Summer parties are just the best, aren’t they?
Food, refreshing drinks, sunshine and a light breeze, games and laughter…
Backyard parties are casual, social and fun. Nothing formal, stuffy, expensive or stressful (you’re stressed enough!)—just easy, lazy, awesome summer socials! And outdoor parties are so much easier than indoors! Instead of fitting people in a small living room or a hot kitchen, you can spread out in the yard. Kids can run around and play and clean up is usually a breeze.
The great thing about backyard parties (besides the simplicity) is that you can have several over the course of the summer. They’re not major events that require extensive planning. In fact, the more casual you keep it, the more time you’ll have to socialize and enjoy yourself, which we all know is the BEST part of the party, right?
What’s Holding You Back?
We often feel like we can’t entertain in our backyards because everything isn’t “perfect.” Maybe our garden isn’t growing (IF there’s even a garden to be had). Maybe you didn’t have time to plant flowers this year or even mow the lawn.
Don’t let that stop you! You don’t need fancy surroundings or even lawn furniture to have an awesome backyard party. You deserve it!
So haul out a card table and fashion a few benches out of logs and planks, ask friends to bring their camping chairs, or spread out a few blankets for a picnic-style get-together. Small backyard? No problem! Move to the porch, grill out in the driveway, and hold a tailgate get-together with bag-toss and a baseball game playing on the radio. No yard at all? Head to the park!
The main idea is give yourself a chance to relax. Again: you deserve it! Allow yourself some time to chill out and adopt a summer mentality: easy, breezy, fun and enjoyable!
Here are 10 tips to host the BEST backyard parties to keep you and your friends enjoying yourselves all summer long!
1. Pick Your Backyard Party Theme
While it might seem like more of a hassle than it’s worth, I promise: choosing a theme for your backyard party actually makes party planning much easier. First of all, establishing a party theme helps you create your vision for the event, so you’re sure to see a boost in creativity as you work out all the fun little details! Plus, choosing a party theme will actually help you stay on budget because you’ll know exactly what you need to create the right atmosphere.
Try a great summer theme like lemonade, camping, beach party, tailgating, or New England crab boil. Is this a garden party for your book group or a baseball party for some rowdy sports fanatics? The outdoors and the season lend themselves to so many ideas. The sky’s the limit.
2. Decide on Your Attendees
Envision your backyard party. Who do you want to invite? Will there be kids? How old are they?
Once you’ve decided who’s invited, it’s always fun to make real invitations (everyone loves getting mail). If you don’t have time (as many of us busy moms certainly do NOT), sending out email invitations or simply texting or calling is just fine. For more formal parties, you’ll probably want to start planning a few weeks ahead, but impromptu gatherings of 8-10 friends can happen in just a day or two.
3. Plan a Simple Menu
Summer backyard parties aren’t heavy cooking events or formal dinner parties. People like to eat light in the summer, so don’t feel like you need to toil away in the kitchen and miss out on the whole get-together. Plan dishes that can be served cold or as part of buffet—pasta salads, bread and cheese platters, green salads, pickles, chips, fruit, and Mediterranean or Mexican dishes often work well. Try to keep side dishes simple and of the make-ahead variety.
If you or your spouse LOVES to grill, then by all means, grill! But don’t force someone to be the grill master (including yourself). It’s perfectly acceptable to make a slow-cooker main dish like taco filling, pulled pork or chicken, and simply use the grill to char up a few veggies or corn. Kabobs can be prepared and created ahead of time, and if you want to do hotdogs, hamburgers and standard grill fare, let guests keep an eye on their own burger. Provide a few vegetarian options if you have any non-meat-eaters in your midst (best to plan ahead just in case).
Dessert can be a simple ice cream with fresh berries, or frozen fruit pops. Everyone can snack on raw crudités and salsa or hummus instead of heavy chips and creamy sauces that don’t hold up in warm weather. Sugar snap peas, blanched green beans, cherry tomatoes, and pepper strips all make great items to round out the menu with ease. Choose food that’s kid-friendly and low-maintenance.
4. Create a Fun Beverage
If you’re trying to host on a budget, it can be a challenge to offer a full bar with beer, soda and juice. Instead, offer up a “signature” beverage like lemonade that can be “spiked” or doctored as preferred and water. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask people to BYOB if they prefer beer, wine, or a special beverage.
