Get ready to celebrate summer in the comfort of your home!

Entertaining is as essential to summer as popsicles, trips to the beach, and firefly-filled nights. In a busy world, it’s important to take time to slow down and reconnect, and there’s no better place than your backyard.

Outdoor parties take planning and prep work, but the payoff is priceless: happy memories. To ease the stress of hosting, try these entertaining ideas and party tips for a summer gathering that’s fun for everyone, including the host.


Give Guests Enough Time to Plan

With ball games, beach trips, and family reunions, summer calendars tend to fill up fast. According to the etiquette experts at The Emily Post Institute, “Whether you’re mailing invitations or inviting guests by phone or email, timing is key … Err on the early side if your event is important or the guest list is large.”

For a casual event, a few days is enough notice. For graduation, anniversary or housewarming parties, send out invitations at least three weeks in advance. Also, ask your guests to RSVP by a specific date.

PARTY TIP: Avoid schedule conflicts by planning parties for after-work Friday nights and earlier than expected Sunday mornings. Mimosas, anyone?


Get Your Home Guest Ready

After you send out the invites, start preparing for your summer party a little every day. First, get the yard neat and tidy. Next, clean up inside. Concentrate on the areas in your house that guests will see, notably the entryway, kitchen, and bathrooms.

If you’re having a housewarming party to celebrate your new custom home, guests will likely expect to see every room. Plan for tours. As a proud homeowner, you’ll be excited to show everyone your beautiful new home.

PARTY TIP: Don’t be surprised if your guests ask a lot of questions about your new home, especially each room’s paint color. Consider printing a list of all of the paint colors throughout your home (interior and exterior). Trust us. Your guests will thank you!


Take Inventory of Party Elements

Make a checklist of what you have and need for entertaining. Plan for enough chairs, coolers, ice, citronella candles, and serving pieces. For pool parties, prepare baskets of towels, sunscreen, and goggles for everyone to enjoy. Before you buy anything new, shop your stuff. Also, renting can be a surprisingly cheap option.

Real or disposable dinnerware? The choice is yours. “Real” dishes elevate outdoor dining, and they’re more environmentally friendly than the throwaway version. That said, it’s okay to use disposable plates, cups, and napkins at your summer party. Ultimately, go with the spirit of the event and what you want to do.

PARTY TIP: Look for alternatives to paper and plastic, such as reusable melamine or bamboo.


Keep the Menu Simple

The secret to easy summer entertaining? Plan a make-ahead menu around what’s in season. Take advantage of summer favorites like fresh vegetables and fruit. On the big day, you’ll be glad you got a head start, and the flavors will be enhanced.

When sending invitations, you may want to ask if anyone has food allergies. Considering your guests’ dietary needs will make them feel loved. You can also try a potluck party. This will lighten your load as host, and it’s a fun way to try new dishes.

PARTY TIP: Ask your guests to bring something easy, like a watermelon. They’re helping, but not preparing.


Don’t Overthink the Drinks

Create a self-serve drink station so your guests can help themselves. Friends and family don’t expect you to provide a full bar at a summer party. Instead, stick to the basics: wine, beer, and a refreshing cocktail. Select a signature summer cocktail and keep the ingredients on hand.

Here are 30 Best Summer Cocktails to Enjoy This Season.

PARTY TIP: Spiking ice water with fresh mint, cucumber, strawberries, or lemon adds a burst of natural flavor.


Set the Mood

A welcoming party space packed with personality doesn’t have to cost a lot. Fresh flowers and greenery 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. Day or night, the party’s on in your backyard.

PARTY TIP: A bolt of burlap or roll of kraft paper makes a quick, cheap, and chic table cover.


Cue Up the Summer Playlist

On the invitation, ask guests to RSVP with their favorite summertime song and create a playlist based on the responses. Choose music that will keep it light and fun, and your party will be too!

PARTY TIP: Wireless speakers let you take the summer songs wherever you go.


Cater to Comfort

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.


Enjoy Your Summer Party

Above all, relax. People will rarely remember the food or playlist, but they will remember the way the host made them feel. Be a gracious host. Don’t get too consumed with all of the things you have to do to keep the party going. Take the time to eat, drink, and talk to your friends and family.

Accept the fact that something will probably go wrong. Your reaction will set the tone for the overall mood of your summer party. Keep your spirits up, and your guests will follow your lead.

PARTY TIP: Have fun!


Final Thoughts

When it comes to party planning, do what’s natural to you, and everything else will fall into place. The important thing is you take time to connect. Whether it’s a graduation, a birthday, or an informal dinner on the deck, anytime friends and family gather and share conversation and laughter, memories will be made. Use these outdoor party ideas to make the most of the season. Summer is too short.

Get more great entertaining ideas on our Summer Parties Pinterest board.