happy couple forming heart shape with their hands at the beach

6 Tips for Planning a Last-Minute Wedding

Traditional weddings, even small ones, are planned out over many months. However, not everyone wants to wait. A speedy wedding might be a romantic gesture, or it can have a very practical purpose, such as getting the significant other onto a health insurance plan. No matter the reason, there’s plenty of things to keep in mind when you speed up the planning process.

Fall In Love with Digital Invitations

Paper invitations process slowly. Consider online services such as Invitecast to let people know about the event and keep in communication with them. Invitecast allows guests to instantly RSVP electronically, which means you can start giving guest counts to vendors such as caterers as soon as possible.

Consider a Less Formal Bridal Gown

Bridal gowns generally need to be ordered many months ahead of time. If you’re lucky enough to fit into a floor model (generally a size 10, which is closer to a size 8 in everyday clothes), bridal stores may have some on clearance. If you’re any other size, you’ll need to look for something less formal.

Any dress in white works well as a bridal dress, but don’t be afraid of looking at other colors as well. This is your big day. Wear what you want!

Give the Bridesmaids Leeway

Nothing says bridesmaids have to wear the same gown. In fact, that tradition is being defied even in large, traditional weddings. Give the bridesmaids a color, and let them pick out their own dresses.

a wedding cake sits next to the bride and groom marriage certificate at this ceremony and reception

Remember Documentation

There’s nothing more important that the legal documentation that states you are, indeed, married. Getting a marriage license may require certified birth certificates, which take time to acquire. If you’ve been divorced, you’ll need paperwork proving that as well. No matter how rushed the wedding is, make sure the paperwork is in order in good time.

Find a Casual Location

Formal reception halls commonly book out many months in advance, so you’re probably going to have to settle for something less formal. Outdoor weddings are one solution. The answer can be as simple as your backyard or the backyard of a family or friend. A church (or other house of worship) basement might be available. Halls that rent out to less formal events are another possibility.

Do It Yourself

Weddings don’t have to be fancy. Turn dinner into a potluck, or forgo dinner entirely and just treat guests to hors d’oeuvres. Get sheet cakes from the grocery store. If you do cater, consider a casual buffet.

In lieu of flower arrangements, strew flower petals across the tables. This adds a hint of formality without the time and cost of formal arrangements.

Weddings can be planned on just about any timetable. However, options vary depending on the time available. If you’re wanting the wedding to be soon, you are not without options. You just need a bit of flexibility and a willingness to embrace more casual styles.

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wedding on the beach at a destination wedding

6 Things to Keep in Mind for Destination Weddings

Last week, I wrote about things wedding couples should keep in mind when many guests will be traveling long distances. This week is specifically about destination weddings, when the bride and groom decide to have the wedding at a place not local to either of them. Tourist locations are the most common destination weddings, particularly those in warm locales with beaches. With so much involved, consider ways you can help guests enjoy what should be a vacation for all.

Pay for the Bridal Party’s Accommodations

Destinations weddings are expensive to attend. Etiquette states the bridal couple should foot the hotel bill for groomsmen and bridesmaids. If the couple’s families are paying, the bride’s family pays for the bridesmaids and the groom’s family pays for the groomsmen.  Other costs, such as travel, do not need to be covered.

Invite Everyone to the Rehearsal Dinner

Wedding etiquette dictates out-of-town guests should always be invited to a rehearsal dinner, but this is particularly important for a destination wedding. Spend as much time as possible with them, lest they feel like a secondhand guest. If there is a brunch the next day everyone should be invited to that as well.

Organize a Group Activity

You’ve found a great location for the wedding, so take advantage of it. Find something the locale offers that guests would not normally get to experience.

 a man trying to pick up the signal on his mobile phone

Don’t Expect Cell Service Outside the US

We are very used to making and changing plans at the last minute with cell phones. However, most cell plans only cover the United States. They simply will not work outside the country. Even if you have an international plan, all of your guests probably do not, so planning everything ahead of time thorough detailed communication is really crucial.

Don’t Expect Expensive Gifts

Travel may already be breaking people’s budgets, so don’t be surprised if gifts are minimal. You may even express there is no need for gifts, that you consider their presence to be gift enough.