Put your drinks in fun pitchers, coolers, or a pretty beverage dispenser. Adding fresh herbs like mint or lemon balm or fresh fruit can make even water seem festive and fun. Use plastic drinkware outside. Who wants to spend a party fussing over broken glasses? Outdoors, accidents can happen!
5. Add Ambiance with Music & Lighting
Nothing sets the mood quite like music and lights. Suspend pretty paper lanterns from trees or use strings of lights around your porch or yard. Tiki torches can be a little dangerous with flames and running kids, but you can find cute lanterns that use batteries or solar-operated lights instead.
When you pick music for your party, go with songs with universal appeal—retro favorites, oldies, beach, and summer pop music. It can also be fun to try jazz or instrumental music with a nice beat. Keep music quiet enough to talk and hear conversation over (and keep your neighbors happy), but remember, music can make the party!
6. Go for Eclectic
When it comes to décor, outdoor parties are easy because you can really go Bohemian and funky. There’s no reason to worry about matching plates and table accessories. Jars can make cute vases and cups. Food can be served on a wooden cutting board or other flat surface. You don’t have to go for traditional serving ware!
Paper goods are always easier to clean up after, but if you’re concerned about waste (or cost), just bring out whatever mismatched dinnerware you have on hand. Outside, no one will notice or be concerned.
7. Get Playful!
Backyard parties are a great time to play games! Spray paint Twister dots or play giant tic-tac-toe on the lawn. Play Jenga with blocks or play yard games like bocce ball, croquet, or bag toss. There are so many options when it comes to kid’s outdoor games—tag, hide and seek, scavenger hunts, and more. Don’t forget to have a football or playground ball on hand in case your guests want to toss it around (especially if you have a large yard).
You can also try hosting a fun theme, such as swimming or water fights, or tacking up a sheet, renting a projector, and having an outdoor movie party. Even if you aren’t actually camping, feel free to start up a bonfire, roast marshmallows, and tell ghost stories.
8. Keep Pests Away
The least-awesome part of summer is dealing with bugs! Mosquitoes, ticks, and wasps can chase guests away and leave them uncomfortable. A few days before you hold your party, go around the yard and look for anything that needs to be attended to. Remove any areas with standing water (a breeding ground for mosquitoes) such as birdbaths or toys in the yard.
Burn citronella candles in your yard, starting a few hours before guests arrive, and offer bug spray to protect your guests. Similarly, also have some sunscreen on hand to keep your friends from getting burned. For kids’ parties, be sure to keep some icepacks stashed in the freezer, and Band-Aids on hand for any boo-boos.
9. Let Guests Know What to Expect
We’ve all gone to a party in heels and ended up aerating the lawn—or forgotten a jacket on a chilly summer night. Give your guests a heads up so they can plan accordingly. Remind guests it’s going to be an outdoor party and suggest they bring along swim gear; if you have a pool or hot tub, or to be prepared for a bonfire.
These little heads-ups beforehand can go a long way to ensure your guests arrive prepared and excited about what you plan to do for activities. You may also want to be prepared with a few extra pairs of flip-flops, towels, and a sweater in case guests forget some essentials for the party.
10. Offer Amenities
Most people don’t come to a party expecting a swag bag, of course, but it can be really nice and fun to send your guests home with a little something to remember the day. It doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant—a drink cozy, some Polaroids from a photo booth, or a little potted herb or succulent can make great take-home treasures. For kids, an inflatable beach ball or some sunglasses, stickers, and a thank you note can be great!
Have a few takeout containers or boxes on hand, especially if you think you’d like to send home leftovers with your guests. If you’re hosting a potluck event, having smaller containers to pack up food can make a huge difference for guests who are hauling their casserole dish and crockpot back and forth.
Summer parties are just the best. They can be a great time to entertain friends and spend quality time making memories with those you love. Plan a few great summer get-togethers this year and play around—see what works best for you! You might find you love grilling out with friends or maybe you prefer to forgo a bonfire and enjoy ice cream under the stars instead of s’mores.
Summer’s all about possibilities and having new, great experiences with friends and family. Get your family together and host an easy backyard party today! What are you waiting for?!