By Claire Kurtz

When the temperature’s hitting 90 degree, the last thing you want to be sweating about is a party. Keep it simple, casual, cool and plan ahead.

Take a moment to visualize how you would like your party to come together. Visualize your guests talking, laughing and enjoying great food and drinks. Are they in your backyard, on the deck, at your pool or a community pool / clubhouse? Take a few minutes to plan the major details on paper: afternoon or evening, poolside casual or festive cocktail, families or adults-only, indoor buffet or outdoor picnic-style – the big picture will dictate the rest of your planning.

Consider weather and temperature when you’re choosing a venue and planning the menu. The ultimate goal of a party is to have fun. Mosquitoes and oppressive heat are not fun! In other words, don’t put your guests in the backyard at dusk unless you’ve taken care of the bug situation. And don’t seat them uncovered in the August midday sun.

Next, establish a budget, choose a date, and make a guest list.  Will you be sending out paper invitations, using Evite or calling all of your friends a few days out? Invite guests as far ahead as possible since summer is a busy travel time for most people.

Two weeks to party

Assess your party space. Does the landscaping need a touch-up? Pool need cleaning? Deck furniture in good shape? Do you have enough seating? Is it time for that new portable fire pit you’ve had your eye on? If you’re having a pool party do you have enough pool toys and floats for the kids?

This time of year, it’s especially wise to have a bad weather back-up plan. Afternoon pop-up showers can drive folks indoors; will you be prepared? Also, provide a tent or allow people to circulate indoors for relief from the heat and sun. If your party goes after dark, do you have appropriate lighting?

Plan the menu. Are you grilling or serving a catered buffet? Is there a theme? For casual outdoor events, it’s fun to have guests bring a side dish – and it takes a load off of you. Have guests RSVP with their dishes so you don’t end up with three potato salads! Also, consider how you’ll serve and keep perishable foods cold. Have fun with a signature cocktail (and signature non-alcoholic drink). You will no doubt need bottled waters, sodas and plenty of ice as well. And finally, keep the phone number for a taxi or a designated driver handy in case guests need a ride home.

Type up your grocery and drinks list now. Will you need flowers, decorations, a tub for ice and drinks, paper lanterns, etc.? Segment your list by store (CostCo, Publix, liquor store, etc.) so that you’re not wasting trips.

One week to party
Shop for non-perishables and items that will keep until you’re ready to cook or serve them. Clear out the fridge and freezer beforehand to make sure you have space for cold items.

Three days to party
Begin cooking and baking anything that can be made ahead and frozen.  Create a staging area for supplies so that you can grab and go as you set up and decorate.

Two days to party

If rain is not in the forecast, begin setting up your outdoor spaces. Place furniture, tents, lighting, bug torches, serving table and drink areas, trashcans and recycling bins.

One day to party
Prepare day-ahead foods for the party, blow up pool toys, place signs to identify paths to bathrooms for guests and make sure you have enough toilet paper, hand towels and soap.

Day of party
Start early!  Recruit a friend to assist with last minute decorating and set up of drink tubs, serving pieces, cutlery, cups and plates while you complete the food preparation. Wipe down tables and chairs. Have one person on hand to make an emergency run to the store for last minute items, if needed.

When guests arrive, relax and enjoy your party!

Claire Kurtz is a certified personal assistant and helps people get organized through her company, The Well Organized Woman. Visit thewellorganizedwoman.com for more information.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.