Whether you host every weekend or once a season, upping your game with these hot tips promises an endless summer of fun.
1. Pretty Bug Banishers
Skip the noisy zappers and smelly sprays. Instead, ward off mosquitoes by scattering softly scented citronella votives ($7 for twelve, pier1.com) in pretty glasses or candle-holders that you already own.
2. Spray Delay
Are your sprinklers on a timer? Power them down the day before the party. If you leave this for the day of, there's a good chance you'll forget. Plus, you don't want a soaked lawn.
3. Two Bins, Not One
Chill drinks for two hours in the refrigerator, then transfer to a tub filled with ice. Place an empty tub next to the drink-filled one so that guests can easily drop in cans and bottles for recycling.
4. Double Dishes
Serving buffet-style means you'll need extra plates. Guests often take a fresh one for seconds or dessert, so plan on two or three plates per person. Unbreakable is best. If you prefer disposable to melamine, consider compostable plates. (Try SustyParty.com.)
5. RSVP Guarantee
With a free scheduling site like Doodle.com, you can pick a party date that most of your friends can make. You offer options, guests check off when they're free, and the site shows the results. Genius!
6. Refill Station
It's a pain to run back into the house every time you need more napkins. Instead, hide two plastic tubs under a cloth-covered table and fill them with supplies: water bottles on ice in a "wet" bin and extra flatware, disposable plates, and paper towels in a "dry" one.
7. Tablescapes 101
Serving pieces of various heights give a spread style and maximize space. Don't have cake stands? Set a plate with a rimmed base on top of an inverted flowerpot or bowl.
8. Music on Tap
Download Real Simple's playlists for the parties (via Spotify).
9. Tackle To-Dos in Advance
Lessen your party-prep stress by creating a timeline of tasks that you can handle early.