Secrets to a Successful Summer Dinner Party

Host a summer dinner soirée your guests will love.
The cool evenings, crickets chirping, and the warm, floral scent wafting in the air: ah, yes, it is summertime, the perfect season to gather friends and family for dinner outside. With a few tips and tricks, you could be the next 'hostess with the mostest' among your friends. We asked Shine readers for their secrets to a swanky summer dinner party. Here are their 11 tips for a successful soiree:

1. Invite the right people: "Think back to your wedding or an event that brought many people together. It was a roller coaster and your face hurt at the end of the day from smiling and trying to remember half the names. Don't let this happen to you again. Carefully choreograph your invite list with friends who are compatible and hopefully know each other. It will relieve you of the burden of introducing people constantly and worrying about people standing or sitting alone and looking bored." -- Steve Nubie

2. Prepare for unexpected guests: "More often than not, we have that single friend who brings their hot, new date, or the mom whose babysitter cancelled. Even guests who said they couldn't make it sometimes show up. Be able to not only accommodate with seating, but with food as well." -- Kate Tabers

Wear a pretty dress, and make your guests feel at ease.3. Be a hostess with charm: "You maybe no Zsa Zsa Gabor, but wear a pretty dress; let your personality sparkle and crack a few jokes to set your guests at ease. Set the tone and mood of the party by greeting your guests with a smile and welcoming them into your home. Recently, I had a party and as the guests were arriving, I wasn't quite ready yet. Instead of making a big deal about it, I asked a guest to be my 'wing-woman hostess' and takeover while I spent 10 minutes finishing my makeup and hair." -- Domestic Diva

4. Keep bugs away: "Keep those little 'buggers' away by hanging a couple of Ziploc bags filled half-way with water. Add 4 or 5 shiny pennies, and you have yourself a natural insect deterrent. The water magnifies the shine of the pennies which creates a million-prism effect. The bugs can't see; therefore they leave, and you can enjoy your time outdoors." -- Ria Warrick

5. Choose a theme: "Game night, movie night, spring fling, birthday, or end of school theme. A theme sets the tone for the party and gets people in the right mind set. A theme helps you, as the host, focus on what you want to have without stressing out." -- Eva Gordon, LMSW

Display herbs from your garden for a fresh, summery aroma.6. Display fresh herbs: "I bring nature indoors. I love the smell of fresh herbs in the house. I choose a new scent for every party. My last party included peppermint from my garden, which is a very aromatic herb. I placed it in strategic corners of the room. The idea was to let my guests smell the sweet nectar of summer. I also used the peppermint in the lemonade which was served as a refreshment before dinner." -- Rebecca Mayglothling

7. Decorate: "As an event designer, I pay particular attention to this component of the dinner party. I want my family and friends to enjoy themselves in a setting that will cause them to dine in an open and friendly atmosphere. With any budget, you can create a dining environment based on lighting and color alone. Flowers are the easiest way to change the décor of an event." -- Ndidiamaka C. Onukogu

Have guests bring coolers of their favorite drinks to share.8. Coolers of drinks: "Something my aunt always had us do was bring our coolers with our favorite drinks. This way there are several coolers with various drinks in every turn of the party area and no guest should be left feeling hot and thirsty. Also, you don't have to worry about an obscene amount of traffic and flies going in and out of your home." -- Stefany Dean

9. Have a fab non-alcoholic drink: "Don't set out a few two-liters of soda and tell everyone to have at it. It's important to make a really good non-alcoholic drink that will appeal to all of your guests. Not only will your guests think you are super classy, they will also know that you care about them. It's easy to find sangria and punch recipes on the internet that are tasty, fun, and feature no booze. How about some homemade lemonade? Always a summertime favorite." -- Kylie Earls

10. Earn cool points: "Why not prepare something more exotic, such as shrimp cooked in white wine and seasoned with fresh herbs? Whether you want to experiment with seafood, pasta, or anything else, there are so many recipe books and cooking blogs out there to use as a reference. Plus, having an exotic dish on the table will most likely earn you some 'cool points' for going outside of the box and trying something new." -- Ieva Ulozeviciute

11. Let them bring cake: "A dinner party is a communal social occasion, and many will feel rude showing up empty-handed. Even if you want to plan every detail, being a hostess is about making your guests comfortable. If your guests bring food or drink, try to serve it (use the time before or after dinner). At a less formal party, you can make appetizers or dessert pot-luck to give everyone a chance to contribute something. Just make it optional, and have a back-up plan in case you get all chips and no dip." -- Jo Conklin