Friends at a nighttime party taking a selfie

Hosting a Nighttime Party

Summer is the perfect time for outdoor parties. However, the heat can put a damper on festivities, and the sun is a real threat, especially to children and fair skinned friends. But if you start your festivities at night, after the heat has died down and the sun has set, you open yourself up for a whole new kind of fun and relaxing event.

Make It a Movie Night

It’s already dark. Why not transform the backyard into a movie theater? There’s plenty of online tutorials on how to make an easy and affordable movie screen. You will also need a projector. However, the prices of basic models have drop considerably over the years. You can pick up one at Wal-Mart for $50. Finally, don’t forget speakers.

Simplify Snacks

It doesn’t get dark until after 8pm in the summer, meaning it’s easy for guests to have already had dinner by the time they arrive. Make snacks simple. After all, lighting will be dim, and you don’t want them wondering what they’re about the eat. Also, unless you have a lot of artificial lighting, grilling will be difficult to say the least.

For a movie night, the obvious answer is popcorn. Bring it out in large bowls and let guests fill paper bowls or plastic cups to take back to their seats.

outdoor string lights hanging on a line in backyard

Light it Up

A nighttime party requires lighting. It doesn’t, however, have to be boring. Glow sticks are a fun way of lighting the night, and you can do way more than just wear them around your neck. Bury a large glow stick in ice to light up the drink bucket. Place them in balloons and leave them around the area. You can even buy drinking glasses which light up either with disposable glow sticks or reusable LED lights.

Light bulb strings are another method of illumination. Their biggest drawback, however, is they need objects from which they can be draped or to be wrapped around. They also need to be plugged into an outlet.

Drive Away Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are a real problem for nighttime parties, and you absolutely have to be prepared for them. First, have a bug repellent station where people can apply bug spray. You’ll want to keep the station away from both food and areas where people are congregating.

Second, invest in citronella candles or similar products which drive bugs from the area. These products also do double duty as light sources. They come in everything from metal buckets to ceramic pots to tiki torches, so you have plenty of options to best fit the feel of your party.

Double-check Noise Ordinances

Most cities have laws limiting the noise a household can make after a certain time, usually between 10 and 11pm. Nighttime parties are not going to be raucous events. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. But curb music, shouting, shrieking kids and the like. And if you’re doing a movie night, don’t crank the speakers cranked.

Nighttime parties are a cool option to hot summer days. They also offer a variety of decorative options not available for afternoon get-togethers. Make the most of the night, and your event will be a party to remember.

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Hand with sparkler

9 Tips to Let Your Independence Day Party Go Off with a Bang

You can hear fireworks going off all summer. However, the days before and after July 4 in the United States are when they are by far the most prevalent. (Canada has a similar holiday, Canada Day, on July 1). Fireworks can be a ton of fun, but you should never forget they’re explosives, and a bit of care is necessary to keep the holiday safe.

Know Local Laws

Every state has its own laws regarding fireworks. Buying them legally in one state does not make it legal to use them in another. Local municipalities may place additional limits. Learn them. The arrival of police will put a serious damper on any party.

Read all the Instructions

Even if the firework seems straightforward, read the warnings and instructions so you know exactly what to do and what to expect.

Supervise Children

Most states require a person to be 18 years old to buy fireworks, although a few allow children as young as 12. Regardless, children should not be allowed to light them. Let the adults set off the fireworks while the kids watch.

group of fireworks

Beware of Duds

When a firework fails to go off, it creates a very dangerous situation. Hot embers may eventually (and unpredictably) ignite the explosives. No not approach it, keeping everyone clear for 20 minutes, after which time you can throw water on it and then drop into a water bucket.

Never try to relight the dud. Its integrity has been compromised and might go off in your hand.

Dispose of Correctly

Even fireworks which have gone off may retain some of their gunpowder which can later ignite. Soak all spent fireworks with water and place in an outdoor metal container overnight before throwing them in the trash.

