Refreshing Pool Party Ideas That Are Afloat With Style

High-class meets low-key.

Pool party
Style Me Pretty Living/Rachel Red Photography

We know, we know, the words “pool party” conjure visions of floaties and volleyballs and red plastic cups - not exactly the atmosphere you associate with the elegant poolside gala of your dreams. But your craving for high-style entertaining and laid-back pool vibes can co-exist. Here, we’ve put together everything you need to know to plan the perfect poolside fete.

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1. Set the Tone

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There’s a big difference between a backyard BBQ and a Hamptons White Party so let guests know what vibe you’re going for in advance with invitations. Don’t be afraid to go beyond the standard - we love a summery, on-trend tropical print. To help avoid awkward interpretation mishaps, feel free to include a dress code - no one wants to show up wearing swim trunks when everyone else is in crisp linen slacks.

2. Keep It Cozy

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When it comes to relaxed environments, remember that coziness isn't just for the cold winter months. Drape soft materials like over seating for added comfort. A basket for shoes in the entryway also lets guests know they can truly kick back and relax - and keeps accidental trip hazards out of the way - while offer shaded spots so everyone can enjoy their own perfect party environment.

For parties that stretch into the evening, boost the ambience with lanterns. To avoid the mess of real candles, substitute battery-powered artificial candles or LED string lights that will last until fall comes calling.

3. Create a Tablescape

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Style Me Pretty/Rachel Red Photography

For a party in the carefree summer months start with a bold table runner that gives structure and personality to your tablescape without the wind and fan-induced flapping of a tablecloth. Add a statement piece such as a dramatic serving bowl for a tablescape that's both wow-worthy and relaxed, or lift your look with un-fussy foliage. "Green truly livens any table, so consider creating a tablescape of your existing houseplants or succulents, or just head outside and grab a few clippings to showcase in a pretty vase," says Abby Larson, founder of .

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4. Easy Drinking

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If you're serving beer, sodas, or keeping wine bottles chilled, a good ice chest is essential. Much more chic (not to mention easier to move) than your dad's old chill chest, lets guests help themselves to ice cold drinks, while a built-in bottle opener and cap-catcher keeps your space tidy. And unless you love breaking out the dustpan, it’s also worthwhile to take out some insurance against the inevitable dropped drinks with grown-up plastic barware (we like ); because nothing brings an evening to a screeching halt like broken glass meeting bare feet.

5. Pour It Up

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You don’t want to spend the whole party trapped behind the bar, so plan ahead by premi a cocktail that just requires a few finishing touches when guests arrive, like a classic Mai Tai. Or skip the mixology altogether and prepare a DIY tasting of everybody’s favorite summer sip - rosé: just head down to your local wine shop to pick out a variety of inexpensive blush bottles and let your friends debate their favorites.

6. Make a Fête Feast

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Part of the appeal of a poolside soiree is the easy-breezy sensibility, so don’t spend your time laying out a three-course plated meal when you could be lounging by the water. Instead, opt for upscale takes on playful summer food like sliders (try these lamb sliders on rosemary buns) or one-bite finger food (like strips of pickled watermelon rind wrapped in prosciutto.) Alternatively, get everyone in on the act and ask guests to bring along their favorite antipasto or salad for casual alfresco nibbling.

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