Provide Welcome Gifts

Many couples at destination weddings offer guests a gift bag upon arrival. These often contain useful items such as sunscreen, but they may also contain something intended to be taken home. Just remember such gifts have to fit into suitcases and pass TSA inspection if guests are flying.

Gift bags can also include local maps, schedules, points of interests and other information but vital and helpful. This information has hopefully been previously shared, but it’s a handy backup for guests who forgot theirs at home. This also allows for last minute changes to plans to be communicated.

Destination weddings are a serious undertaking for both the wedding couple and their guests. It’s meant to be an experience everyone will remember, so do your best to assist guests in enjoying the event. Be considerate, anticipating problematic aspects of the trip and mitigate them when possible. Provide plenty of communication, and show your appreciation by including everyone in as many things as possible. Make attending a destination wedding a vacation rather than a chore.

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Hat, map, sunglasses, money, things for travel

5 Ways to Help Guests Enjoy Long-Distance Events

Over the years, friends and family often become more and more spread out geographically. It’s a reason we schedule events specifically to bring them together. That means some may be travelling considerable distances to attend major events such as weddings and family reunions. Hosts should keep in mind a variety of issues faced by these guests and attempt to mitigate them as much as possible.

Understand Not Everyone Can Attend

No one gets everyone on their invite list to attend, but expect to get many more declines if guests have to travel more than a couple hours.

Oftentimes, these people have to use vacation days to travel. To that end, Saturday is the best day for events. That allows long distance travelers to travel Friday and Sunday, missing only one day of work. If the event is in the evening, and people are close enough to drive, Saturday allows people to travel Saturday afternoon and Sunday, forgoing the need of vacation days altogether.

Still, even with that consideration, understand that some people simply cannot invest the time or money needed to participate. Make sure the most important people, such as the parents of a wedding couple, are comfortable with travel arrangements very early in the planning stages.

Give Lots of Warning

Save the date cards are particularly useful when travel is an obstacle. Letting people know many months ahead of time when the event will be allows them to make whatever plans are necessary (airline tickets, vacation days, pet-sitters, etc.) to allow them to attend.

 happy tourist sightseeing city with map

Provide Local Information

Your guests are visiting a strange location. Make it as easy as possible for them to navigate it. Suggest hotels and restaurants. Provide information on local attractions they can visit on their own time, as some may turn the trip into a vacation.  And have selections appeal to a wide variety of people. Not everyone wants to visit a museum nor eat at the best Mexican restaurant in town. Remember, you’re suggesting things that might appeal to them, not you.

Also share local weather information. It would be unfortunate in April for Florida family to show up wearing shorts in Denver.

Give Directions

Never underestimate the power of maps and directions. While it is true most people have smartphones, not everyone does, particularly the elderly. Mapping programs can also be problematic when drivers hit unexpected detours which the application doesn’t recognize.

Also, consider traffic conditions, particularly construction. If there’s major work being done, guests should know how much extra time to plan for it and how to best get around it.

Finally, make sure you give addresses for every location, no matter how obvious you think the landmark or how many people you think have been there before. There’s no such thing as too much information when it comes to navigation.

Provide a Point of Contact

Provide an emergency number for people who hit a major snag: they missed their flight, they’re hopelessly lost, etc. This person needs to be available to answer questions and perhaps even take action, so if this is a wedding, don’t make it the bride or groom, and probably not their parents either.  It can be a great job for bridesmaids or groomsmen.

More and more, people have to travel to participate in events such as weddings and reunions. Just because it’s getting more common, however, does not mean it should be taken for granted. Such trips cost time and money, and it leaves guests in a strange location. Provide as much information as you can to assist their travel, including addresses, directions, traffic concerns, and local recommendations. All of these steps will help allow everyone to enjoy the event to its fullest extent.

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Just married couple kisses in the rain of rose petals

5 Things To Assail the Bride and Groom With That Aren’t Rice

Traditionally, wedding guests tossed uncooked rice as the bride and groom exited the church. That tradition has become less frequent due to a popular urban legend about birds getting sick from uncooked rice. In fact, birds eat uncooked rice in the wild all the time. Still, in the 21st century, we can put some modern spins on old traditions.

