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One of the many joys during summer is eating meals outside. Dinning in the fresh air can be a great way to have a large gathering with friends and family. Creating a festive outdoor environment for your group can require a little planning. Thinking through different weather elements like sun, shade and wind can help you work with mother nature so your party is foolproof and fun. Here are some tips that can make your outdoor gatherings stress free, so you can enjoy more time with guests.

Have a simple menu and nature based decor. Use seasonal flowers from your yard to decorate the table. Everyone loves resourceful and natural accents. Try to keep the food menu simple. This way you can make a few things ahead of time like pasta salad and dessert. It’s nice to have less to cook and prepare when people arrive.
Encourage socializing by setting drinks, appetizers and deserts in different areas of your yard or patio. If guests have to move about for different food and drinks it keeps the conversation flowing.
Let guests serve themselves. Set out drinks in a decretive tub or cooler so they can grab what they like without assistance. Set up a citrus water, lemonade or iced tea station so people can stay cool and hydrated. When it’s time to eat, setting food out buffet style can keep things simple and casual.
Keep bugs at bay. Use citronella candles or incense sticks to keep those pesky flying bugs away. Also consider having mesh food covers if bugs are a constant issue in your outdoor space. Festive cloth napkins can also be used to cover food if flies are starting to gather.
Prep the space. Before guests arrive set out serving plates and any necessary dishes, so when people show up you can greet them and enjoy conversation.