Be Prepared

Have a bucket of water and hose on hand in case of accidents.

Light One At a Time

It’s important to keep control of the situation. Light only one firework at a time. If something goes wrong, all attention can be focused on that single firework, rather than divided among many.

Keep Clear

Fireworks contain gunpowder and burn hot enough to cause severe burns and set other things on fire. Everyone should be clear of one before it’s lit, and the lighter should move back immediately after ignition.

Never hold a firework in your hands. Even sparklers, which are meant to be held, should be kept at arms’ length. And never aim a firework at someone else.

Avoid Buildings and Trees

Fireworks are to only be used outdoors, away from buildings and trees. Burning remnants of fireworks can rain down on an area and ignite man-made structures, trees and brush. Also, don’t use fireworks if the grass is particularly dry, for the same reason.

Fireworks are a ton of fun and a great way of celebrating national holidays. However, they do pose dangers and should be handled with appropriate care. With just a few preparations and the application of common sense, you can have a great Independence Day celebration, complete with fireworks.

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drunk disoderly man with tie on his head

When It’s Time for a Guest to Go

Thankfully, most people will never have to throw out a party guest. However, it’s always a possibility, so it’s better to have a plan in mind, just in case.

First, it’s important to remember that a host has responsibilities to all guests. You may doubt yourself when considering ejecting someone, but consider the disruption this person is causing for everyone else. If the party is becoming uncomfortable or scary, it’s your responsibility to give offending the individual the boot.

Reasons to eject someone include:

  • Not being invited. Someone who shows up uninvited is not a guest until you make them one, so seriously consider turning them away at the door to avoid further complications later.
  • Threat of property damage. Whether through active malice or drunken incompetence, when a guest is in danger of causing property damage, it’s time for them to go. Don’t wait for them to actually break something. The situation has spiraled well out of control by that point.
  • Threat to individuals. A guest who makes others fear for their safety has no place at a party. Eject these folks the moment you become aware of them.
  • Being out of control. A person might not pose an immediate threat yet still be obviously out of control.

Reasons not to eject a guest:

  • They have passed out. While the situation is not ideal, a passed out guest isn’t inconveniencing anyone other than taking up a bit of space. Moreover, sending such a person packing is dangerous. Obviously, they can’t drive, and in an incapacitated state, even shoving them into an Uber has safety issues. It’s best to let such people sleep it off.
  • They’re being boring or awkward. You invited them. If they don’t fit in, that’s on you, not them. Instead, try to help them better integrate with others so everyone has a more relaxing time.
  • Another guest asks for them to be removed because of personal disagreement. Adults should be capable of civility even towards people they don’t particularly care for. If the other party is behaving appropriately, it might be best for the person objecting to their presence to be the one who leaves.

Once you’ve decided someone needs ejecting, it’s best to be done quickly and quietly. Making a scene of it just further exacerbates the disruption already caused.

  • Ask politely. Explain the situation. Offer to talk about it another time. But above all else, ask them to leave both politely and firmly. Do not drop hints. It’s too easy for them to be missed or ignored.
  • Bring backup. If you think this individual might not go quietly, bring a friend or two to show you mean business and ensure your own protection. People are far less likely to cause an incident when they are outnumbered.
  • Don’t use force. It elevates an already tense situation, makes it more likely for property or individuals to be damaged, and it can land you in legal hot water.
  • Don’t put a drunk person behind the wheel. A lot of disruptions at parties are because of alcohol, so this complicates ejecting an offender. Potentially another guest will be willing to drive the person home. Otherwise, call an Uber, presuming they’re coherent enough to safely interact with the driver.
  • If all else fails, call the police. Hopefully the mere threat will convince your unruly guest to depart. If not, the police will be able to forcibly eject them.

Having a hostile guest is something no one wants to have, and many party hosts never will. However, it’s important to have contingencies in place just in case a situation occurs, so the event causes as little disruption as possible.

