The lazy days of summer are here, which means it's time to enliven the season by hosting a gathering.

In the heat of the day, your friends and family might chose to linger in air-conditioned goodness. But if that heat lets up a bit during the evening, pick anyplace from a sprawling front porch to a tiny patio as the go-to spot for friends. With July 4th around the corner, a few tables scattered near the grill or fire pit will draw the gang.

It doesn't cost a lot to give your home or outdoor space a bit of pizazz to brighten up the party, said Mindy Weiss, celebrity event planner with HomeGoods.

"When you think of what brings a party to life, you think of excitement and energy — and I really think it's all about the ambience that you create," Weiss said. "You don't have to spend a lot of money to create this."

She suggests adding a colored dish or bright glasses to your existing dishware, or adding extra lighting by tucking candles in unusual places.

Lanterns and bulb lighting offer an inexpensive way to create the light and ambience that will make your gatherings stand out.

Along with lighting, touches like flowers and handcrafted trays will help you create cheerful centerpieces for gatherings, said Aimee Beatty, in-house stylist for Pier 1 Imports.

"Let your decor reflect the best of summer — easy, fun and vibrant," she said. "Embrace your table as a main focal point, and combine your favorite accessories to create a cheerful centerpiece that instantly feels like summer."

No table? No problem, Beatty said. Serving carts bring the party to the action, whether you're serving snacks by the poolside or drinks on the porch. Especially during gatherings where small children are running around, she suggests dinner and drinkware that's pretty but practical — as in unbreakable.

When the sun starts to set, lanterns and LED candles around the patio will brighten up the festivities. But even before you map out your décor and plan the menu, Weiss points out something essential to every gathering:

"Consider your guest list," she said. "Are they all compatible? Are they all interesting? Try to mix it up a bit."

Once that list is down, check out these treasures, sure to help brighten your summer festivities:

L.L. Bean Original Folding Adirondack Chair


Seat your guests in style. This sturdy wooden chair, built to last for years of outdoor living, is a classic touch for every porch.

Sonoma Outdoors Presidio Patio Wicker Cooler


Who says a cooler can't be classy? We loved this beauty, and while we listed the full price, we found it at a deep discount.

Watermelon Condiment Set


Every party needs a little kitsch. This whimsical set is sure to make guests smile.

Citronella Sizzlewick Candles


Add a bit of soothing sound to your gathering. This citronella-scented candle has a wooden wick that sizzles and crackles when lighted.

Drink CarT

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Roll those drinks out to your friends, and add a bit of summer by decorating your cart with a bright summer bouquet.

Umbrella Drink Charms & Holder Set


No beach nearby? No worries. This charming set will bring a bit of the beach to your back porch.

Sonoma Melamine small bowl


Mix and match patterns and colors in these tough plates and bowls, which will hold together even in the hands of the rowdiest guest.


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Imagine you're lounging by the beach with colorful tumblers.

Candles and Tray

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When the sun goes down, carry a bit of light out to your guests at an outdoor gathering.

Summer Quench Acrylic Drinkware and Pitcher


Nothing puts a damper on a party like a shattered glass. This elegant looking set will ensure your party has no surprises, because stumbles happen.

Rania Serving Cart


These carts are making a huge comeback, as more people catch on to the classic look and the ease of rolling a cart full of beverages out to guests.