1. Keep a Party Stash. Keep a plastic storage bin in the basement or garage filled with plates, linens and cutlery at the ready for outdoor parties. Keep the bin growing by picking up pieces at garage sales and flea markets too. Nothing has to match—the mix and match décor will give your party a relaxed, effortless vibe and be a great conversation starter: How does she do it?
2. Stock Your Kitchen. Pick two or three recipes you know you can ace and make sure you always have those ingredients in your pantry. Appetizers made from non-perishable staples like olive oil, canned beets, tomatoes and cannellini beans and frozen mini meatballs can be whipped up at any time.
3. Embrace Buffet Style. You don’t need to be a waitress at your own party—help your guests help themselves. Instead of setting the table to a T, top it with lighting and a centerpiece, and let guests serve themselves. Create one area to hold food with plates, cutlery, napkins and salt & pepper nearby. Create a different area for drinks, with pitchers of water, iced tea and lemonade near cups and an ice bucket.
4. Master Mood Lighting. No one will notice that you haven’t showered since the beach if you’re surrounded by flattering lighting. Keep a couple tabletop torches, like TIKI® Brand Glowing Table Torches, on hand to spread along a dinner table or pop waist-level torches along the edge of the porch or yard to define the party space.
5. Get Creative. No cooler? No problem. Line a cardboard box with a trash bag, add ice and fill with cold drinks. No outdoor dining table? Throw an old tablecloth onto the ground to create a picnic area. No umbrella? String up a pretty, patterned bedsheet—clean, please— to create some shelter from the sun. So boho!
6. Make It a Potluck (or Don’t). There’s no reason you should slave over the grill all day to feed a crowd—assign each guest a side dish and just fix the entrée. And if there’s not time to organize, I promise no one will be disappointed if you order takeout pizza or Chinese instead of cooking. Just put it on a pretty plate.
7. Let It Go. The best stories are often the ones that could have been disasters—the time it started pouring during the barbecue and everyone danced in the rain, the ketchup spill that introduced two strangers who fell in love—so if things aren’t perfect, just think about how great a story it will be tomorrow!