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group of happy kids on children playground

How to Throw a Playground Birthday Party

Outdoor birthday parties are great for kids born in the summer months, but the size of a backyard can seriously limit the number of guests which can be invited. One alternative is to move to a local park with a playground, which offers both space and entertainment for your birthday party.

Find the Right Location

Not every park will suit your specific needs. Consider:

  • Is the play equipment age appropriate?
  • Are there picnic tables? If not, you’ll need to bring blankets, and things are likely to get more messy.
  • Is a permit necessary? Some parks require permits for large groups of people. They generally do not cost much, but you may need to file the application several weeks in advance.
  • Are there potential dangers? For example, a park on a lake may not be the best place for a party of toddlers.
  • Does it offer grills? If it doesn’t, are you allowed to bring your own?
  • Does it offer restrooms? Many parks do not have restrooms, and those which do generally only have them open for part of the year.
  • Is there a pavilion? Certainly, you do not need a pavilion, but they offer plenty of benefits. They contain numerous benches, which might be difficult to get a hold of if you’re organizing your event outside the shelter. They also generally have drinking fountains and restrooms. Finally, they provide relief from the sun, which may be welcomed more by the adults than the kids.

Bring Enough Supervision

Since the kids are not confined to a backyard, you’ll need even more adults helping keep the children corralled. Again, this is most applicable with very small children who can easily become lost or injured.

photo of a beautiful mother and her daughter blowing soap bubbles on the playground at the park

Bring Entertainment

Kids like variety. Some may play on the play equipment the entire time, but others may want multiple distractions. Balls, sidewalk chalk and bubbles are all good distractors.

Plan Transportation

Remember that everything you want at the park has to be brought there. The cake will need to be boxed up, and nothing can be put on top of it. Helium balloons take up a ton of space. If space considerations are an issue, do a test run the day before to make sure you can fit everything (including children) into the car. If there’s too much, ask one of the other parents to swing by and transport some of it for you.

Plan for Rain

The biggest downside to planning a party at a park is the danger of rain. You can’t simply bring the party indoors. Watch the weather forecasts. You should cancel at least a day in advance to make sure you notify everyone.

Playground parties are an affordable way to entertain sizable numbers of kids. Planning is pretty minimal, but it is important. Make sure you know your location: the amenities it offers, possible dangers, and rules and regulations. This can make for a great summer birthday for the kids without overly taxing the adults.

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detox water in mason jar glasses with lemon cucumber and pomegranate against a rustic wood background

5 Ways to Dress Up Your Summer Party

Summer parties are often casual affairs which don’t demand a lot of decoration. However, a few quick and inexpensive additions can bring a real visual spark to an event, making it even more memorable.

Choose Summer Colors

When we think of paper plates and Solo cups, we think of them coming in primary colors like red and blue. However, the colors that designers generally associate with summer are more complex, like teal (a mix of blue and green), pink (white and red), and mango (yellow and orange).

And before you start worrying about having to memorize appropriate colors, realize party supply stores have done the work for you. PartyCity.com, for example, sells decorations, tableware and more in these colors, all of which are explicitly labeled as summer products.

tables and chairs set up for a garden party, wedding, or other outdoor event.

Substitute Fabric Tablecloths

Do away with the plastic tablecloth. Get a length of cotton fabric from a fabric store and drape it over tables for a classy touch. While it will cost a little more than plastic, at the end of the day you can shake off the crumbs and throw it in the washing machine for future use.

Use Mason Jars

There’s something about mason jars that makes people think of summer. You can use them as drinking glasses, cutlery holders, candle lanterns and more.

Don’t Forget Flowers

Flowers can add class to just about any event. Don’t spend too much time arranging them, however. A casual summer party doesn’t need fussy decorations. Just throw some brightly colored blooms into simple containers (such as mason jars) and leave them out on tables.

Find a Theme

Rather than fill your party space with random decorations, choose a specific style and work it throughout your event. This might be flowers, the beach, palm trees, pinwheels, nautical designs, pineapples, etc.

