You need only two components to throw a fabulous pool party -- a pool and a sunny day.
So when torrential storms swept over former "The Real Housewives of New York City" cast member Jill Zarin's new Hamptons waterfront mansion, she simply grabbed her towels, sunscreen and table settings -- and rescheduled her pool party for the following week.
"The most important thing with a pool party is having good weather," the Woodmere native said the week before her originally scheduled pool bash. "We make plans and God laughs. That comes into play, and I always have terrible anxiety over the weather."
The second time was perfect.
With the help of Long Island-based celebrity event planner Andrea Correale of Elegant Affairs, the duo set the picture-perfect pool party -- and shared their secrets on how to give one.
"It's all about the pool, it's all about lounging, it's all about the resort style," said Correale, a few days post-party from her Glen Cove office. Instead of hosting a party in the evening, she recommended throwing a party in the afternoon so guests can fully relax in the daytime and enjoy all the amenities of the pool.
Even if the home doesn't come with amenities beyond the pool itself, it's easy to create some.
Before each pool party she hosts, Zarin invests in new fluffy towels for her guests, which she rolls up nicely to remind them of a spa. Then, she puts a basket of amenities -- including suntan lotion, spray water bottles, lip balm, sunglasses and hair ties -- in between the lounge chairs.
"It's all the things you need when you're sitting in the sun," Zarin said.
On the patio tables, place some great magazines and newspapers, just like they do at a resort, Correale added.
In the bathrooms, Zarin puts a basket of lotion, sprays and everything else her guests may need in case they left something at home.
The pool area itself should be simple, with plenty of seating areas, plush cushions and little mingling nooks, Correale said.
She set up one long dining table covered with homemade lobster rolls, summer salads and healthy, fresh foods that people could graze on at their leisure. Most of the fabrics were white with blue accents. To make the spread look festive and inviting, Zarin and Correale mixed pops of pink and white pillows.
"Look at the colors around your yard and your house, and try to embellish them with the choice of tablecloths and napkins," Correale said.
Since flowers would wilt in the sun, they decorated with fresh fruit that guests could eat instead.
"You always want to make it easy for the hosts, too," said Correale, who used gallon-sized bell jars containing homemade lemonade and pink lemonade. Adding vodka is optional. Colorful straws were provided.
Right before the guests eat, chill some washcloths and pass them out, Correale suggested. They can be cooled ahead of time in the refrigerator -- dampen them and sprinkle a few drops of lavender oil or lemon on them so the scent sets.
"It's inexpensive, but it's a really great element, and it'll make the experience really memorable," she said.
Zarin said she loves to leave guests with a little memory of her party. Usually, she bakes chocolate chip cookies the night before and puts them in plastic bags tied with a red, white and blue ribbon and a tiny American flag or other appropriate holiday decoration. She leaves the basket at the door for guests to take on the way out.
"I work hard, but I love it," she said.
POOL PARTY ON A BUDGET
Even if you don't have a celebrity budget, there are many ways to make these fiestas look and feel like a million bucks.
1. ENLIST THE IPOD The first thing to do is to figure out the budget -- and stick with it, says Francesca Tudisco, owner of Full Throttle Events in Bellmore.
Make one budget for entertainment, one for food and one for decoration.
This may seem overwhelming, but understand that some of the ingredients won't cost a cent. As for entertainment, it's possible to have an amazing party with an iPod play-list. Create a theme (luau, '80s, surf's up, etc.) and then create a music playlist to go along with it, Tudisco says.
2. CHEAP DRINKS Next, conquer the food and drinks. If you'd like to forgo standing at the barbecue for the entire party, contact your favorite restaurant to see if they'd be willing to provide the food.
"They may be less expensive than a caterer, and a lot of restaurants have catering options available," Tudisco says.
It's also very easy to make inexpensive but fancy drinks.
Add fresh mint or ginger to water for the ultimate summer thirst-quencher, said Melissa Mufferi, co-owner of to Rêve Events & Concierge in Levittown.
You could even do an entire water bar, says Andrea Correale, founder of Elegant Affairs caterers and event planners with locations in Glen Cove and Manhattan.
"When you do a pool party at home, it's not about doing a big bar mitzvah piece," Correale said. "It's about beach umbrellas and towels and servicing your guests and using the pool as the palette."
3. USE WHAT YOU HAVE It's also possible to decorate fabulously on the cheap.
Throw an old-school pool party by placing classic games like Clue or Yahtzee on all the tables or even just a stack of cards, and organizing Marco Polo tag games and swim races in the water, said Crystal Shea, co-owner of Rêve Events. Just make sure to keep the board games away from the water.
"Using your creativity and keeping it fun can bring any adult back in time to when they were a little kid," Shea said.
Or, take throw pillows, area rugs, fun lamps and other decorative items from inside your home, put them in the grass surrounding the pool and have a hippie pool party.
"There's no set standard for anything," Tudisco said.