From Health magazine
You love having people over but loathe the inevitable party-planning anxiety: How will I get everything done in time? Do I have enough food? Thankfully, there are simple ways to minimize the stress and maximize the fun.
Its summer, and the entertaining is easy. Forgo mailed invitations in favor of fuss-free, money-saving Evites, says entertaining expert Michele Adams, who, with Gia Russo, is a co-founder of the style company MiGi and co-author of At Home With Friends: Spontaneous Celebrations for Any Occasion. Post your online invitation two weeks in advance (three, if your party falls on a major holiday like the Fourth of July).
As for the menu, streamline it, Adams suggests. To avoid standing over a hot barbecue grill through the entire party, serve sausages, which can be boiled ahead of time and finished on the grill. Better yet? Jazz up prepared foods with fresh ingredients: Buy steamed shrimp, and cook penne according to package directions; toss with jarred pesto. Another idea: Saute shrimp with garlic, salt, and pepper to taste; serve on top of pasta.
An alternative to a full bar: Create a “signature” drink, like Cranberry-Champagne Cocktail, and serve it in colorful pitchers (like the one shown below). To cut down on dirty platters, says Julie Edelman, author of The Ultimate Accidental Housewife: Your Guide to a Clean Enough House, use scooped-out watermelon and cantaloupe halves as summery servers.
Good party feng shui is easy. Stack plates and arrange cutlery on a large buffet table. Place one big platter of food in the center, Russo says, and fan side dishes around it. Use tiered trays (our pick, below), which are great for creating vertical space. And keep the food station from getting jammed by putting the drinks on a different table.
Encourage conversation by grouping lawn chairs around small tables. If you need additional seating, spread a few blankets on the grass, Edelman says. And set up an activity table with art projects to keep kids entertained. Finally, use candles, torches, and lanterns once night fallsgood lighting keeps things lively until guests are truly ready to call it a night.