Biodegradable Confetti

Confetti is fun because it’s colorful. However, it’s important that the confetti be biodegradable. Traditional confetti is often plastic or metal. It can be uncomfortable to get under one’s clothes. Get a piece or two down the bride’s neckline and she’ll be itching the rest of the night. Regular confetti is also difficult to clean up, and it sits around in landfills forever. It’s also an actual hazard to animals which can choke on it or have it block or cut into their digestive tracts.

Biodegradable confetti, on the other hand, is water soluble, so it can simply be washed away, and it won’t harm animals who try to eat it.

Flower Petals

Throwing flower petals might be seen as a less aggressive gesture than showering the couple with rice.  Petals float gently, while rice comes down like rain. However, consider sticking with white petals, such as from white roses. Flower petals can transfer their color to objects they rub against, including the bride’s stark white wedding dress. While simply brushing against clothing is not a problem, wiping petals away can be. Also, some indoor venues don’t allow them due to the risk of them being ground underfoot into the floor.

Wedding celebration where bride and groom are surrounded by bubbles

Blown Bubbles

Bubbles are a popular novelty item for modern weddings. Little bottles of bubble solution made specifically for weddings can be bought in bulk. Besides showering the newlyweds in bubbles as they exit the church, guests can continue to play with bubbles until they run out of solution. This is particularly attractive if kids will be present, as it can occupy them while the adults are socializing.

Popcorn

Popped popcorn combines the symbolism of rice (representing abundance) with the eco-friendliness of biodegradable confetti. Animals can eat it without danger, it can be easily swept up and it quickly disintegrates.  Popcorn pieces are also big enough they won’t get under people’s clothing.

Bells

Nothing says the newlyweds have to be physically assaulted when they leave the church. The ringing of bells works just as well. The most common are a couple inches in height which can be affordably purchased in bulk. Tiny bells can also be attached to sticks and decorated with streamers, so that waving them creates both a wave of chimes and a flurry of fluttering colors.

Bells can also serve double duty at the reception, when people can ring them in lieu of clanking glasses to get the couple to kiss.

If the traditional rice throw does not attract you, there are plenty of alternatives. Biodegradable confetti, bubbles, petals, popcorn and bells are just a few of the possibilities to consider in customizing the big event for the bride and groom.

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Table setting with evergreen sprigs, pinecones and ribbon on a white wood background

Color Themes for Every Season

Color themes are a basic part of event planning. Repeating a limited number of colors across napkins, invitations, tablecloths, centerpieces and more creates an inviting sense of uniformity and sophistication, even for casual events.

If your party has a theme, color selection is often easy. Independence Day parties obviously call for red, white and blue. Graduation parties use school colors. Decorations for children’s parties are generally bold, while other parties often use more complex and subtle tones.

If a party does not have a theme, it might be more difficult to come up with a color scheme. One approach is to choose a single color, then choose one or two additional colors which work well with it. It’s best not to use all three colors equally. Choose one dominant color and use the others to lesser degrees.

If you’re having difficulty even choosing a primary color, consider taking suggestions from the seasons.

Spring

Spring is the season of returning life, and seasonal colors take their cue from fresh blooms. You might consider choosing a plant for decoration first and then working off of its colors for your color scheme.

Spring colors are bright and rich. You can include pastels, but don’t lose the brightness, and certainly stay away from muted colors that have been mixed with gray.

Summer

Summer is perhaps the most diverse in its color schemes. Like spring, it skews toward bright colors, although summer emphasizes pastels more. Summer colors often reflect warmth with shades of yellow, orange and red, but they don’t have to avoid cooler, refreshing colors either.

 autumn decor with candle, sunflower and pumpkin

Autumn

Autumn colors take their cue from the changing leaves. Golds, oranges, reds and browns are the base colors for this season, and mixing them often produces the best results. The oranges should bear hints of red or brown, for example, rather than being the bright color of the fruit.

Winter

Even people who enjoy the snow welcome returning to the cozy warmth of home. Therefore, winter colors are often deep and rich, while also being muted. Evergreen is a popular example. This deep green brings color to an often stark landscape – it’s the reason evergreens have been associated with the season for just about forever. However, it’s not a bright green like grass or summer leaves.

Stay away from stark whites. The snow already provides more than enough of it. Consider ivory, light gray and other off-whites instead.

