheld foods. Guests are mingling and children are playing, so the food you choose should be easy to carry and eat. Fruit kabobs made of produce from the local farmers market are refreshing and fabulous for summer fiestas. Handheld foods such as tea sandwiches, chicken skewers or mini sliders are good choices, too. Finally, skip the messy, difficult-to-make desserts and opt for cake pops or cupcake cones. Mix baked cake with icing, mold into cones and frost – and voila – a unique and tasty treat!
* Bring a bevy of beverages. The warmth of summer calls for plenty of refreshing beverages, so make sure you provide a variety of juices, water and adult drinks. “Wow” guests and add some pizzazz to your party with delicious summer wine options. CalNaturale, the “Official Wine of Summer,” is made with organic grapes and comes in an eco-friendly Tetra Pak carton that is convenient and portable – perfect for any summer gathering. This affordable, award-winning line of wine is sure to please partygoers. Try pairing CalNaturale Chardonnay with fruits or chicken dishes, and the Cabernet Sauvignon with burgers for a mouth-watering combination!
* Embrace the mix-and-match trend. Gone are the days when everything needed to match. Take cues from the relaxed summer vibe and mix things up as you set up your party. Place decorative pillows and throws you typically use inside, out onto patio furniture to add color and keep guests comfortable. Mix and match plates, bowls and serving utensils to create an eclectic style. To avoid a hodgepodge look, make sure there is one unifying feature such as different shaped cups that are all the same color or plates with different prints that are all the same size.
* Find affordable flowers. Nothing says “summer” more than colorful floral arrangements, but ordering flowers can be expensive. Instead, take the DIY route: buy in-season flowers grown locally and arrange them in simple vases. Whether from your local flower mart or neighborhood grocery store, gorgeous blooms await for just a few dollars when they are in season. When’s the best day to shop? Sales are slow on Tuesdays, so deals are plentiful.
* Light the night. Summer gatherings aren’t just for the daylight hours. Extending the fun past sunset can make for a dynamic event – plus you’ll enjoy cooler temperatures. Once the sun goes down, make sure to light your party space. LED balloons are a stunning way to light the night with soft glowing orbs. You might also consider lighting pathways with paper bag luminaries. Choose a paper bag in the color of your choice, fill with a cup of sand and nestle a tea light within the sand. Of course, a few strands of simple white holiday lights can be quickly repurposed for summer parties, too.
With a fun theme, savory foods, tasty wine and unique decor, you’re sure to put on a party that guests will be talking about for years to come.