#SEENSocialTrends: Party Planning

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Now that summer is in full swing, people are enjoying family get-togethers, cookouts, weddings or just impromptu celebrate-the-fact-that-it's-warm outdoor bashes. But, not all parties are created equal. It takes more than just good food or great ambiance to be considered "the party of the summer."

If you want people talking about your summer soiree well after Labor Day, here are five tips to help plan the perfect party from Bob Sendall, founder of All in Good Taste Productions, a North Side party planning and catering company.

(1) Light and bite-sized: Cuisine must be "light, refreshing and bite-sized." This is bathing suit season, after all, and strolling suppers are becoming more popular than sit-down formal dinners. Bored with beef or chicken sliders? Try salmon, lamb or even a ham remoulade to make a divine nibbler.

(2) Sunny and vibrant: People often neglect ambiance when the focus is on the food, and that's a party planning problem. For summertime, "Shades of green or fuchsia are fabulous. Think bright and cheerful," he said. He also recommended warm tones of yellow, orange and red to create a vibrant atmosphere.

(3) Location, location, location: While there are many wonderful places in Pittsburgh to hold a summer soiree -- Mr. Sendall says one of his faves is Phipps Conservatory in Oakland -- he still plans more parties in people's homes than anywhere else. "People like entertaining at home. It's their space and lends itself to a personal touch," he said.

And if the weather permits, take it outside. "Whether it's your own backyard or botanic gardens, people want to enjoy the warm weather while they can."

(4) Get guests in the mood: Set the right tone and make sure guests are comfortable. Prepare for possible bad weather, have a back-up plan and don't overlook things like party flow. When are you serving cocktails? When is dinner? Will you have live music or are you relying on your iPod to provide the tunes? "Don't underestimate the power of mood lighting, either," he said.

(5) Dot the I's and cross the T's: Especially if it's your first big party, there will always be something you don't think of. Make a list and check it twice. "Always overthink it. If you have an open bar, make sure there is plenty of ice. You don't want people using their hands to scoop the ice, so always think of sanitation. You want everyone to walk away knowing that you were the host or hostess with the mostest!"

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