Dressing up a summer party doesn’t take a lot of money. In many cases, it’s less about buying more things and more about buying specific things. A little goes a long way at these casual gatherings, so help put everyone in a more festive mood with just a bit of extra decoration.

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multi generation family enjoying summer outdoor party

5 Tips for a Summer Party

As the weather turns warm for the summer, people are itching to find reasons to go out and enjoy the sun. A casual outdoor get together can be just the thing, getting people out of their homes while socializing with friends and family. But, like all things, the outdoors offers its own unique challenges, so keep them in mind when planning your event.

Protect Your Food

One of the drawbacks of the outdoors is bugs. Not only are they everywhere, but they congregate exactly where you want them least: on your food. No one wants a fruit salad which has been home to flies for the last half hour. Keep food covered as much as possible when left outdoors. Any sort of large, semi-transparent container will do. Stay away from anything opaque, as those force guests to search through items to find what they’re really after.

Another answer is to leave food indoors. This might be slightly inconvenient for guests, but food will remain much more appetizing, not to mention sanitary.

Question Cutlery

While you might want to throw steaks on the grill, consider where guests can eat it. Unless there will be enough outdoor tables for everyone to eat at, steer clear of dishes which require a fork and knife. Things that can be eaten by hand such as burgers, brats, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches will be far easier for everyone to manage.

group of friends having summer outdoor party in backyard at home

Keep Hydrated

Warm weather encourages dehydration, so make sure plenty of drinks are available. The easiest method is to fill a cooler with ice and an assortment of drinks, then let guests serve themselves throughout the day.

Provide Sunscreen and Insect Repellent

Don’t presume guests will bring their own sunscreen and insect repellent. Many times, people don’t even think about them until they start to burn or the bugs start to bite, so make sure you have some on hand. Having some aloe vera for those who really gets burned is not a bad idea either.

If your party is going to continue into the night, invest in insect-repelling products such as citronella candles to help clear the area of pests.

Consider a Fire Pit

Fire pits have become a popular centerpiece for evening outdoor events, allowing people to sit around them like campfires. Despite their name, fire pits don’t have to actually be pits. They can also be raised, portable items which allow you to safely start a fire pretty much anywhere. They’re also easy to get a hold of. Home improvement stores like Home Depot carry them, as does Amazon. Several models can be acquired for less than $100.

Casual outdoor summer parties are easy to throw. Still, a bit of planning can turn an average event into a great one which friends and family will remember for a long time to come.

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High school students on graduation day

5 Tips for Great Graduation Party

It’s graduation season, and if your son or daughter is taking the leap from an institution of learning, you probably want to celebrate it. Whether it’s high school or college, the move is a major stepping stone in the grad’s life, and it’s worthy of a great celebration.

1. Don’t Go Overboard on Family

Your kid loves you, but graduation is about school, and the graduate is going to want to spend time with friends made during their time there. Family certainly needn’t be banned, don’t push aside the friends in order to fit in every second cousin once removed.

And don’t smother the graduate at the actual event. Give them and their friends space. For some, this may be the last time they see each other as everyone goes their separate ways, whether it be to college, grad school or a career in another city.

2. Create a Photo Booth

Set up an area where people can have photos shot. This might be the decorated corner of a room where people can take their own pictures, or perhaps someone good with a camera can volunteer to take snaps.

You can also rent a photobooth. These set up allow users to press a button and have a series of four photos snapped, which are then printed on the spot.

hispanic student and family celebrating graduation

3. Collect Memories

Offer up something that allows attendees to share memories with the graduate. A notebook with a fancy, formal cover works well. It could also be a drop box where people put notes or photos, or some sort of decorative feature where those same notes can be clipped.

4. Use School Colors

Parties always look more complete when they have a unifying theme, and often that theme is color. Use the school’s colors for balloons, plates, napkins, centerpieces, streamers and so on.