However you choose your colors, do not feel compelled to follow strict rules. These ideas (and others found throughout the internet) are merely a starting point. Often, once a single color is chosen, it becomes much easier to find accent colors. Find a color scheme that is uniquely yours to help decorate all your events.

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Guests toasting at a wedding

Etiquette When Attending a Wedding

Attending a wedding may seem like a simple thing, but failing to follow basic rules of etiquette can cause huge headaches for the people planning the event, people who are already facing a lot of stress and a million things to do. Be a considerate guest by respecting the time and money of those who value you enough to invite you in the first place.

RSVP

RSVPs are immensely important to wedding planners. They tell them how many meals to prepare and tables and chairs to be ordered. Wedding planners may also invite additional people if a lot of invited guests are having to decline.

People who do not RSVP force the planners to guess. Do not think failing to send an RSVP will be taken as a decline. Such inaction causes huge headaches for the people attempting to wrangle the guest list and everything associated with it.

Do Not Bring Uninvited Guests

RSVP requests are directed to specific people. Sometimes invitees are allowed to bring a guest, but if that’s not expressly stated, don’t presume it’s appropriate. Extra guests mean extra spending on things like food, and limited space can easily become an issue. Don’t call the bride or groom asking for permission, either. That puts them in the awkward position of saying no to a friend or saying yes out of politeness. It’s not fair to them.

Turn Off Your Phone

Like many events, a ringing phone is completely inappropriate. Turn off both the ringer and the vibration mode for the ceremony, and consider how to handle the phone at the reception. You don’t really want it going off in the middle of the best man’s toast, after all, although it’s probably fine to escape the Chicken Dance because of a call.

Wedding guestbook on table

Sign the Guestbook

Guestbooks may seem clinical and unmemorable, but if the couple didn’t want it signed, they wouldn’t have put it out in the first place. Most importantly, the guestbook helps them keep track of who they need to send thank you cards to. And while you may feel a thank you to be unnecessary, it’s a common point of etiquette, and the couple will likely feel bad if they overlook someone.

Don’t Interfere with the Photographer

When the photographer is at work, leave him be. It can be tempting to sneak in a few pics of your own. After all, the bride and groom are already very nicely posed. But you’ll likely get underfoot, especially if you’re using a flash, as it throws off the photographer’s calibrations.

This isn’t just about pictures of the couple either. When the photographer is working with guests, steer clear.

Also, resist to photobomb, no matter how funny you think it is. Professional photographers are hired precisely because they can create memorable, classy pictures of the entire event. You making funny faces in the background ruins what they are trying to do.

Drink in Moderation

There’s no reason not to drink at a wedding. If there was, the couple wouldn’t give you the option. But drunks are obnoxious in so many ways. In addition, people shouldn’t be left wondering about your safety when, for example, you leave for the night.

Weddings are complicated affairs. You have been invited because the wedding couple wants to share their happy day with you. Don’t impose on them. Do everything you can to lighten the load they bear concerning wedding preparation and participation.

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bride and groom enjoying meal at wedding reception

4 More Things to Remember When Planning a Wedding

I’ve previously talked about things to remember when planning a wedding. The fact is the topic is just about endless. Weddings are huge deals. Even small weddings require a lot of planning. With that in mind, here are some more things to think about when planning the big day.

Save the Date Cards

Consider save the date cards. Many people find them unnecessary, seeing them as overlapping in function with invitations. However, there is an important difference. Invitations request an RSVP, at which point the guest is making a commitment to attend. Save the date cards simply alert guests to the upcoming event so they can make appropriate plans, plans that are easier to address six months out than two or three months out, when invitations are mailed.

Save the date cards should make it clear who is invited. Rather than saying “The Smith Family,” everyone should be named, just like on an invitation. That way there’s no question as to whether the children are welcome, if a guest is acceptable, etc.

You need to know the time and general location of the wedding before sending out a save the date card. You might not have the reception hall booked yet, but you need to know what city you’ll be in, so people can make travel plans.

Plan Early

Every aspect of a wedding can book up fast: reception halls, churches, caterers, photographers and so on. Get planning early. For a large wedding, it’s best to start a year in advance. Reception halls generally book up first, so it’s the best place to start planning. Reserve the hall and then work everything else around it.

Set a Budget

Whether the wedding is big or small, you need a budget. Everything you look at will have a more expensive alternative, and you need to know your limits.

