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Easy ideas for elegant outdoor summer entertaining
May 1 2013
(ARA) - To really impress your guests this summer, give your outdoor soirees a little extra elegance that goes beyond the usual grill-out. The good news is that it's easier than you'd imagine to create an ambiance that is welcoming and sophisticated.

One of the keys to throwing an upscale backyard get together is to plan in advance. Once you have an idea of what you'd like to do, it's time to start letting people know. And we all know how busy summer schedules are, so informing your guests as much as a few weeks ahead of time is a courtesy they'll appreciate.

Here are some of the elements you'll need to create the perfect atmosphere for outdoor entertaining this summer.

* Decor: Having a jumble of mixed and matched chairs can be either charming or a visual distraction. If you have an assortment of old wooden chairs, it gives things a rustic feel; if it's decades-old folding chairs in clashing colors and styles, it looks mismatched. Aim for a consistent look, whether it's shabby chic or modern. If your tables and surfaces don't tie in perfectly, there's an easy fix: simply cover them with a tablecloth that has the same feel as the rest of your decor. Add planters of flowers in colors that coordinate with your theme.

* Comfort: Swatting at insects during a party is almost impossible if you're holding a beverage and a plate of hors d'oeuvres and uncomfortable even if your hands are free. Warm summer evenings often mean bare legs and arms, and the last thing you want your guests to remember is how many bug bites they got. To add beautiful, soft lighting while discouraging bugs, opt for mosquito blocking candles. Place them on tables or around your patio. The Conceal line from Yankee Candle will not only block mosquitoes, it also has a pleasant, garden-fresh scent that will add to your party's ambiance.

* Menu: Food does not need to be elaborate to be both beautiful and delicious. Take a cue from the rustic food traditions of Italy, France and Spain, where simple foods like garden vegetables, artisan breads and grilled meats make a major impact with surprisingly easy preparation. Keep the focus on vegetables and fruits, with one or two meat, poultry or fish options, to create a beautiful, healthy arrangement of dishes.

* Music: Depending on the mood you want to establish, you can choose from an endless supply of music available for download. Try salsa music for liveliness, flamenco guitar for dramatic artistry, Malian kora music for serenity or updated bossa nova for an unmistakably summery, beachy feel.

Outdoor entertaining is one of the best things about summer, whether you're a host or a guest. When you're hosting, the main goal is to create a relaxing, lovely environment during which your guests can forget their every care, whether it's the stress of work or the usual summer annoyances of mosquito bites. For more information about the Conceal line of outdoor mosquito candles from Yankee Candle, go to www.yankeecandle.com. When you provide your guests with a perfect escape for one evening, you've mastered outdoor entertaining.

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