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Everything’s better outside. Dining alfresco, swimming in a lake, reading by the pool and of course outdoor gatherings with friends and family. While the basics of a great party are common knowledge, it’s the little details that can take a party from good to great that are often overlooked. To give your gathering that extra something, follow these tips to create a backyard oasis that keeps guests comfortable, despite the elements.

First, spread the word. Though it’s often overlooked, sending an invitation can provide all the necessary details guests might otherwise call about. Invitations can be as formal or informal as you please, just be sure to include these three things on invites.

  1. When guests will be eating. To avoid re-firing the grill or leaving food out for too long, set a time frame for serving food. Something along the lines of “food will be served from 6 to 8” is perfect.
  2. Attire. This will depend on what type of festivity you’re hosting but do provide a dress code. It’s helpful to specify if guests should bring swimsuits or if it’s a special occasion request a more formal dress code.
  3. Rain plans. While you don’t need a rain date unless it’s a very large event, it’s helpful to add the note, “rain or shine.” This also helps field calls should the weather go south.

Second, plan seating arrangements ahead of time. For a small party, around eight to ten people, you can do a sit-down dinner easily. For larger parties, limit seating so your guests have to mingle, not just find a comfy chair and sit down for the evening. Stand-up cocktail tables are good so people aren’t juggling plates and glasses.

Third, light matters outdoors as much as it does indoors. All you need is a little ambient lighting. Hang strings of lights on the deck, the fence, even tree branches and add some hurricane lanterns or tealights. Try globe string lights, elegant round bulbs that give off a warm glow. If possible, light your landscaping from the ground up to make sure there’s sufficient light wherever people will be walking.

Fourth, keep bugs away. Eliminate standing water as it attracts mosquitos. A week before the event make sure rain gutters are cleared and any rainwater that has collected in flowerpots or outdoor decor has been emptied. To protect your guests from pesky mosquitos, citronella works, but if the smell bothers you, try sandalwood. Another option is to offer guests bug wipes. Stash them in a basket by the back door so guests can grab as they arrive.

Fifth, entertain the kids. Have some diversions for the kids ready to go. Activities like blowing bubbles and piñatas help keep kids occupied so adults are free to mingle. You can also buy a few inexpensive disposable cameras and let kids serve as “official” event photographers.

Lastly, beat the heat with fans and plenty of shade. If you’re hosting an evening soiree you can forgo a tented space but be sure to have portable fans on hand in case the summer heat gets to be too much. For daytime gatherings, be sure to have plenty of shaded tables and seating available.