The sun is shining and the warm weather has arrived - so what could be better than bringing friends and family together to enjoy some good food in great company?
If you love the idea of a get-together, but your heart sinks at the stress of preparation and the hassle of cleaning up the party debris, you're not alone. But it doesn't have to get in the way of your plans. With these helpful ideas, you can take the pressure off and enjoy the party for a change.
Instead of worrying about topping up guests' drinks, free yourself from waitress duty by setting up a bar table in advance for people to serve themselves. Try putting up some recipes on a chalkboard for guests to have a go at mixing their own concoctions.
This will also give everyone a focal point for mingling and getting to know each other. Take a look at our recipe ideas for summer drinks for inspiration.
Reinvent the buffet
A buffet is the easiest way to serve food at a large gathering - but that doesn't mean dull pasta salads and cold meats. Try our guide to easy, delicious party food.
Or how about creating a burger bar instead? You can put out lots of different toppings, breads and condiments, so all you have to do is barbecue the meat.
For dessert, place large bowls of sweets with some striped pick 'n' mix bags and let people serve their own retro treats. Little and big kids alike will love it and it saves you the fuss of making pudding.
The RSVPs are in and the guest list is growing, but before you start hunting around for all the spare chairs you own, you could turn the lack of seating into a party theme by creating picnic areas in the garden. Just throw down some blankets and plenty of cushions for a relaxed vibe that will bring people together.
For an easy, beautiful way to decorate, collect old glass jars and bottles and pop in a few seasonal flowers or cuttings from the garden. (Check out this guide to help you choose from some of the most colourful summer plants.) Layer different height jars on the tables, in the bathroom and even lining the pathways for an al-fresco tea party.
If your gathering is likely to spill over into the evening, save some extra jars and put in candles and tea lights. You can even create wire handles for them to hang from the trees for subtle mood lighting.
Have your guests help
Clearing up can be so much easier when you get your guests to do some of the hard work for you. First, make sure you have bins positioned around the house or garden in obvious places. Label them 'rubbish' and 'recycling' to encourage people to clear away throughout the day.
You can also set up a 'dirty dishes' table where people can leave their used plates and glasses to save you having to dash around and collect them.
Make your glasses sparkle
When it comes to the washing up, no one knows more than the experts at Fairy. To get everything clean in record time, they recommend tackling the glasses first: their sparkle will benefit from the cleanest, hottest water. And the beauty of Fairy is that just a few drops are enough to cover all the plates from the party.
Are you an expert entertainer with tips for taking the stress out of hosting? Share your ideas in the comments below.