Party On! 16 Expert Tips for Successful Summer Soirees

The party's at your place -- but no need to panic! These tips from entertaining experts will help plan, prep, and enjoy a casual summer gathering -- without the stress.

Party Prep: Ready, Set, Go!

1. "Summer weekends fill up fast, so we tuck parties into postwork corners of Friday nights and earlier-than-expected Sunday mornings." -- Helen Jane (

2. "Before you even send out the invites, see what you have and what you need for entertaining. Stock up on supplies to save the stress of running around at the last minute." -- Liza Utter (

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3. "Work party prep into your week. Make your playlist during your lunch hour at work. Plan the food you're going to serve during your commute. Make dishes one at a time throughout the week, so by the time the weekend comes, you're ready to go." -- Helen Jane

Hassle-Free Cleaning Tips

4. "As soon as you ask your friends over, start cleaning a little each day. Thirty minutes at a time can have your house shipshape and ready for weekend guests." -- Helen Jane

5. "To avoid feeling like you have to clean up instead of socialize, take a tip from pro catering companies: Set up a "sanitation station." Pick an out-of-the-way space, such as the mudroom or the garage. Set up a garbage can and some buckets with soapy water for dishes. Let them soak overnight, then clean them easily the next day." -- Linnea Johansson (

Easy-Peasy Outdoor Party Decor

6. "Plant herbs in decorative pots in early summer, and you'll have fresh green table decor throughout the season." -- Linnea Johansson

7. "Identify the best place in your yard to entertain. Start fixing, primping, and rearranging the space as soon as weather permits." -- Liza Utter

8. "Retro-style camp lanterns come in dozens of colors. Plus, the lanterns use oil, so they won't blow out in the summer breeze." -- Aleah and Nick Valley (

No-Fuss Nibbles and Sips

9. "Come up with three simple summer menus paired with cocktails, then practice making them. The more comfortable you are with what you're serving, the more relaxed you'll be at party time." -- Liza Utter

10. "Have at least one appetizer ready for guests to nosh on when they arrive. A tasty bite covers many behind-schedule sins." -- Better Homes & Gardens

11. "Premixed cocktails are the way to go! They cut the fuss (you don't feel obligated to keep mixing drinks) and your budget (you aren't trying to stock a full bar). -- Cyd Converse (

12. "Sharing the food load is fine. Most people want, or even expect, to contribute to a meal. Ask your guests to bring something easy, such as a watermelon, fresh bread, or ice cream. They're helping, but not preparing." -- Sandy Coughlin (

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Decor on a Dollar

13. "I get a huge amount of my entertaining supplies from Uline (, a specialty shipping company. I buy gallon glass containers for punch, takeout boxes for serving salads, and poly bags for snacks." -- Helen Jane

14. "A bolt of burlap is my secret weapon. It's super inexpensive. I use it for everything: cut-to-fit tablecloths, runners, draping, wrapping, and lining." -- Liza Utter

15. "Off-price retailers like T.J.Maxx and Marshalls are a treasure trove of seasonal entertaining pieces. I love scavenging for drink dispensers, platters, cake stands, serving bowls, and candles." -- Cyd Converse

16. "Invest in one entertaining upgrade each year. Start with a dozen white cotton napkins. It's a great way to cut paper waste. Plus, fabric doesn't ball up or stick to barbecue sauce-covered fingers." -- Better Homes & Gardens


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