Pretty pots can do more than hold flowers on an outdoor table. They can be used to protect dips and other dishes from party-crashing insects. Lift the pot by sticking one finger through the drain hole, or create a handle by cutting an 18-inch length of 1/4-inch cord and knotting the ends together. Thread the looped end through the drain hole in the flowerpot.
Add a fresh, sunny surprise to your guests' plates with a sunflower place card. Trim sunflower stems short, so they fit into juice glasses. Cut paper into petal shapes and write guests' names on them. Then add the extra petal to the flowers with dots of tacky white glue.
Instead of watering down your drink with ice cubes that are destined to melt, give the entire vessel its own ice bucket. Slip one glass container inside another (we found these multipurpose cylinders at a floral-supply shop, jamaligarden.com), and put the ice between them. The effect is dramatic and guarantees that your punch retains its punch.
Keep bugs, leaves, and other unwelcome guests from joining you for drinks by topping glasses with these jaunty little hats (otherwise known as baking cups). Cut a small X into the center of each liner, poke a straw through the hole, and enjoy your beverage worry- (and pest-) free.
Freshly cut large leaves make natural waterproof anchors for summer drinks. Lush foliage, such as the hosta leaves we used, add color to table settings and act as reminders of tropical vacations. Cut leaves early in the day, and set them in water immediately, keeping them hydrated in a container until it's time to serve drinks. Dry before using.
Got an assortment of paper napkins left over from parties past? To make a hodgepodge look festive -- and coordinated -- add a white doily band. Fold two napkins together. Cut a strip from a round or square paper doily; for a band that's lacy on both edges, accordion-fold a small doily in the middle. Wrap it around napkin; tape at back. Tuck in a plastic fork.
For a prettier and more accessible tabletop at your next barbecue or picnic, decant condiments from their original packaging into small dishes, ramekins, or even mismatched teacups. Arrange them, along with homemade dips, salsas, and sauces, down the table, making sure each diner has everything within reach.
Bars and buffet tables must be adequately lighted, but they're often located far from electrical outlets. An easy, inexpensive solution is to gather clear apothecary bottles and fill them with lamp oil and wicks. Arrange the bottles under a large hurricane for protection. We set these on a sturdy glass cake stand.
Multiple beverage stations help ensure that guests can get a refill without waiting. Galvanized tubs, colorful enamel buckets, and planters work perfectly. Place an assortment of drinks in each bin if they're destined for different locations throughout the yard. Or fill each container with a single type, such as imported beer, white wine, or bottled water. With ribbon, tether an opener to a handle of each bin; drape a dish towel nearby to take care of condensation.
Pretty paper goods are no match for an unruly summer breeze at an outdoor party. River rocks (available by the bag at garden centers) help keep plates and napkins where they belong, even after they've left the serving table. Pile them in a bucket on the buffet table for guests to grab along with their utensils; you'll avoid having to chase flyaways.
Seasonal fruits make wonderful (and delicious) favors. Each of these sacks holds a handful of juicy red cherries, perfect for an outdoor summer party. Buy glassine bags; trim tops with scalloped scissors. Fill bags with enough cherries, or other small fruit, so they peek out over the top. To help the bags stand up, turn corners under at bottoms. Display favors in wooden crates.
Here's a great way to chill beverages in time for an impromptu backyard barbecue. Place wine or other bottles in a bucket; add a layer of ice, followed by a layer of salt (coarse or table); repeat until you almost reach the top. Fill the bucket with cold water to just below the ice line. The water in the ice bucket will be colder than normal, chilling the libations in less than 10 minutes.
Instead of making a marinade with rosemary for grilling, place the herb right on the coals. The smoke enhances food in the same way burning wood chips does. Once the coals are uniformly gray and ashy, loosely cover them with fresh rosemary branches (be careful not to burn your hands). Almost any meat or vegetable will benefit from this savory smoking.
Add our own favorite feel-good tunes to your summer playlist for an outdoor party.Download the Songs
Party ideas for celebrations under the sun.See the Ideas
Kick off your summer get together by sending one of these free invitations from pingg.com.Create an Invite
Make one of our favorite grilling recipes for the perfect summer cookout in the backyard.Get the Recipes
Celebrate the season with crafts, recipes, and party ideas for spring.Get the Ideas