Upgrade your gear for a backyard blowout
Cook with gas
Like burgers, charcoal sucks for parties. You're shoveling coal and shuffling meat off hot spots when you should be enjoying the festivities. So do yourself a favor: Buy a gas grill.
Whatever Weber is on sale at Home Depot will do just fine. Or go big with the $11,295 Kalamazoo K500HT. It's built like an '80s Mercedes-Benz, boasts an infrared rotisserie, and—best of all—can cook using any combination of charcoal, wood, and propane. Welcome to the best of all meat-charring worlds.
More on MSN Living: How to clean, season and maintain your grill
Slip 'n' Slide!
Twenty bucks to delight (and occupy) every kid at the shindig for hours on end? Best money you'll spend all summer long.
Blankets as outdoor seating
Chances are, you don't have enough outdoor seating for a party's worth of people. Rather than buy twenty never-to-be-used again lawn chairs, conjure a boho-picnic vibe by laying out a few big bright blankets that'll come in just as handy at the beach.
Blankets, from left: Pendleton Circle of Life, $228; Pendleton Tatanka Huhanska, $298; Faribault Woolen Mill Cabin Wool, $225
Minimize your mess
You don't want the guilt of pitching a pile of plastic, and you definitely don't want to spend all night doing dishes. So use Susty Party's plates and cups, which are almost comically responsible. They're compostable, nontoxic, and constructed from renewable materials. For God's sake, they're even made in the U.S.A. by blind workers as part of a program to empower the visually impaired!
More on MSN Living: 18 DIY summer party decorations
Bring your A-game(s)
After dinner, break out the kind of card games that get better as your guests get drunker. Our pick is Cards Against Humanity, in which players use cards printed with irreverent phrases to answer naughty fill-in-the-blank questions. Funniest answer wins.
Whack a piñata of Thom Yorke
Or Chris Christie. Or your mother-in-law. Pinata artist Meaghan Kennedy can turn any likeness into the talk of your party. The little guy ships empty; fill it with treats as you see fit.
Document the debauchery
We stole the idea of a makeshift photo booth from our friend Beth Gibson, a diabolically creative party planner (plotbrooklyn.com). Fasten black fabric against a wall as your backdrop, place chairs of different heights in front of it, and stuff a bin with thrift-shop props—wigs, sunglasses, fake mustaches, wacky hats. A digital camera on a tripod lets you upload the pics to an e-mailable album, as Beth likes to do, or straight to FaceTwitGram. Or go retro: Spring for a Polaroid and plenty of film so your guests can take home a souvenir.