5. Make a Graduate Collage

To be clear, this party is all about the graduate, so include them in everything you can. Create a collage out of photos from the last four years of their life. You may want to shape the collage into letters or numbers such as the grad’s name (if it’s short), the year of graduation or even just the word grad.

No matter how you throw one, graduation parties are meant to be lighthearted and focused on the accomplishments of the graduate in question. Find clever ways of celebrating this milestone and you’ll make plenty of new memories for the grad to take with them.

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appetizers to the holiday - cheeses, fruits and jams

4 Tips for Providing Food at Parties

Last week, we talked about the ins and outs of providing drinks at parties. Food of course, is just as fundamental, existing in some form at nearly every kind of event.

1. Keep Food Fork Free

Unless your party includes a formal meal, go light on the cutlery and heavy on the napkins as you provide food which can be eaten with fingers.

Party-goers like milling around, and the necessity of a fork and knife forces them to not only sit but sit at a table. Finger food allows people to nibble while they continue to socialize, keeping their attention on the conversation rather than their meal.

Dishes which need only a fork, such as cake, can be doable. But the food must be soft enough for the fork to easily cut through it.

2. Avoid Messy Foods

If you’re going to have people to eat with their fingers, give them something that isn’t going to smear across their hands and leave streaks on your furniture. The problem isn’t just the damage it can cause, but also how uncomfortable it can make guests. They don’t want to damage your carpet or your chairs, so they’re likely to be extra fussy about eating to avoid making a mess.

various dip sauces on wooden table

3. Always Get a Party Platter

Party platters are kind of the best of all worlds: they provide variety, they’re affordable and all of it is finger food. If you’re not serving dinner, party platters can keep friends going all evening. If there is a scheduled dinner, party platters make for great appetizers.

They’re also a great way of not running out of food. Not sure if you have enough? Get an extra platter. Might there be some last minute drop-ins? You don’t have to spend a lot to make sure you have a little extra, just in case you underestimated who all was likely to come.

4. Be Prepared

It’s your party. You should be socializing, not slaving away in the kitchen. Prepare as much as possible the night before or the morning of. Keep food warm in crock pots. Keep cold food in the fridge, ready to be set out without additional preparation.

Planning on grilling? Get everything organized ahead of time. If you have a mix of special seasonings for your hamburgers, put it all together the night before.

It’s no fun if the party’s host is stressing over the food. A little planning goes a long way in this department. Serve food which can be eaten by hand and aren’t overly messy. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time. And don’t be afraid of using pre-made items such as party platters, which can save a ton of prep time. Create a menu great for both you and your guests, and you’re on your way to a great party.

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colorful cocktails close up

Getting Drinks Right at Your Party

Drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, are a foundational element of any get together. No matter what kind of party you’re throwing, some manner of drinks will have to be provided. However, it’s a little more complicated than just throwing a few six packs in the fridge. Keep these points in mind when organizing drinks for your party.

Mixers, Mixers, Mixers

Even if you’re planning on heavy drinking at your event, you need a serious quantity of mixers. Buying an equal amount of alcohol and mixer means guests will end up mixing equal parts Jack and Coke. And if the mixers run out entirely, people may turn to straight shots.

Moreover, there are people who won’t want alcohol or will want to pace themselves. You need drinks for them too, and tap water doesn’t count. Providing non-alcoholic alternatives emphasizes your get-together is a social event, not just a night of drinking.

Stocking up a good supply of soda, juices, and pre-made mixers will help keep your event under control and your guests from overindulging.

Have Enough Glasses

One person, one glass is a recipe for disaster. When people switch drinks, they’ll want a fresh glass. And if they walk away from their drink, they may well grab another glass when they seek out a refill. Over the course of several hours, most people will go through multiple glasses.

This makes disposable cups practically a necessity. They take up minimal space when stacked, can be discarded as needed, and there’s no deed to pile them next to the dishwasher. They also aren’t breakable, which means fewer spilled drinks and a lack of picking broken glass up out of your carpet.

group of friends enjoying drink at outdoor rooftop bar

Let Guests Mix Their Own Drinks

It might sound cool to stand behind the bar mixing up sophisticated drinks for your friends. The problem is you end up trapped behind the bar all night rather than socializing. Sure, you’ll trade a few words with everyone who asks for a drink, but it won’t be meaningful conversation.

