(Family Features)—There is nothing better than gathering family and friends for a fun, outdoor get-together. With a few decorating tricks and entertaining ideas, anyone can become the "host(ess) with the mostess."
Whether your outdoor space is a sweeping, lakeside veranda or a tiny balcony with parking lot views, embrace it. To help Americans get the most out of their outdoor spaces and enjoy the summer season, OFF! has partnered with lifestyle and entertaining expert Katie Brown. Together, they have the tips and tricks to help ensure you're prepared this summer for any outdoor gathering -- be it a casual family dinner or a summer party with the neighbors.
First, a little preparation goes a long way. In the recent Summer Savvy Survey conducted by the makers of OFF!, 80 percent of respondents said getting a bug bite and running out of food are the two most annoying things that could ruin an outdoor party. Before heading outside, spot treat your backyard with a product designed to protect it from a variety of insects like mosquitoes, ants and fleas.
For a welcoming atmosphere, Brown always suggests incorporating flowers. Loosely arrange cut flowers in vases or salvaged bottles to enhance the ambiance of any summer get-together. Potted plants are inviting and can serve many purposes, such as welcome signs, house numbers and bird feeders, so get inspired and have fun getting creative.
When it comes to prepping your outdoor living space for summer gatherings, remember that the tricks you use inside your home to make a space more cozy and inviting also work well outside. Cluster seating around a coffee table then add side tables for plates of food and glasses. Anchor the grouping with a beautiful outdoor rug. Then amp up the fun factor with vibrant hues that mimic the colors in the surrounding landscapes. Why not poppy red pillows or a sunflower yellow tablecloth? Keep the decor light, bright and festive.
Lighting is another key consideration. Make sure there is plenty of lighting in the areas where your guests will gather as well as along walking paths or driveways. Lighting can also create a special festive feeling at any party. There is something truly magical about thousands of tiny white lights surrounding an outdoor space. For ambiance, string several strands of lights through trees and bushes or along wooden decks.
Clusters of candles should also be placed on small tables near where the guests will be lounging. Make sure to include an OFF! Citronella Candle or two. They add several hours of ambiance and style, not to mention protect you from pests!
If you're hosting a planned event, preparation for any type of weather is important. Try to anticipate things your guests may need to be comfortable during the party. Fill up wicker baskets, or "pamper pots," and set them near various seating areas. It's a thoughtful touch guests will really appreciate. Items to consider are:
- Sunscreen: Even if the day is cloudy, both kids and adults will appreciate having an extra bottle of sunscreen on hand.
- Mosquito repellent: The OFF! Clip-On gives your guests personal protection against mosquitos so they can stay comfortable throughout the event.
- Light blankets: The success of a party is often judged by how late people linger. Roll up a few light blankets and tuck them in the basket in case evening brings a chilly drop in temperature.
- Umbrellas: Whether guests use them for an unexpected rainshower or to shield themselves from the sun, umbrellas are a thoughtful touch.
- Flashlights: A little extra illumination may come in handy during late night festivities. The kids might find flashlights make for a great game of tag.
If you're hosting a planned event such as a birthday party or holiday BBQ, consider offering a fun take-home treat. As the party winds down, fill a small beach bag with any extra supplies, such as flashlights, sunscreen, insect repellent, bubbles and sidewalk chalk, for each family. Your guests will go home with great memories, lots of pictures of your spectacular soiree and a few goodies for their next outdoor adventure.