Sizzling Summer Outdoor Party Tips

The heat is on, Summer has officially begun and we have all settled into our "Dog Days of Summer" routine. Now is the perfect time to plan a fabulous backyard bash. We have scoured the internet for some fun and festive ideas to make entertaining easy, breezy and oh-so-fun.

Below are some of our favorite ways to plan, prepare, decorate, and enjoy your backyard bash.

The Planning Stages:

First, Pick a theme.

Are you going to host a daytime extravaganza, a night time bash, a luau, a pool party, or a Fourth of July Bonanza? You need to decide on the type of party you want to have, so you can figure out what you will need to make it a success.

Second, Plan the menu around your guest list.

Once you’ve made your guest list, send out an invitation (for casual get-togethers, a simple email or private Facebook event is just fine). Make it clear what you plan to serve, make requests for anything specific you’d like guests to bring, and be sure to ask if any guests have dietary restrictions. To make everyone feel happy (and well-fed), make sure you have enough food options for partygoers who want vegetarian, dairy-free or gluten-free fare.

Third, Prep early.

Making food ahead of time can alleviate stress. Chop up all the fruits and vegetables the night before. Prepare salads and side dishes in advance.

Fourth, Add extra seating.

Plan to have enough seating for everyone—they may not all be sitting down at the same time, but it’s always best to have the option. If you don’t have enough chairs for everyone, bring out stools, benches, blankets or even that old beanbag. Don’t be afraid to mix and match what you have! You can always rent folding chairs, too—they’ll only set you back about $2 per chair for the day.

Last, Make sure you have plenty of shade.

If you have a covered patio, this is a great start, but if you are hosting a party with more folks than can comfortably fit in that outdoor living space, you will need to provide shade elsewhere to protect your guests from the sun. To quickly create shade for an upcoming party, shade sails are an easy, economical option that you can purchase locally and install quickly. Umbrellas can vary quite a bit in price, but this option instantly provides shade with very little time spent setting them up.

Setting the Stage:

* A welcoming party space packed with personality doesn’t have to cost a lot. suggests using fresh flowers and greenery to add a pop of color and natural fragrance indoors and out, including in the bathroom. This simple decoration sets a relaxed mood and makes your home more inviting.

* To create magical overhead lighting, suspend lanterns from sturdy branches or hang string lights from trees. Tiki Torches will add a touch of tropical flare while keeping pests at bay. Day or night, the party’s on in your backyard.

* Choose music that will keep it light and fun, and your party will be too! Ask quests to bring a favorite playlist and rotate as the night goes on.

* Encourage your guests to visit well into the summer evening by having items they may need on hand. Think blankets, bug spray, and, of course—the ultimate summer party essential—s’mores supplies.

* Think about anything that might prevent entertaining outside and have a backup plan. For example, if thunderstorms are in the forecast, be prepared to bring the party inside. Set up food tables and a bar area and let guests help themselves.

Smooth sailing during the festivities: has some Secret Tips that will certainly come in handy:

1. Beat bugs to the punch. We spotted this cute (and genius!) idea on Mom 4 Real: Keep insects out of drinks by topping glasses with patterned cupcake liners. Poke a hole through the center for a straw

2. Reorganize your buffet. Place chips and salsa, veggies, and salads near the beginning, and end with more expensive food items, like meat and fruit," says Brittany Egbert at One Charming Party. "This will help stretch your spread, as people tend to fill up their plates before they get to the end."

3. Offer easy-to-grab utensils. "Wrap cutlery in a napkin — and tie with a pretty ribbon if you're feeling crafty," says Seri Kertzner at Little Miss Party. "The bunches look polished, and are easy to hold with one hand as guests fill their plates at the buffet."

4. Choose sturdy, but lightweight plates. I love trendy melamine dishes because they're not breakable," says Courtney Whitmore at Pizzazzerie. "They're perfect for poolside gatherings and backyard parties with kids." They are reusable so you're not filling up the garbage bin with lots of paper or plastic plates.

5. Get ice ready days before. Instead of lugging bags of ice home from the grocery store, plan ahead. "A few days before a party, I start filling up large zip-top bags with ice from my freezer's ice machine," says Lexie Sachs, a product analyst in the Good Housekeeping Research Institute.

6. Contain your Trash Place pop up trash and recycle receptacles through your yard so you guest can easily throw their trash and recyclables away, making clean up a breeze.

Fill ‘em up without wearing yourself down:

It is no fun standing over a BBQ grill on a hot day or being stuck behind the bar making cocktails, so keep the food and drink menu light and easy.

Here are a few ideas to make eating and drinking tasty, yet effortless:

Begin by Rocking the buffet table.

Grab some flat stones from your yard (or get the nice ones at a garden supply store), give them a quick cleaning, and write a menu item on each with a white paint pen. You can also use them as place cards or napkin weights on a breezy day.

Proceed by letting Chef Curtis Stone Bartend Batch his cocktails in advance, so you can enjoy the party.

