Plan the Perfect Outdoor Party

Scented geranium - Summer Party Tips - David Stark
Photo: Getty Images

Plan the Perfect Outdoor Party

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Porcelain hurricanes - Summer Party Tips - David Stark
Courtesy West Elm

Famed event-planner David Stark shares his best tips for throwing an outdoor party.

Invest In a Few Perfect Pieces
"With the light of the moon, you can get away with little decor in the summer," Stark says. "But I am a sucker for lanterns to enhance a balmy night-several create instant magic!" He loves these porcelain hurricanes ($19-$49, westelm.com).

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Incorporate Nature

Incorporate Nature
Courtesy Napkins with a Twist (Artisan). Photo by Mick Hales.

Stark suggests using items you already have in your house or backyard for easy table décor. Try his creative seating card idea: Write or rubber stamp the names of your guests on leaves, rocks or shells (left) instead of standard folded paper cards.

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Try Non-Traditional Centerpieces

Try Non-Traditional Centerpieces
Courtesy Susan Montagna

Instead of expensive flowers in a vase, use potted plants that last for months. "I specifically put table-size plants (six-inch pots and under) in my garden, so I can create multi-leveled centerpieces," Stark says. Just brush off any dirt on the sides of the pots before placing them on the table. "After the party, the pots get re-positioned back into the garden." Stark also creates (edible!) centerpieces out of fruit for a pop of color. A small basket filled with strawberries makes a beautiful, yet practical, arrangement.

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Buy Items You Can Use All Year

Light bulbs - Summer Party Tips - David Stark
Courtesy Restoration Hardware

"I adore strings of old-fashioned bulbs, suspended above my roof garden," Stark says. "They make any outdoor event festive-even dinner for two-and they offer a very flattering light." These globe lights ($39, restorationhardware.com) are fun in the summer months and are also perfect for the winter holidays, so you never have to take them down.

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Upgrade to Cloth

Upgrade to Cloth
Courtesy West Elm

"People often feel linen napkins are meant for the dining room, but I adhere to the rule that every time you eat, it's a celebration," Stark says. His favorite Tekla dishtowels from Ikea are only 79 cents a piece, so you won't get upset if they get stained, and they won't blow off the table like paper napkins. He pairs them with David Stark for West Elm canvas placemats (left) for the perfect vibe.

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Keep the Bugs Away...Naturally

Scented geranium - Summer Party Tips - David Stark
Getty Images

"I plant pots of scented geranium in my garden," Stark says. "It's a natural, beautiful bug repellent." If you don't have a garden, add some scented geranium in your flower arrangements to keep insects at bay.

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