Take the party outside with a simple low-cost backyard get-together
Whether you send invitations via snail mail or e-mail or call your friends on the phone, mention that the party is an outdoor event, so they can dress appropriately. When guests know what to expect, they’ll come prepared and feel more comfortable.
As soon as friends arrive, make sure they have a drink and someone to talk to. If you’re serving a meal, plan to do so no more than 45 minutes after the party starts, so cocktail time doesn’t extend too long.
Instead of a standard cooler to hold bottles and cans, keep drinks cold by using a galvanized tub, wheelbarrow, kid’s wagon or wading pool filled with ice. Prevent pitchers of lemonade from getting watered down by using ice cubes made of lemonade―this idea works well for other noncarbonated drinks, too, such as iced tea, iced coffee and fruit juices.
Have plenty of candles or torches on hand for illumination after the sun goes down. Add a special glow by lining your driveway or the path to the backyard with luminarias―fill paper lunch bags with 1 cup of sand and nestle in a tea light. For the table, place votives inside empty jars; the glass offers extra intimacy and helps keep flames from blowing out. Scatter citronella candles around to ward off bugs.
On hot nights bring a large fan outside (this will also help keep mosquitoes away) and give guests spray bottles of water to mist themselves. Another fun idea: Buy handheld paper fans and place one on each guest’s chair so everyone can keep cool throughout the evening.