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Food & Drink

Throw an island-style summer party

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    The Neelys luau celebration (Tom Briglia/ PhotoGraphics Photography)

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    Hawaiian Pulled Pork (Lindsay Carlton)

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    Pat Neely learning how to hula. (Lindsay Carlton)

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    Aloha Noodle Salad (Lindsay Carlton)

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    Mixed Tropical Green Salad (Lindsay Carlton)

Still contemplating that end of the summer soiree?

Forget the traditional party themes and throw your own festive luau this year.

Food Network’s favorite celebrity couple, Pat and Gina Neely recently threw their own luau at the Food & Wine Festival in Atlantic City, where they featured their own spin on party ideas and Hawaiian dishes.

You don’t have to be on the Big Island to enjoy everyone’s favorite Hawaiian party. “A luau is really about all the energy, color and music- always taking everything over the top,” Gina told FoxNews.com.

The Neelys have all the tips and tricks you need to get your party started-- island style.

A tropical paradise in your own backyard

You don’t need to go overboard on spending for fancy decorations, just make it colorful and fun.

“In a luau, colors don’t have to match so you can use whatever plates you already have in your pantry and pick up some small vases to fill with all different colored daises to really mix it up,” Gina said.

Incorporate more colors around the yard by picking up some big plastic bins in bright colors.  “You can buy inexpensive containers at most department stores and they make great ice coolers for all your liquids. Plus you can make one just for recycling to help with the clean-up afterwards,” Pat told FoxNews.com.

The foodie pair also says to create a mood for when the sun goes down by stringing some lights around your patio or deck and setting out candles and tiki lights.

You can decorate the front of your house by putting out balloons and creative posters around the front door. “Buy a bunch of different magic markers and write “Party this Way” or “Get loud- Luau this Way”. You can have the kids help decorate them so they feel like they are part of the party too,” the Neelys told FoxNews.com.

Don’t forget the importance of a great centerpiece. “A melon basket is always a fun centerpiece to have,” Pat said. “Gina carves the middle out and adds all sorts of fruits like melon and honeydew balls. You can also take a pineapple and cut out a portion of the middle to put a small candle in it.”

A luau menu for everyone

When planning your luau menu you want to include a range of both traditional Hawaiian treats and classic BBQ favorites.

Recipe: Honey Orange BBQ Chicken

For appetizers the Neelys recommend putting out plates of meats and cheeses with crackers, burger sliders in lettuce wraps and chicken drummies, “Piggies in a blanket are a great option that are fantastically easy,” Gina said. “You can prepare them on a baking sheet the night before so in the morning all you need to do is paint some oil on them and throw the sheet in the oven before your guests arrive.”

Of course there is nothing like some grilled grub to get your tropical party under way.

“When I think of a luau, I think of grilling. Grilled pineapple, grilled shrimp skewers, grilled veggies and seafood, you don’t think of a heavy meal so you want to keep it fresh and somewhat light,” Pat said.

Some guests may be a bit pickier or health conscious than others so don’t forget to include different options for everyone.

“People are getting away from meat so you have to be mindful of your vegetarian guests so no one feels left out,” Pat said. “You can easily whip up a grilled corn salad. All you need to do is grill the corn after you husk it, cut the kernels off and add arugula, tomatoes and red onion. Now you have a light grilled salad that satisfies the appetite of those who don’t eat meat.”

The power couple says you should also have some sides pre-prepared so you’re not stuck in the kitchen while your guests are outside enjoying the party without you. Cold salads and pasta salads are perfect dishes to make ahead of time. “You can make a black-eyed peas salad the day before so it has time to marinate overnight and then serve it with some pita chips the next day,” Gina said.

Generally, if you’re throwing an outdoor party you should have foods that can sustain being outside and in warm temperatures.

“If you’re going to have a slaw of some sort place something cold underneath it and don’t bring it out too early. You should also use smaller containers of food and leave the rest in your house so as you get low you can just swap out your container,” Pat said.

It’s never too late to transform your backyard into a memorable outdoor soiree, and as the Neelys like to say, “let’s get it on and party!”