Time to put winter behind us and start thinking about spring and summer outdoor parties! Graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, and even weddings offer great opportunities to celebrate in your yard or favorite venue. Planning ahead Set a budget. You\u2019ve heard the phrase, \u201cchampagne taste on a beer budget,\u201d so manage your expectations and ask others to chip-in if appropriate. Look for specials on items you can buy in advance that won\u2019t spoil, such as soft drinks and alcohol. Shop around for the best deals on food items, decorations, and entertainment before purchasing or signing a contract. Who to invite? Making sure everyone who should be invited gets invited can get complicated. Understand your space and budgetary limitations before you create your list and give guests ample time to plan to attend and request RSVPs. Mailed and emailed invitations are both fine, or you can opt to use a web site like Eventbrite to gather your guest list. Consider asking about any potential food allergies or requests during this step and oblige as best you can. Is it a surprise party? Make sure that is clear to those you\u2019ve invited so they don\u2019t let the cat out of the bag. Recruit someone who can keep the guest of honor occupied and make sure they arrive on time. Ask guests to park off-site, consider hiring a valet service or a van to move guests. If you are expecting a larger crowd, find alternative parking at nearby businesses or a church-making sure you ask in advance for permission. Setting some rules early will help you when the invitations go out. Are kids welcome? Dogs? Will you have alcohol at your party (some venues, like parks, won\u2019t allow)? If it\u2019s a celebration of a milestone, are gifts welcome or maybe you\u2019d like donations to a charity instead. Get your garden ready! If you are utilizing your yard or farm for a party, you will want it looking great. Take time to weed, keep the grass mowed, fill any holes in the yard, update your furniture, cushions, or umbrellas if funds allow, or at least give everything a very good cleaning. Feng Shui is said to bring harmony and that extends to the garden as well. You might not be able to do anything about repositioning your outdoor space, but perhaps you can add these Feng Shui friendly garden plants to bring calm to the party: bamboo, peony, maple tree, plum tree, orchids, iris, lily, and chrysanthemums. Setting a tone Picking a theme can be a no-brainer or complicated (especially for surprise parties or if you have multiple honorees). The theme sets the tone for the event and leads the decisions you will make regarding choosing food and decorations. Whether your celebrating a Carolina Panthers\u2019 or Hornets\u2019 fan, a Nascar lover, or hosting a Downton Abbey-themed tea party, you\u2019ll need to choose and start looking for d\u00e9cor and treats early. You don\u2019t necessarily need a theme, but it can add some fun to your party and be a thoughtful nod. Having trouble coming up with a theme? Here are some tips (from www.margaritavillecargo.com): Think about the food: If you've been brainstorming this party for a while and you have dishes in mind, but no theme, build your party's concept around the food. Think about what the foods have in common and how you can relate them with one central theme that lends itself to fun decorations. For example, if you've been planning to tackle ambitious fruit-covered fusion nachos, consider turning the entire party into a Cinco de Mayo theme regardless of the date. Use a frozen drink mixer and your tropical decorations, serve tropical drinks and embrace the south-of-the-border vibe even if the calendar says October. Consider the details: Some people decide on a theme and then go with it before thinking it all the way through. Starting with a large, broad topic is a good beginning, but you want to break it down to small, actionable steps before you start setting up. It won't be fun, for example, to throw a party themed after a television show if you can't turn the show's details into specific decorations, foods, and drinks. Focus on the guests: When you're inviting over a large group of friends, a theme party can be great, but it's best if it fits your guests' interests. Artist Eleatta Diver, who frequently throws paint parties, advised hosts to consider the guests and their interests before choosing a theme. For example, if your friends are a bunch of Parrotheads, try a full-on Hawaiian luau. It'll be familiar enough to be memorable, but different enough to be exciting. Go all out: You can make almost anything a party theme with a bit of creativity and a lot of effort. Photographer and party aesthetic expert Kristen Duke once threw a mason jar themed party for her grandparents. You could use these seemingly innocuous storage containers for everything from DIY lighting sources to unique glasses. Duke also had a mason jar cake. You can make a good-looking and fun party for just about anything\u2014so don't be shy about getting creative! What you\u2019ll need Cook or cater? There are many reasons to do one or another. Budget, number of guests, theme. Perhaps others can be counted on to bring a covered dish; if so, make sure you don\u2019t have duplicated dishes. Will your current grill be capable of grilling burgers for 100? Caterers can provide often affordable options and will do the work for you; even providing paper goods can help you work within your budget to find an appetizing solution! Tents set the mood and provide shelter from wet weather and heat. If you are considering renting a tent, Tent Guys has a variety of sizes and styles available to suit your needs. Our website has a handy guide to choosing what size tent you need based on capacity. Often, tents