It’s not enough to just have an overall price in mind. Divide the budget into categories: reception and catering, dress, cake, flowers, etc.

Together, expect the reception hall, caterer and bar to take up half the budget. Because some halls require you to use their caterer in exchange for low rates, it makes sense to budget these issues together.

Of course, there is some internal wiggle room. If your heart is set on a more expensive dress, consider limiting the flowers or using less elaborate invitations. But stick to the overall budget. It’s very easy to go into debt with a wedding.

 bride and groom at the church during a wedding ceremony

Spend Serious Time on Ceremony Planning

The actual ceremony is the most important moment of a wedding, and it shouldn’t be casually approached. Both partners need to express their wishes and not presume they know what the other wants. This can be particularly important when partners are coming from different faiths or have differing opinions on how religious a wedding ceremony should be. Compromise is a cornerstone of marriage, and finding an acceptable wedding ceremony can be a foundational exercise of compromise.

Weddings are complicated affairs, and planning is key. Start early, and make sure you have at least a rough road map of the planning process. Communicate with each other and with guests to avoid undo confusion and stress, leading to a truly memorable wedding day.

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Children at outdoor party playing tug o war.

5 Party Games for Children

A little planned entertainment can go a long way at a children’s party. Games encourage children to engage one another, whether they’re cooperating or competing. There are plenty of old standbys such as Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Hot Potato, and Musical Chairs, but the kids might be looking for something new, and you’ll be the hero of the party if you can provide it.

Scavenger Hunt

The great thing about scavenger hunts is that they are easily tailored to the age range of involved children. For small children, items should be fairly obvious and available on the premises. Older kids may be able to scour the neighborhood. Teenagers might be challenged with puzzles in order to identify the intended items.

Dress Up Relay

For Dress Up Relay, divide children into two teams and line them up. At the end of the relay course, place a collection of clothing big enough for all the children to wear. The first child in line runs to the clothes and puts all of them on over their own clothes. Then, they remove the clothes and run back to their line where the second child repeats the exercise. First team to have all players complete the task wins.

two group of kids playing with colorful hoops and throw them on cones while competing with each other during a summer children's party

Greetings, O Great One

It’s always a good idea to have some indoor games on hand, even if the party is planned to be outdoors. Weather is a fickle thing. Greetings, O Great One does not take up a lot of space and does not require children to run around.
Place one child in the center of a circle, blindfold them, and spin them around three times. Then, one by one, the other children say “Greetings O great one!” in a funny voice. The child in the center needs to guess who the speaker is. If the child guesses correctly, the child who spoke now goes to the center and another child in the circle repeats the phrase.

Team Balloon Pop

For Team Balloon Pop, divide everyone into two teams and line them up. On the other end of the game space, place enough blown up balloons so there’s enough for everyone. There should also be a chair for each team near the balloons. The first child in the line runs to the balloons, places one of them on the chair, and attempts to pop it without using their hands. Then, they run back to their team and the next person in line repeats the process.

Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story allows children to create their own collective story. The first child gives the first four words. The second child picks up where the first left off, adding four more words. This is continued until every child has had a certain number of turns.

Children can often entertain themselves, especially when there are distractions such as toys or a playground. However, organized games keep children on their toes even when other entertainment is limited or they have lost interest in it. Most games require little to no preparation and are light on the wallet, so you can make sure everyone at a children’s party has an enjoyable experience.

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group of friends playing karaoke at home. concept about friendship, home entertainment and people

6 Party Games for Adults

Socializing is a fine entertainment at any gathering, but sometimes you want to offer something slightly more organized to keep guests laughing. Of course, there are old standbys like Charades, Pictionary and even Karaoke, but there are plenty of other games you can also introduce to your friends.

Who Did What?

A great icebreaker game, Who Did What? requires each participant to write down three facts about themselves, each one on a separate piece of paper. Of course, the odder the facts, the more amusing the game is. All of the slips are shuffled and handed out randomly. Players take turns reading the slips they have received and guessing who each belongs to.

I Never

Hand everyone an equal number of toothpicks, pennies, or other tokens. Players take turns stating “I never….”, ending it with an action they’ve never done. Other players who have done it have to pay a token to the person who made the original statement. The goal is to come up with things you think many other players have done, while you yourself have not.

