Patio and backyard parties are an essential part of summer. A gathering of friends and family to kick back and enjoy good conversation, food and fun. Playing hostess is a big responsibility but it doesn’t have to be stressful.

Here are some tips to pulling off an event to remember:

Prepare your space in advance. Take the time to mow, weed eat and garden starting about a week prior. Not only will it make your space presentable but tall grass makes for itchy legs and difficulty in playing yard games. If you know how many guests you are expecting, go ahead and set up tables and chairs. If you don’t have enough, don’t hesitate to ask your guest to bring their own lawn chair. They won’t mind.

Have bug spray, citronella candles and sunblock on hand. While many people will bring their own, there will be guests who won’t remember. A good host is prepared for anything.

Food is a priority. Patio and backyard parties don’t need to be extravagant. By nature, food served at these get togethers should be casual and wholesome. Consider it like a potluck. If you have a grill, offer your guests a variety of meats and suggest each bring their favorite side dish.

Your guests will ask what they can bring. Take them up on it. Not only will it help you with keeping costs down, but most party goers genuinely want to pitch in.

If you can’t afford to splurge on buying meat for a large crowd, don’t feel guilty, most people don’t expect that. Flip flop things by asking guests to bring whatever meat they’d like to throw on the grill and you create all the sides. A lot of people prefer to select their own steak, chicken breasts or brats.

Side dishes don’t have to be expensive to prepare either. Boiling a 5-pound bag of red potatoes, cutting and mixing with a jar of mayonnaise, diced green onions and bacon bits makes for the perfect potato salad for less than $10. It feeds as many as 10 people, too. A salad with diced onions, cucumbers, croutons and tomatoes is also inexpensive and simply to make.

If you don’t have a grill, think about doing a taco or nacho bar. You can prepare a large amount of ground beef or shredded chicken in slow cookers in advance to feed an army. The toppings are also inexpensive and simply to arrange. You could also buy hotdogs, brats and buns to roast around the firepit. And don’t forget to get the S’mores.

While hanging out and having good conversation is a given, be prepared with a good playlist of music and a few games.

Washer pits, yard darts and cards are simple and provide endless fun. As for music, just keep the volume low and know your audience. Keep the genre neutral.

Jenn Hall can be reached at jenn.hall@newspressnow.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPHall.