Although summer is winding down, it’s not too late to plan a summer bbq. In fact, it’s a perfect time to plan a end of summer soiree! Get your friends and family together to enjoy some time with food and fun before schedules fill up with work, meetings and after school activities.

Start with a theme

Sure, it may seem cheesy to have a theme but the overall look and feel of your party will feel more “whole” and organized if you choose a theme and plan/decorate around that. For example, if you are having a patriotic theme, plan to have foods/desserts in red, white and blue and display your creations in patriotic form rather than just throwing some cheese and crackers on a plate. Pick up some mason jars or even follow this bbqpaintcandecorADORABLY AWESOME paint bucket idea from LivingWithLandyn to display utensils and condiments. Fan out your napkins, choose themed plates alternating colors/patterns, and fun displays or signs may be so simple but can go a long way. Adding small touches like this will look like you invested a lot of time but really didn’t hardly spend any time. It’s the little things in life.

Get your game face on

I don’t think I’m alone on this but games are a must! Playing cornhole, hillbilly golf, horsehoes, volleyball, whatever…are always a highlight at a party for me. This is also a great social activity at your party and gets people excited and involved. Not everyone likes to just sit around and talk. Some guests may not handle social events well and participating in activities can help them be or feel like they are being social without actually being social. This also keeps the party entertaining and guests aren’t bored.

Jam Sesh

As a music fan and avid concert go-er, I can not stress enough the importance of music. There is no need to hire a DJ (unless you want to invest in the cost), when you can play DJ yourself. How can you play DJ and host a party? Simple. Grab a wireless speaker and an mp3 player and create a playlist on Spotify, find a great channel on Pandora. All you gotta do is push play and let the technology go to work. Just be sure you have plenty of great jams picked out that everyone will enjoy. Music can really set the mood for your party.

The main event

Of course your friends come to spend time with you and the other guests, but lets be real, people really come for the food! It doesn’t hurt to cater. Just don’t have your entire meal catered. You’re busy, as most of us are, and it doesn’t hurt to have some help every once in a while. Honey Baked Ham and Martin’s BBQ are great options to start with (at least here in Nashville). Just don’t exclude the grill completely! Let guests have the option of bringing their own protein choices as well. When it comes to sides, this is where some effort should be thrown in. I admit, I’m not the best cook and tend to choose side items from the grocery store. If you’re like me then the extra effort should come from displaying these side items. Pick up some nicer flatware and serving trays and display them on a table rather than setting out the carton you bought them in. If you like to channel your inner Rachael Ray, then create some beautiful food art to match your gourmet dish. Invest in a cupcake tower, or if you are super crafty, create your own! Desserts shouldn’t ever be excluded!

Hospitality

You don’t have to spend a lot on favors for your guests, but do plan on something. Invest in a few mason jars, add a bow around the top with some twine and throw on a chalkboard sticker and provide chalk so guests can add their name to their drink. Now you have a perfect gift that guests can take home, it’s personalized to them AND you can now tell who’s drink belongs to whom! If kids will be at the party pick up some smaller jars with straw lids.

If you are hosting your party outside, set up a few citronella tiki torches to help keep bugs at bay. Also set out a nice clear both with some small bug sprays for guests to use if they choose. A small display of samples in your bathroom will also impress guests! Think ahead. Things may get spilled, or someone may have forgotten deodorant or perfume. Hey, it’s happened to all of us. Someone may rip a hole in their shirt or a kid may fall and scrape a knee. Place a basket on your sink some bandaids, Tide to-go pens, travel sewinghospitalitybasket kits, or mints. If you have these items then you are already ahead of the game but the travel section of Target or Wal-Mart will offer cheap, small, traveled sized items your guests can use with out using your personal stash. Take things up a notch a cute sign letting guests know you’ve got them covered in a case of an emergency. A cheap frame and a print-at-home sign will work just fine, but  you feel like taking things up a notch, Hobby Lobby does offer some great chalkboard signs you can use and re-use time and time again.

Last but not least….

The most important thing about hosting a great party is….ENJOY IT! Don’t get too caught up in spending tons of money or making sure everything is set up perfect. Enjoy your time with your guests. Understand mishaps may happen. Life happens. Laugh, drink, & play games. Get caught up in the moment around you and create memories that are sure to last a lifetime. Take pictures – use a digital camera, cell phone or even step it up a bit and grab a Polaroid camera so you can send guests home with a memory that was frozen in time.

Happy party planning!