Watermelon refresher. Prep time: 5 minutes. In a blender, combine 6 cups peeled seedless watermelon (about 4½ lb, or 1 small melon), 1/3 cup lime juice, 1/4 cup mint leaves, and 1 Tbsp sugar; puree until mixture is smooth and only flecks of mint remain. Add 1 cup white rum, stir to combine, and cover and refrigerate until cold. Serve with ice. (The watermelon mixture — before you add the rum — can be made up to 6 hours ahead. Refrigerate until serving.) Makes 6 cocktails.

Summer's Sangria. Prep time: 10 minutes, plus at least 2 hours chilling time. Combine 1 (750-ml) bottle sauvignon blanc or another dry white wine, ¼ cup St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and 1 Tbsp sugar; stir to dissolve sugar. Add 1 ripe plum (cut into thin wedges), 1 peach (scrubbed to remove fuzz and cut into thin wedges), ½ lb strawberries (hulled and halved), 6 oz raspberries, 2 (3-inch) strips lemon zest, and 2 Tbsp lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Serve over ice. Makes 6 cocktails.

Tipsy tee. Prep time: 10 minutes. Combine 3 cups lemonade, 1 cup bourbon, 1 small lemon (thinly sliced), and 1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger (peeled and thinly sliced, about ½ cup). Stir well to blend flavors. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Add to a dispenser and top with 2 (12-oz) bottles chilled ginger ale. Makes 6 cocktails.

Most importantly, keep your guests hydrated. Encourage your guests to drink water by making it readily available wherever they can grab a drink. Make sure your beer and soda coolers or buckets also have some bottled water, and make it more appealing by filling a larges drink dispensers with water and adding sliced lemons, limes, oranges or cucumber and place them throughout your yard, so grabbing some H20 is a no brainer.

Keep it Easy Peasy with the Food Menu:

Food Network star Michael Chiarello adheres to one rule when it comes to cooking for a crowd: "Less is more. Stick to one main idea and let that be the big event. Guests would rather have a single great main dish than a mediocre six-course meal."


Chop up vibrant veggies and put them in a tight grouping of pretty jars, bowls, or glass vases of varying sizes and heights. This also works well with fruits like watermelon, grapes, and strawberries. They'll look so lovely and bring the healthy.


When he's got a backyard crowd at his house, Chef Chiarello makes a giant four-pound burger (which serves six). Have your butcher at the supermarket prepare two ground-beef patties (you can also substitute vegetarian meat like impossible burger), two pounds each, for you (or shape them yourself in two round cake tins). Place each in a grill basket and cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer registers 125°F for medium rare — 8 to 9 minutes per side. Remove from grill and place cheese and whatever other fillings you'd like (Chiarello suggests caramelized onions) on top of each; let rest for 15 minutes. Sandwich the patties together and place them on a one-pound, hollowed-out loaf of round artisanal bread. Slice into wedges as you would a cake or a pizza, using a serrated knife, and serve with all the usual burger condiments.


Salad greens with cucumbers and tomatoes get old fast. Walters recommends switching it up with a bed of kale, pumpkin seeds — an excellent source of zinc — and dried goji berries, drizzled with a little olive oil and lemon for a satisfying starter.

You can also Make the salad party-pretty and easy to serve. Tori Tait at Thoughtfully Simple loves to present single-serve salads in berry baskets that she preps ahead of time. "It's a quick way to upgrade salad, instead of having everyone pile up on leafy greens from one big bowl," she says.


Serve gourmet chips without hiring a fancy caterer: Just warm plain packaged Kettle Chips or Cape Cod Potato Chips in the oven to release their oils, then toss with your favorite seasonings. Chef Chiarello likes smoked paprika and chipotle powder. Brown-bag it. Serve snacks in paper lunch bags. Snip off the tops and (if you want to get fancy) wrap them with colorful butcher's twine, then fill with chips or fresh fruit. "They're easy to grab and walk around with," says New York City-based event planner and blogger Amy Atlas. "Plus, it's one less dish you have to do."


Ice-cold bubbly is heavenly on a hot night, and blogger Kelly Lyden of The Party Dress suggests turning it into the most delish grown-up dessert: Chill well and pour over a scoop of your favorite sorbet. (Here we used raspberry and mango.) "Be sure to serve it with a spoon," she says, "so guests can enjoy every sip and bite."

For the kiddos serve frozen desserts with speed. Try this trick: "Pre-scoop ice cream into small bowls, place them on a cookie sheet, and stow them in the freezer until you're ready to serve," says Tait. This is especially helpful when you have a bunch of kids clamoring for dessert all at once.

Above Menu ideas from

Last but not least,

Our biggest and best tip when it comes to planning an outdoor party this summer: Have fun!  As long as the weather’s in your favor, the drinks are flowing, there’s plenty of food and everyone’s smiling, you’re pretty much guaranteed a great time. So pour yourself a glass of lemonade, put on your shades and have a blast while the sun’s shining bright.


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