And since you now expect your guests to serve themselves, make sure the drinks are obvious. People don’t like poking through other people’s fridges trying to figure out what’s up for grabs. Putting available drinks in coolers is one way of indicating exactly where guests should be going. Pitchers of pre-mixed drinks also work well. It’s convenient for your guests and keeps them from mixing super-strong drinks.

Don’t Forget the Ice

Nearly every event can benefit from an extra bag of ice. Whether it’s to fill coolers or chill individual drinks, ice can be in high demand, even if the party is indoors. It’s also cheap and never goes bad, so if it isn’t used you can toss it in the freezer or just let it melt in the sink.

Keep the Drinkers from Driving

You may well end up with guests who have no business behind the wheel of a car. Have a plan ahead of time, such as whether you’ll suggest a taxi, Uber or Lyft. And maybe the guest can’t go home at all, in which case you’re going to need crash space. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just be sure you know where a couple extra pillows and blankets are in case someone needs to sleep it off.

Every party plan needs to devote time to drinks as well as the aftermath of drinking. The plan doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to be thorough. Consider all the needs needing to be met. And think about yourself as well. Simplify arrangements as much as possible so you can enjoy the party as much as everyone else.

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Little girl jumping inside a bounce house

Are Bounce Houses Safe for Children’s Parties?

Bounce houses are becoming increasingly popular for private parties, in part because of their growing affordability. Not only are rental rates reasonable, but small units can be bought for just a few hundred dollars.

But there are drawbacks. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, injury rates have been steadily climbing, from about 5000 in 2003 to over 18,000 in 2012. This increase significantly has to do with the growing number of children using the amusement. To put those numbers in perspective, 270,000 children were injured on playgrounds and 114,000 on skateboards in 2012.

Most injuries sustained in bounce houses are sprains and broken bones in the arms and legs. Rarely do they require hospitalization, and only a handful of deaths have been associated with the use of bounce houses. Still, there are ways of making them safer.

Properly Set Up the Bounce House

If you’re renting a bounce house, the company will set it up and take it down. If you’re doing it yourself, be sure you know what you’re doing. The bounce house should always be well anchored in an open area away from power lines and other structures.

Supervise the Bounce House

A bounce house is not a babysitter. An adult should watch from outside it to make sure children are behaving appropriately and to respond to any incidents. If the house starts to deflate, all the children should be promptly removed.

Boy playing on inflatable slide in bounce house

Separate Children by Age

Children should be sorted by age before going into a bounce house. If an older child runs into a smaller one, even accidentally, the smaller one can easily be injured. The mass of older children jumping on the bounce surface also makes it harder for smaller children to keep their balance.

Children under 6 shouldn’t be allowed access to a bounce house at all.

Limit Roughhousing and Flipping

Many injuries happen not because children are simply bouncing but because they are roughhousing, wrestling and flipping inside the bounce house. Many injuries can be prevented by making these activities off limits.

Beware of Weather

While weather-related injuries are rare, they can be dramatic when they happen. There have been several cases of severe winds blowing bounce houses away or throwing them into the air with children still inside. Don’t wait for a powerful gust to come through your party: if the wind picks up, promptly evacuate the children.

Rain should also be avoided, even if wind isn’t involved. Getting water inside the bounce house will create an overly slick environment which will encourage accidents.

Sharp Objects

No matter how careful children are, there will be collisions. To minimize the chance of injury, jewelry, shoes and pocket contents should be removed before entrance.

No activity is completely safe, and a significant number of injuries are sustained in bounce houses every year. However, diligence on the part of parents can vastly decrease the chance of injury at their event. Help make bounce houses an enjoyable yet safe amusement at your next kid-friendly party.

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