Summer is around the corner, which means it’s almost time for breezy beach picnics and laid-back outdoor entertaining. The key to a killer event? Planning, creativity, and a stunning sunset. Orchestrate the perfect backyard get-together with these tips, then kick back and savor the season with your guests.
1. Set the Tone
Whether you’re inviting people over for a casual afternoon barbecue or an evening sit-down dinner under the stars, give your guests an idea of what you’re planning so they can come prepared. Mention whether the dress code is coastal casual or summertime spiffy. And if you’d like guests to bring something, give them some guidance so you’ll have a selection of fresh salads, sides, and desserts on hand.
2. Serve Food That Says ‘Summer’
One key to successful summer entertaining: Dishing out food that presents well in hotter temperatures and that can please a crowd.
Some sure-fire ideas to consider:
- Grilled meat, chicken, fish or even pizza.
- A summery salad that can be tossed then served in a kitchen-to-table salad spinner accompanied by homemade dressing. Add in charred lemons or peeled peaches for extra seasonal flavor.
- An array of farm fresh vegetables served with a yogurt dip infused with fresh herbs.
- A dessert platter of ripe pitted cherries and already-hulled strawberries. Or simple no-bake treats, like old school popsicles or, better yet, a classic ice cream pie—all of which can be kept cool in an insulated tote.
3. Stock a Self-Serve Beverage Bar
Free yourself from bartending duties by allowing your guests to help themselves to refreshing drinks and innovative cocktails with sunny flavors like lime juice and hibiscus or iced tea blended with sangria. For a non-alcoholic option, set out sparkling lemonade, and if your guest list includes wine or coffee lovers, include a few insulated canisters of cold brew and frosé next to an ice bucket.
4. Design Relaxed Seating Arrangements
Instead of a pre-planned, more formal seating map, encourage guests to mix and mingle by subtly demarcating a few different seating areas. If you’re entertaining in the evening, string up lights or lanterns near any garden furniture that might otherwise be too dark to enjoy once the sun sets.
5. Set Out Supplies
Nothing’s worse than swatting away insects while trying to eat. So, place citronella candles strategically around your backyard, patio, or deck and set out a portable caddy or transparent containers filled with bug spray or towelettes, skin salve, and flashlights. Another good idea: Stand forks, knives and spoons in open containers so guests can reach for what they need, and put out extra napkins in a dispenser that prevents them from flying away.
6. Offer Entertainment
Corn hole, croquet, ring toss, badminton—well-loved lawn games make every summer event more enjoyable. Set up a few activities to help kickstart conversation and liven the mood before food is served, especially if your party is going from day to night.
7. Make Clean Up Easy
A huge mess can put a damper on even the most stunning summer evening. So simplify clean up by setting out a few trash or recycling bins that make clear where used disposable items should go. And ask guests to stack their plates and utensils on a small table near the kitchen door, which will make it simpler to transport everything back inside once the party’s over.
Looking for more outdoor entertaining ideas? Next time, branch out with adventurous food options such as watermelon skewers, avocadoes, or haloumi cheese prepared on the barbecue.