can also be installed over paved areas with specialized anchoring, and sidewalls can be added to protect guests from weather. Don\u2019t worry, our staff will make it easy to make your selection, and rentals include set up and removal, so you can save your energy for entertaining. Tables, chairs, linens, flat wear, bar wear, plates\u2014oh my! No worries, Tent Guys offers all of these items for rent and more. You can speak to a party planner for more details. If you are purchasing items on your own, make sure you have extras on hand for the event (likely disposable items) and enough trash cans to handle it all. Kid\u2019s parties are more popular and bigger than ever with a multitude of themes to choose from, ranging from super heroes to Peppa Pig. If your child is old enough, ask him or her to pick a theme (and stick with it) before you start shopping or planning to see what is available. Clowns, music, petting zoos, and bounce houses can all be fun add-ons to a party, but be sure to check with your homeowner\u2019s insurance to see if you are covered, and check with your home owners\u2019 association before you hire anyone. Does your city or county require a permit? Carefully review the contract before you sign, and be sure you understand the cancellation policies. Ask for help Don\u2019t bite off more than you can chew. We\u2019re not talking about the buffet line, if there are things you are good at and have time for, go for it, but if you\u2019re not a baker, there\u2019s no need to volunteer to make several cakes. Focus on what you can deliver without causing undue stress. Asking for help will be a huge help in having everything run smoothly. You know your friends and family and who you can count on. Divide up the tasks and focus on the strengths of others. We all have the \u201cI\u2019ll bring the ice\u201d person in our lives, that\u2019s fine! Ice is always welcome on a hot summer day. Consider hiring a professional event planner. The following are tips from Eventbrite to pick the perfect planner for you (from Eventbrite): 1. What are their areas of expertise? To find out if your chosen event planner is a good fit for your event, ask what type of events they most frequently work on. If they usually organize business events, for example, they might not be the right choice for your anniversary party. 2. What services do they offer? It is important to know what services the event planner you are hiring can offer and to make sure they can fully handle your requirements. Do you need them to find a venue, organize catering, audio visual services, transportation, accommodation, staffing, hire speakers? Do they have a preferred list of venues and vendors that they have worked closely with in the past? A good event planner has established relationships and can help secure deals that you couldn\u2019t as an individual. 3. What\u2019s included in their fee? It\u2019s important to establish your event organizer\u2019s fees up front, so there are no nasty surprises later. You should ask how they charge; a flat fee, hourly rate, percentage, cost-per-person. Will there be an additional fee for support staff? Are travel expenses included, or will they bill separately? Do they mark-up third party vendor costs or receive any commissions from suppliers directly or indirectly? You need to know when payment is due as well as the total costs associated with their services. Be sure and ask what forms of payment are accepted also. 4. Who will be working on your event? You\u2019ll want to know who your day-to-day contact will be and \u2013 if that\u2019s not the person you are meeting with \u2013 arrange an introduction to ensure you have a good rapport. Other questions to ask include: Will there be a team of people working on my event or just one? Is there backup support if that person is not available or ill? Is there a limit to the number of meetings we can have prior to the event? If there is, how much will I be charged for additional meetings? How will my event be staffed on the day? Are they full time staff, freelancers, independent contractors? Who will be my point of contact on site? A good event management company should offer you a consistent account manager who will work closely with you and be on hand should you need them. 5. What software and technology do they use? Find out what tools they employ for project management and budgets. Their ability to track expenses and orders will reflect on your bill and the quality of your event. 6. How will they protect your event? Your event planner should be up to date with all the latest health and safety regulations and be familiar with carrying out event specific risk assessments. They should possess their own event planning liability insurance and must ensure all of the event suppliers are also adequately insured. Will they create an Event Safety Plan for your event? This is industry best practice and should contain documents including a health and safety statement, event safety management structure, site safety rules, medical provisions, and provisions for people with disabilities. 7. What is their cancellation and refund policy? Make sure you know the details of your event planner\u2019s contract terms up front. If you have to cancel, postpone, or dramatically change your event what will your event planner charge you? Most organizers will charge for hours and services already utilized, and any outlay they have already made. However, bear in mind that other suppliers, such as the venue and caterer, will have their own cancellation terms, so you may have to pay them additionally. Will your organizer take care of those arrangements for you? No matter the size of your party, big or small, we hope some of these tips will help your guests have a ball!