Ideas and tips to perfect your summer party

Summer itself is the perfect excuse to throw a party - no holidays required. All you need are the right festive ingredients to make sure that your friends show up and that everyone has a great time. So, whether you want to have an impromptu gathering in mid-July or a blowout bash for Labor Day, make sure that you do a little bit of planning ahead of time.

One of the key things to remember is that people's summers fill up fast - particularly the weekends, and holiday weekends even more so. With that in mind, plan ahead, but give yourself the option of holding a gathering at a time when friends and family aren't pulled in a number of different directions. That way, you'll ensure that everyone you want to invite will be able to make it.

Follow these tips to host the perfect summer party:

* Get the word out. The first thing you need to do is let people know when your party will happen. Even if you don't have all the details worked out, you can send invitations to give people a date to put on the calendar. Follow up with specifics later, if you need to. There are plenty of great options for custom invitations that can match your party theme.

* Pick a site. The backyard is a perennial favorite summer party setting, but don't forget to look outside your fence for a great place for a gathering. Invite friends to the beach or a local park for a change of scenery. If you have a group of friends who'd be willing to chip in, consider renting a vacation home and making it a weekend-long party.


* Make the most of the season's bounty. Fresh fruit and vegetables are overflowing from farmers markets throughout the summer. Not only are those items at their peak of freshness and flavor, they're also easy to prepare in simple ways that everyone will savor. If you're not doing all the cooking and food prep yourself, encourage guests to bring a variety of dishes that highlight the best of summer's produce.

* Think visually. Decor might not seem like an essential part of you plan, but it can take a party from nice to unforgettable. If your party is at home, you can go a bit further with your decorations and table settings. But even if you're hosting a picnic, you can dress things up a bit by using stylish matching blankets and traditional wicker picnic baskets. You might even want to encourage a dress code, which you can share with your guests on your invitations.

A summer celebration is almost guaranteed to be a good time, but you can make sure that it'll be the party of the season by thinking creatively and planning ahead. Get started now and you'll ensure that all of your friends and family will be able to join you and enjoy the experience.

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