MAKE A SPLASH!
1. As soon as guests arrive, greet them with a tray of ice-cold cocktails. It'll put them at ease and in a celebratory mood at the same time.
2. A pool party staple has a higher calling. Crush potato chips and use the crumbs as a crispy coating for chicken.
3. Skip the classic buffet table so guests won't congregate in one area. Instead, set up a few mini serving spots around the pool. You (and your guests) will be free to mingle.
4. Set up candles or outdoor lamps around the entire outdoor area. Clusters of light cast a more flattering glow. One caveat: Don't put citronella candles near the buffet. The chemicals can mess with the flavor of your food.
5. Place a basket close to the pool for guests to leave their watches, jewelry and other personal items in before swimming.
6. Arrange a little grooming station in the bathroom with lotions, bottles of sunscreen and towels. That way, your guests can freshen up after a dip.
7. Fill an inflatable boat with ice, beer, soda and bottled water, and let it drift over to the swimmers.
8. Turn Spicy Shrimp Boats into a one-bite treat. No one likes being stuck with tail ends!
9. Serve Mini Peach and Pesto Pizzas, a lighter version of pizza by using a pesto "sauce" and tomato and peach toppings.
10. Save the environment and amp up your style at the same time! Pass on the paper plates and serve your snacks on melamine pieces. It adds a splash of color to the party, and holds up well to wet hands.
11. Create a comfortable lounge area by scattering outdoor throw pillows along the pool's edge. Chlorine-shy folks will love kicking back and testing the waters.
12. Add a few drops of blue food coloring to a hurricane vase filled with water, and place a floating candle on top. It sets the mood and highlights the food.
INSTEAD OF ... TRY
Instead of sending a mass e-mail inviting every soul you've ever met, try crafting hand-written invitations -- it helps you edit down the list.
Instead of throwing the party during the day (hello, sunburn!), try kicking things off at dusk -- when the sun casts a sultry glow.
Instead of the obvious soundtrack of The Beach Boys and Bob Marley, try taking a cue from your iPod with year-round favorites