Here's a secret: The way to turn a mediocre party into a memorable party is to look at things in a new light. Literally.
Take for instance, the classic summer pool party: Host it at night when the sun sets, the temperature drops, and the fireflies come out in a flickering, romantic display.
I know what you're thinking: "But the water: It's too cold." At a daytime pool party, the idea is to beat the heat. At a nighttime pool party, the idea is to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible! Obviously, having a pool with solar, gas, or electrical heating is ideal; but in the absence of this, you can purchase a solar pool blanket, which absorbs natural heat over the course of the day to warm up the water. Oh, and remember to keep a fluffy stash of towels in arms' reach.
Let There Be Moonlight
The decor takes on a day-to-night transformation. Think luminous modern-day lagoon: a string of seashell lights, a makeshift chandelier of candles ... and glow sticks. The glow sticks will keep the kids smiling! You can set up freestanding black lights and test different fabrics to see which will shine with the strongest luster. Or, use a few white plastic beach balls to make the light columns seen above. Also put a coat of glow-in-the-dark paint on other-worldly decorations.
Keep Your Friends Close
Create an intimate space that encourages cozying up. After climbing out of the water, your guests can gather round a low-rise table lit with "fire and water" candles or a crackling bonfire. Tall, lush plants and faux greenery coated in fluorescent paint create the illusion of a secret hideaway.
Sweet Dreams Are Made of This Buffet
Guests can find their way to a self-serve bar (try a drop-down shelf mounted below the window on the exterior of the house) that is brightened with glowing pedestals, containers and cups. Fill the table potluck-style with all sorts of summer fare like grilled kebabs, sweet-spicy glazed shrimp, watermelon, orange, and feta salad, make-your-own ice cream waffle sanwiches and firecracker mixed drinks. And if they need to step into the house for more ice, don't forget to set up a wash-off station by the door to sideline grit and grime before it's tracked into the house. You can do this by attaching a sprayer to a hose and positioning a bench for balance. Make sure that they have everything they came with -- and nothing got lost in the dark -- before you bid them good night.