Summer is a great time to entertain, whether you’re holding a Fourth of July barbecue or just enjoying the warm weather with friends and family. You don’t need to settle for a basic event, though. Make your summer parties the hot ticket event this year with a few simple steps. From garden parties to poolside hangouts, these tricks will change how you host.

Prep Your Deck

The first step to savvy summer entertaining is ensuring that your backyard is ready for guests, so take some time to inspect and refinish your deck or patio. Sweep the surface, replace any chipped bricks or loose railings, and reseal the surface. Once you’ve done that, you can set out furniture, an umbrella, and get ready for guests.

Provide Canopy Cover

Spending time in the sun is great and refreshing, but it can get hot awfully quick. Provide your guests with some cooling shade by placing a canopy in your backyard. Pop-up canopies come in a range of sizes to accommodate any gathering. If you have a problem with bugs, particularly in the evening, you might also consider a screened in option.

Clean The Kitchen

You’ve got your canopy in place, but you never know when the heat will become overwhelming or rain will break through and you’ll be forced to move inside. With that in mind, give your kitchen a quick cleanup. This will be easier if your kitchen is designed with easy-to-clean materials like porcelain or wood-finish tiles, glass, and natural stone. Even if the skies are clear, you know people will be in and out of the kitchen, so you want it to be sparkling clean.

Pre-Mix Your Drinks

Summer parties require great refreshments, but no one has time to blend margaritas to order. Before your guests arrive, then, set out your drinks for easy service. While ice buckets of beer are a perennial hit, you might also create an outside bar where people can make their own drinks or batch mix drinks that can be easily dispensed. Light, fruity drinks usually hold well for hours so your guests can enjoy them all day.

Keep It Natural

During the winter months, we often turn to store-bought decorations to set the mood, but during the summer it’s best to keep it natural. Add some flair to your next event with a few simple flower bouquets, whether from your own garden or the local grocery store. You don’t even need a vase – bundle them into baskets or mason jars for a rustic look.

Dine Raw

Grilling is a core part of summer entertaining, but that means someone has to stand over a hot grill. Keep the menu cool by prepping lots of fresh fruit, salad, and other raw finger foods. If you do want to offer a cooked protein, consider pulled pork prepped in a slow cooker or another low maintenance dish that won’t heat up your house or require hours standing at the grill.

Summer parties should be laid back and easy, more of an opportunity to hang out with friends and family than to show off your culinary skills. As the weather heats up, then, toss together some fruity drinks, get out the deck chairs and canopy, and kick off your sandals. You can host without taking on a load of stress – in fact, that’s the best way to celebrate the season.