If the recent bout of jacket-free weather is any indication, it’s that the Northeast may have finally escaped from the clutches of a lingering winter that felt like it might never end. Your apartment in New Jersey is the perfect place to mark this joyous occasion. There’s only one way to welcome the arrival of this much-anticipated warm-weather season, and that’s with a home gathering. Before you send out those invites to your exclusive VIP list, we have some tips to help you throw the perfect summer soiree at your apartment in New Jersey.

Choose a theme.

No, we’re not suggesting you throw a princess-themed party, here. Pick something a little more … adult. A favorite destination or fun era are always winners. Now, don’t think you have to go over the top and in-your-face with decorations and costumes galore. Instead, place a few tastefully appropriate ornaments here and there, and choose your menu accordingly. Speaking of menu …

Cold dishes and finger foods are your friends.

Even the most spacious apartment in New Jersey can be limited in square footage, so you’ll want to avoid having the oven running all day, kicking your air conditioning into overdrive, and making your guests uncomfortable from the start. Instead, put together an assortment of tea sandwiches, a cold pasta salad or two, and a refreshing array of dips to disperse throughout your pad. The best part about these types of dishes is that you can prepare them ahead of time, saving yourself the hassle of running around until the 11th hour.

Choose your food placement carefully.

Now that you have your food prepped, decide where you’d prefer people to gather. Partygoers tend to inherently flock to the kitchen. No surprise there, since that’s where the food typically is. But if you’d rather your guests steer clear, so the crowds aren’t in your way, be diligent about making sure the food ends up elsewhere. When it comes time to resupplying your empty serving dishes with more food, don’t let anything linger behind; bring them right back to where you want people to be.

Ditch the plasticware.

Yes, it’s easier to clean up. But unless you’re inviting a small army, kick things up a notch and use real plates, silverware, and glasses. It’s a subtle touch, but it won’t go unnoticed by your guests. (Plus, Mother Nature will thank you.) Just be prepared to disappear for a few minutes here and there to wash any stray plates that are inevitably left around the apartment, to make sure your supply of clean plates always remains intact.

As you can see, even if you’re in an apartment in New Jersey, and not a house, throwing a summer party is easy as can be. Just plan your event accordingly and you’re guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.