Memorial Day is around the corner. That means the unofficial start of the summer, although, we kicked off the summer a little early with our #RelaxPlaySwim Summer Celebration Photo Contest on May 13 (CLICK HERE TO ENTER). This Memorial Day, if you are hosting or attending a party, then check out these tips to plan your summer party. If real estate is all about location, then summer parties are all about planning. Plan the date. Plan the food. Plan the entertainment. Check out these quick tips from Emily Henderson and Target.

Summer means cookouts and parties, especially with the brutal New England winter, so we wanted to go over some tips to make sure your Memorial Day party goes off without a hitch. Plan the date. Summer weekends fill up fast, so the first step to hosting a great summer party is the save the date. Depending on your group of friends, don’t forget about social media like Facebook and Twitter to invite friends and family. Email invites work great as well. Check out Party 411for some awesome themed invites that you can use for Memorial Day.

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Facebook Events allows party planners to quickly notify guests about party details, including sending a reminder about the party. If you have a pool, then don’t forget to tell guests to bring the right attire. If any weather conditions pop up near the party, then guests can easily know if an outdoor party was changed to an indoor party (or any other changes). Another benefit of using social media are photos. If you select a hashtag and tell your guests, then they can tag all of their party photos, so friends and family members that could not attend, can still see the action. As part of the planning, then consider finding a photo booth (or just a fun backdrop) that captures the celebration. For Memorial Day, then an American flag or other Americana would work great. Encourage guests to take photos by the backdrop and tag. Small things like this will make a lasting impression on your party (and if nobody takes a photo, then since the backdrop is part of the theme it will just look like decoration). Quick videos of kids doing kid stuff can be shared with long distant friends as the party happens. Like a toddler car jacking.

Don’t forget about one of the final stages of party planning. Inform your neighbors. This step is a nice touch for a few reasons, you can let them know about the party and give them your phone number. If the fun gets a little too loud, then the neighbors can call you instead of the town to complain. It’s good to be neighborly and it’s a simple way to warn them about the party. It also will explain why there are so many cars on the street. Plan the food. Food is vital to any great summer party. Some people just have a knack for putting out a good spread or whipping up the best appetizers and desserts. If you are not one of those people, then there are some subtle and simple things to make sure the food and refreshments hits the mark. First, when you plan the food, keep it simple. If you don’t have table space for all of the guests, which may be difficult for a party outdoors, then pick foods that are easy to eat with hands. Grilled foods are always a great option, but choice of meat is important. Occassionaly, some cookouts will provide a nice cut of meat, like a brisket, but serve it with paper plates and plastic forks and knives. While the food choice is incredible, the guests will have a hard time eating, while standing up. Full chicken breasts would also fall into this category (unless they are served with buns for a grilled chicken sandwich). Additionally, for any grilling, then try to time the grill so the food is ready when guests want to eat. This means heating up the grill about 15 minutes before it is time to eat. Along those lines, make sure food is not left outside too long. Typically, food should not be outside for more than two hours (and only 90 minutes if it is over 90 degrees). Kabobs work really well because they can be prepared in advance and are easy to eat. Including meat and vegetables also provide some varied food for your guests. It might be good to keep some extra vegetables in the kitchen for veggie only kabobs in case any guests have food allergies. Kabobs Once your food game plan is under control, then next decision is refreshments and drinks. If you set up the drink table away from the food, then you will create another gathering space for guests. Often, everyone congregates near the food and drink space, so if they are separated, then you will have some natural space to the party. The more space for friends to talk and catch up, the merrier. It is a subtle way to spur some conversation. friends garden party Another simple solution to ice for the refreshments is frozen fruit. Cut up some strawberries into slices and put them in the freezer the night before the party. Come party time, then you will have fruit ice cubes for the refreshments. In a similar fashion, freeze some water balloons to act as big ice cubes for the refreshments. If you are running low on cooler space put some refreshments in a bucket and use the frozen water balloons. It also adds a bit of color to the party. It is a great way to keep white wine chilled. Finally, the trash. You don’t want guests searching for the garbage, so place garbage bins sporadically across the yard. Keep a recycle bin next to the refreshments and a garbage can next to the food. Ants and other critters are drawn to the food and trash as well, so check out this tip from Martha Stewart to make your own natural food safe ant repellant (hint: it is only equal parts water and vinegar). If you don’t have enough garbage bins, then try some pop up laundry bags. They are a low cost way to keep the trash under control and add a bit of character to the celebration. For some more details about summer party hacks, then check out A Subtle Revelry, which inspired many of these plans. Plan the entertainment. Perhaps the most important thing is the entertainment. After all, parties are fun. We are fans of this tip from Coldwell Banker and make your own fun, like lawn painted twister. backyard_twister However, there are a few things that put a damper on parties. Basically, bugs. Bugs ruin parties. Especially if you live near woods and trees, then there are a few things that will help your guests enjoy the party without worrying about Mother Nature’s little friends. One great way to help is put bug spray in a bucket (and not too close to the food). Also include some sunscreen and aloe since the sun can also do some post party damage. If you have a couple of trees that provide some natural shade, then putting them near the trees will help guests get out of the sun for a few minutes as well. If your yard does not have much shade, consider putting up a small tarp (an old sheet works wonders) to provide some extra shade. Parents will really appreciate some space where their kids can get out of the sun. Also, seating is important. Generally, try to provide seating for about 80% of the guests. With a plan to take care of those small things, plan some activities. It is good to think about a few indoor and outdoor activities (in case of some bad weather). If you have some backyard games in the garage, don’t forget to take them out for the party. A few balls and paddles work fine and kids find ways to entertain themselves. And like this summer party tip from Nanny to Mommy, don’t forget about a body of water. Summer is hot and people want a way to cool off, so if you have a pool, parties are the perfect time to show them off. Family Fun in the pool Finally, to plan a great summer party, make sure to have some fun. It may be a bit stressful in the days leading up to the party, but once it starts, then sit back and enjoy your friends and family. If you are still a little stressed, then Good Housekeeping provides some planning mistakes to avoid and includes some guidelines on the amount of food and refreshments to help put your mind at ease. To keep your mind in the #RelaxPlaySwim mindset, then one final set of tips from Kara’s Party Ideas and the Today show

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What are your favorite party planning tips? Please join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook to find out more simple party ideas to plan your summer party!