There’s a drinking game version of I Never as well, where people drinks instead of surrendering tokens. Depends on the kind of party you want to host.

The Continuing Novel

The Continuing Novel is great for creative types. The first player writes the beginning of a story six lines long. The paper is then folded to reveal only the last line. The next player adds six lines to the story, but only has the last line of the previous player to work from. Once it’s been passed around the room a designated number of times, the entire story is read out loud.

Two Truths and a Lie

Players take turns telling three facts about themselves. In truth, only two of the statements are correct. The third is made up. Everyone else has to guess which is the lie.

smiling group of young adults having fun at house party

Partners in Pen

Players are divided into teams of two, which sit back to back. A bag of random items is collected, and the first team member pulls one out and attempts to physically describe it without mentioning its name or what it is for. The second teammate draws what they think is being described. The team which correctly draws the most items wins.

Balloon Relay

The Balloon relay is something you’ll want to do outdoors. Divide guests into teams. The first player of a team  gets a balloon and a newspaper. They drive the balloon to the next player using only the wind currents generated by flapping the newspaper. When they reach the second player, they hand off the newspaper and the new player continues to move the balloon down the line to the next player. The last player should have an inanimate object as their target.

If the balloon touches the ground, a player or the newspaper, the team has to restart at the beginning.

These are, of course, just a taste of games which can be played at a party. They do not involve a lot of preparation and can be played by just about everyone. They don’t even have to be a firmly schedule event. Rather, you can pull them out if things appear to be slowing a bit. Having a few games in reserve is an easy way for party hosts to make sure their guests are entertained all day.

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girl floating on beach mattress and eating watermelon in the blue pool and pool party.

Throwing a Successful Private Pool Party

It’s the height of summer, which means lots of friends will appreciate an invitation to an afternoon in your pool. Even a low key party, however, needs a bit of planning. Consider the following to make sure your party doesn’t come up short.

Prepare the Pool

You already know there’s maintenance involved in keep a pool inviting. Start working on it a week in advance with a chlorine shock to make sure it’s crystal clean come party day.

Extra Towels

It should go without saying that guests need to bring their own towels. And, yet, they commonly don’t. Make sure you have extra towels on hand. Not only will it make your guests more comfortable, but it will also keep them from tracking chlorinated water all over your house.

Also, designate where used towels should go, so they don’t all end up piled on the bathroom floor.

Sunscreen

Ideally, everyone would also bring their own sunscreen, but inevitably someone will forget or just not think it’s necessary. Let everyone know it’s available, and if you see someone turning red, point it out and offer the sunscreen again.

Waterproof Speakers

Electricity and water are gnerally a terrible mix. However, every party needs background music. Thankfully, there are wide variety of waterproof speakers, so you can safely crank up the tunes. Many of these speakers even float, so they can bob along with listeners inside the pool. They are connected by bluetooth to a device such as a PC or cell phone which provides the playlist. Waterproof cell phones are the ideal connection, since they can be safely handled near the pool by people with wet hands.

group of cheerful couples friends playing water volleyball at a pool party

Games

Sitting in a pool can only remain entertaining for so long. Provide a couple entertaining amusements.. The options are nearly endless: floating ping pong tables, inflatable beer pong, noodle jousting, water volleyball and so on.

Drinks, Drinks and More Drinks

The presence of sweat is one of the cues which tell us we’re too hot. People can still sweat in a refreshing pool, but they never feel it. As such, it’s easy for people to get dehydrated after an afternoon of fun in the sun.

Make sure there are plenty of drinks available throughout the day, and give people a nudge if you think they haven’t drank anything in a while.

Non-Glass Drinking Vessels

Glass bottles and other drinking vessels are a terrible idea at a pool. With everyone barefoot, a single broken glass becomes a real safety hazard, and it’s even worse if the glass ends up in the pool.

Provide alternatives. Plastic cups are certainly acceptable, but there’s also options like silicone wine glasses which are both flexible and classy.

Light Refreshments

Food options should be on the light side, allowing people to eat a little or a lot as they choose. Heavy meals cause people to be sluggish and become more interested in a comfy poolside chair than the pool itself.

Pool parties can be pretty laid back affairs, but some basic preparation is still necessary. Also, to throw a really memorable party, a few extras like pool games go a very long way.

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