How to Plan a Big Backyard Bash (For Over 200 Guests!)

This weekend I am finally having an open house! I bought my house one year ago and it has undergone major renovations so when friends and family have asked about my progress, I have responded with, "You can see it this summer. I'm going to have a big party!" Well, sadly, summer's end is nearly here, but happily, it's time to have a party!I think of an open house as a casual all day affair where people pop in and out on their schedule, and a housewarming as being more rigid with a start/end time, a meal, and gifts. Before I go into the details, it's important to mention that I have a large yard with a pool and that the party will be happening outside. And it might be helpful to mention that I have invited over 200 people.

Here is my 15 step plan. (It's better than 20 right?)

1. Invite a lot of people including coworkers, friends, family and neighbors and make it kid and dog friendly via facebook and fliers.

2. Make the time flexible so those with kids can come early, and those without can come later. Suggest camping in the yard for those who really want to make a night out of it.

3. Provide a grill, some kegs, bottled water, condiments and disposable cutlery and ask people to bring their own grill food and specialty beverages i.e. wine or booze.

4. Provide inexpensive hot dogs, burgers and chips so there is something to offer guests. For an inexpensive dessert option pick up an extra large sheet cake from a grocery store.

5. Borrow or rent folding tables and chairs and set up an area specific for food with kegs, grill, plates, napkins etc. Cover the tables with cheerful colored flat sheets or panel curtains you might have lying around the house. (Borrow an additional grill if possible!)

6. Set up several small groupings of chairs throughout the yard for people to sit and chat. Ask people to bring a portable beach chair if they have one. Add lots of washable blankets around the yard for people to lounge on.

7. Decorate the yard with some large balloons, waterproof and reusable nylon lanterns and as many white Christmas lights as you can. White lights look great around tree trunks, on tree limbs, along fences, along the side of the house or on bushes. If you have any other types of lights, add those too. I am going to add some clamp lamps to the kitchen area and around the party games. For more ambiance add a colored gel. No one wants to party in the dark.

8. Rent a Porta-Potty. The basic model costs $100 for the weekend and it will spare you from having everyone in and out of your house.

9. Set up large trash bins throughout the yard and have a few bottles of bug spray on hand.

10. Get a fire permit from your local fire department for a camp fire.

11. Ask your musician friends and family to play and make it an open jam session. Have an iPod play list on hand for any down time. The speakers should be loud enough to create a vibe. A small stereo in the corner isn't going to add ambiance.

12. Make name tags for guests as an icebreaker. We are asking everyone to create a faux name for the party by asking them to select two questions out of a bag. Their answers will be their new name for the day. For example: "Who is your favorite talk show host?" and, "What is your pet's nickname? Add buck to that." Possible Answer: Winfrey Bubbabuck. Funny, right?

13. Order large "before" photos of your home if you've done a lot of work so those interested can do a walk through and see what you've done.

14. Tidy up your home, but don't clean it. It will only have to be cleaned following the party. Even if you host a party outside you will get inside traffic. I plan to post "Please take off your shoes" signs on all doors.

15. Have activities for guests to participate in. A few suggestions are: volleyball, teatherball, horseshoes,croquet, boccie and ping pong. Don't overdo the activities though, as adults generally like to converse and it will seem a bit contrived.

Image: Tanya Lacourse

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