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If you're hosting friends this year for a Memorial Day barbecue, follow these rules for a stress-free, sure-to-please party.
1. Look at your guest list to figure out which guests you can invite online and which will need a paper invitation (depending on age and Internet use). You can create an online invitation through evite.com for a quick -- and free! -- invite. Ask each guest to RSVP so you know how much food to prepare.
2. Decide where you're going to have the party. Is there room to host it at your home, or would it be better at a park or other public place? If you're thinking of a park, call ahead to reserve the space. Then you can use the picnic table, grill and other accommodations provided by the park for that specific time.
3. Whendeciding on amenu for your party, keep it simple. I always have enough food for everyone, but I still write on the invitations for guests to feel free to bring their favorite dish. This way, if someone is a picky eater or likes a particular food, that guest will have the option to bring it to the party to share with everyone.
4. If some of your guests have children, have a few games and puzzles on hand. You can also request on the invitation that guests bring their favorite game. If it's warm enough outside, a fun activity for kids is to run through a sprinkler. (If you do this, be sure to tell guests to bring a towel and swimsuit).
5. Another favorite activity of mine is to organize a baseball or kickball game. You can set up the teams by putting women against men or randomly drawing numbers. This is a great activity if you're hosting your party at a park.
6. Remember, no matter which outdoor location you pick, be prepared for lots of dirty plates, cups, napkins and more. Place large trash bags in various locations to make disposal easy, and run over all plastic furniture with all-purpose cleaner and paper towels pre- and post-party to make sure no one sits in last year's collected dirt or this year's spilled soda.
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Julie Smart is the mother of five wonderful children and a blogger at couponsavingfamily.com.