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Party on! Be the ultimate party girl with these expert tips on throwing the hottest summer bash.

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Everyone loves a good party. But planning one--and then pulling it off--can be more challenging than keeping your bikini top on in the ocean. So, to get you in the hostess-with-the-mostess mind-set, we consulted top party pros for their best tips. Get ready to make your fiesta the talk of the summer!

HOW TO MAKE IT HAPPEN

Obviously, you have to get the OK from your parents. But whether you actually host it in your backyard or somewhere else, like a nearby park, is up to you.

GET a GAME PLAN: Before you ask, know the approximate number of guests you plan to invite, whether the party will be during the day or at night and what you'll be doing (like swimming, picnicking or dancing).

TIMING IS EVERYTHING: Don't bug Mom while she's cooking dinner or surprise Dad during a baseball game suggests Melissa Daly, author of 87 Ways to Throw a Killer Party. Find the right time to sit them down when you'll have their undivided attention.

MAKE YOUR CASE: Have you been super helpful around the house lately? Got a year-end report card full of straight As? Took your li'l bro and his friends to the pool three times this week? Giving them examples of how responsible you are will help them say yes to your party.

DON'T GO IT ALONE: To eliminate some stress, try the buddy system. You provide the location, and ask your Rachael Ray-wannabe BFF to bring the food, says Melissa. "Chefs love having an occasion to show off their stuff." Just make sure to split the cost of supplies.

WHO TO INVITE

A big summer bash is the best time for all of your buds to meet 'n' mingle, says Desiree Thornton, owner of A.M.E.E. Event Planning. Send invites to camp and school friends, neighbors, even the new girl you just met. "Every group needs fresh blood after a while," Melissa weighs in. At the very least, they can always talk about how they each met you!

TIME IT RIGHT: Whether you're creating a Facebook event or mailing handmade invites, let guests know two weeks ahead of time, Melissa tells us. And always ask for an RSVP so you know how much food to prepare.

IMPROMPTU IS OK, TOO: Last-minute parties are cool as long as they're low-key. Going to see the final Harry Potter? Invite your besties over after to rehash the gory details and watch a marathon of all of the earlier installments.

WHAT TO WEAR

Finding the perf party outfit depends on three factors: The time of day, the weather and the events taking place. Look lab in a cinch with these steps ...

BE COMFY: A backyard BBQ is so not the place to debut your hot new heels. You can't go wrong with a cute top and denim cutoffs or a simple sundress and strappy wedges.

BE READY: Get dressed with at least 15 minutes to spare before guests arrive.

KEEP IT SIMPLE: Don't make a fancy shmancy updo the, uh, mane event. You wanna be enjoying the company of your guests, not putting pins back in place.

AVOID MAKEUP MAYHEM: During the summer, you're always at risk for a makeup meltdown, so go waterproof (plus, you never know when you might "accidentally" end up in the pool!).

WHAT TO MAKE

Instant party foul? Lack of food. Take your party from snore to stellar with good grub--and plenty of it.

SIMPLE IS KEY: This isn't Top Chef, so don't stress about serving froufrou bites. Set out easy eats like hummus and pita bread, chips and salsa, veggies and dip.

MORE IS MORE: Plan on two to three servings of apps per guest. (Tons of guys on the list? Double that!). It's best to have more than you think you'll need.

SWEET SIPS: Sparkling water mixed with fruit juices like mango and lychee create an instant island feel. Throwing a fiesta? Buy a bottle of non-alcoholic margarita mix and serve it up in sugar-rimmed glasses. For a laid-back bash, bubbly sodas and bendy straws are always crowd-pleasers.

HOW TO MAKE THE PARTY FLOW

Keep your get-together fun from start to finish by making sure you've got these essential details down ...

SET THE MOOD: If you're having people over after dark, dim lighting is key (and, shh, it makes everyone look better!). String up pretty paper lanterns or Christmas lights around your backyard, or ask Mom and Dad to help you set up tiki torches. Indoors? Table and floor lamps create a relaxed vibe.

LAY IT OUT: Where there's food, people will gather. Set the drinks in one area and food in another to avoid clustering. Be sure to give guests easy access to cold drinks by arranging a few mini coolers around the yard, suggests Desiree.

MEET AND GREET: As soon as guests appear, it's imperative (and polite, natch) to introduce everyone and quickly offer drinks or snacks.

ENGAGE YOUR EARLY BIRDS: Keeping punctual guests busy puts people at ease and helps things run smoother. Ask a friend to set the table or gather all the pool toys together.

WORK THE CROWD: Yeah, it's your party, but that doesn't mean you get to stand in a corner the whole time, giggling with your crush. Bop around to make sure everyone's having a good time and no one is uncomfortable.

KEEP IT GROOVING

We've got easy ways to make sure your guests are mingling and moving.

PULL OUT A PARTY GAME: Kick it old school with fun that gets everyone involved, like capture the flag, Twister, limbo or scavenger hunts.

BINGO, BABY! One of Desiree's lave games? Human bingo. Give each party guest a sheet of paper marked with a grid of 25 squares. Each square contains a statement like "born outside of the U.S." or "has a pet hamster." The guests must find someone that'll answer yes and sign that square. Result? All of your guests chatting in no time. Bingo!

MIX IT UP: Got girls on one side of the BBQ and guys on the other? Set up a net over the pool for a girls-versus-guys volleyball game. Even easier? Just grab your boldest friend, go over to the guys and start talking!

TURN UP THE TUNES: This one seems like a no-brainer, but Melissa says it can make or break any party. "Make a playlist that builds to your favorite high-energy songs just after halfway through the night," she advises. You can even ask your guests to include a song request with their RSVP.

DON'T FORCE IT: If you've done everything short of chaining different groups together, give yourself props for trying and leave it alone. Forcing things will torpedo your bash and make you feel more like a mom than a social savant. In the end, a fun fiesta should be just that--fun! Relax and party on, chica.

Our lave finger food!

Melissa shared her crazy easy recipe for delish Thai Chill Lime Peanuts.

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Toss 2 cups of raw peanuts with a little bit of olive oil, sugar and coarse salt, then roast on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, dump them into a bowl and stir in 2 teaspoons of lime juice, 1 teaspoon of hot pepper sauce and a pinch of cayenne. Cool and store 'til showtime.
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Author:D'Argenio, Jessica; TayIor, Brittany
Publication:Girls' Life
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2011
Words:1227
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