Easy Organizing: Backyard Party
Need more seating or surfaces? Relocate indoor furniture, like benches or stools, and camping gear, like folding chairs or tables (cover up less comfortable or attractive pieces with cushions and cloths). Skip the disposable utensils, too: Use durable everyday dishes and cutlery, parking trays to catch cleared plates next to trash cans. Finally, set up buffet-style food and drink stations, and the party will run itself.
Position your buffet under an overhang or umbrella to protect it from the elements. Then order its contents this way for easy cruising: plates, sides, buns, meats, fixings, and flatware; place an extra set of seasonings (salt, ketchup, etc.) at a central location elsewhere for guests' mid-meal adjustments. (Note: If perishable foods aren't gobbled up in an hour, swap them out with a fresh supply.) Come sundown, have lights nearby so folks can see as they serve.
Raise the Bar
A beverage station separate from the food lets guests mix drinks and mingle. Stock the bar with cups, straws (to double as stirrers), and plenty of ice — a large metal pail will keep bottles and cans frosty, but consider an insulated or lidded cooler for ice used in drinks. Prevent cocktail-napkin flyaways with a well-placed corkscrew or bottle opener. Label a trash can by the bar so revelers can recycle before they replenish.
At the Ready
Help company stay comfortable outdoors all day — and into the night. Leave out amenities like sunblock, bug spray, hand wipes, and, if it might turn chilly, light blankets.
Keep vs. Toss
Keep home-office supplies on hand, and put them to work at your party: Plastic stick-on flags make perfect drink labels (guests can jot their names on tags with a permanent marker or pen, yet the flags pull off quickly post-fete), and rubber bands will secure napkin-wrapped cutlery sets so partygoers can grab utensils one-handed from the buffet. Toss bug-be-gone citronella candles. Good Housekeeping Research Institute tests show that new lanterns, candles, and diffusers with active agents like allethrin, geraniol, and methofluthrin are more effective; they start at $9. Keep old or unused keys; they can prevent a gust of wind from carrying off a tablecloth — just safety-pin one or two keys onto the underside of each corner of your cloth.