The sun is shining and the warm weather has arrived, so what could be better than bringing friends and family together to enjoy some good food in great company. However, even the most relaxed of parties can be stressful to prepare for, not to mention clean up after. But don't let that put you off entertaining this summer. These helpful ideas will take the pressure off and let you enjoy the party for a change...
Instead of worrying about topping up guests' drinks, free yourself from the duties by setting up a bar table in advance for people to serve themselves. Include some interesting spirits and write cocktail recipes on a chalkboard for people to have a go at making their own. It will also give your guests a focal point for mingling and getting to know each other.
Reinvent the buffet
A buffet is the easiest way to serve food at a large gathering - but it doesn't just have to be pasta salads and cold meats. Why not create a burger bar and put out lots of different burger toppings, breads and condiments, so all you have to do is barbecue the meat when the guests arrive. Or place large bowls of different flavour popcorn or sweets, and some striped candy bags and let people serve their own pick 'n' mix treats? Little and big kids alike will love it and it saves on making desserts.
The RSVPs are in and the guest list is growing, but before you start cleaning all the spare chairs you own, turn the lack of seating into a party theme by creating picnic areas in the garden. Throw down some blankets and plenty of cushions for a relaxed vibe that will bring people together.
For an easy yet beautiful way to decorate, collect old glass jars and bottles and pop in a few seasonal flowers or cuttings from the garden. Layer different height jars on the tables, in the bathroom and even lining the pathways. This would perfectly suit an al fresco tea party, or if your soirée is likely to spill over into the evening, save extra jars and put in some candles and tea lights. Dot them on the tables, in amongst the garden flowers or create wire handles for them to hang from the trees for subtle mood lighting.
Have your guests help
Get your guests to do some of the hard work for you when it comes to the clearing up. Firstly, make sure you have bins positioned around the house or garden in obvious places. Label them 'trash' and 'recycling' to encourage people to clear away throughout the day. You can also set up a 'dirty dishes' table where people can leave their used plates and glasses to save you having to dash around and collect them.
Make your glasses sparkle
When it comes to the washing up, clean the glasses first with Joy dishwashing liquid, as they will benefit from the warmest and purest water, plus hot water evaporates quicker which reduces spots. Avoid having to clean your glasses again before the next party by polishing them with a dry, dust-free cloth when they're nearly dry. And the beauty of Joy is that just a few drops will be enough to cover all the plates from the party. For more cleaning tips and ideas visit Joy.
Are you an expert entertainer? Share your top tips and tricks for taking the stress out of throwing a memorable party in the comments below...