It’s that time of year! Summertime is time for friends, family, entertaining, BBQs, summer parties, and enjoying all the fun this season has to offer!
But like most parties, there’s a lot to think about. Food. Drinks. Entertainment. And of course the decor!
But not to worry! We know a thing or two about party planning.
Here are some tips and tricks for making your Summer party the envy of all your neighbors and friends!
Every great Summer party starts with a great guest list.
But how do you manage all those emails and friends list? Did Aunt Edna say she was coming, and was your neighbor going to be out of town?
Invitations are not necessarily required for every get together, but they will definitely help keep you and your guest list organized.
We are big fans of virtual invitations. From formal dinners to backyard BBQs, they are a simple, cost-effective, and eco-friendly way to get the word out!
Plus, online invites make tracking RSVPs super simple. Most can even send you real time updates when new guests RSVP.
Another thing we love about digital invites is that your guests can easily see who’s coming. Seeing familiar names on the guest list might help convince some of your maybes to check yes.
Finally, online invites provide a convenient place for guests to record notes about who they’re bringing and any special notes such as dietary needs.
The days of free online invites are mostly gone. Nowadays most online invitation services allow you to add a fixed number of invitees for free, and then charge you for additional ones.
However, depending on the size of your guest list, the benefits of online invites is usually worth the small cost.
Here’s a few of our favorite online invitation services to get you started:
If you’re feeling more traditional or hosting a formal event, printed invites are absolutely still in style. They’ll take a bit more effort on your part, but your guests will love the personal touch.
Before you do anything, remember this: make sure your address book is up to date!
It’s so easy to overlook a friend or family member’s last move, and there’s nothing worse than someone getting left out because their invite went to the wrong address.
We love keeping our address book in an online service such as Google Drive. Anytime we get a holiday card or other correspondence from someone, it only takes a few seconds to double check the return address against your online address book and update as needed.
For paper invites, plenty of big brand stores like Target and Party City offer a variety of card designs and occasions. You’ll have to fill out and address each one by hand, buy stamps, and drop them in the mail box.
If you’re looking for the personal touch of paper invites, but don’t have the time to buy and address them all, many online services will send physical cards for an additional fee. Letting them handle printing and postage can be a huge time saver.
You can usually upload a file with all your addresses to save time, one more reason to keep your address book up-to-date using an online service!
Here’s a few sites that can print and mail paper invites:
With your guest list under control, now it’s time to turn your attention to the most crucial part of your Summer party: the food!
AppetizersA great Summer party spread starts with great appetizers. As guests arrive and begin mingling, they’ll naturally gravitate towards the food, especially if there are kids in tow. So make sure you have plenty of food ready to snack on before the doorbell starts ringing. We’ve picked out some of our favorite Summer appetizers that are easy to make and work well for large groups:
Meats & Proteins
Grilling is the unofficial past time of Summer, and any good Summer party should have multiple protein offerings.
Depending on how many side dishes you plan to make, you should plan on each adult guest eating 4-6 ounces of meat.
And remember that the weight listed on meat packaging is before cooking. Plan on losing about 5-10% of the weight after the meat is grilled or otherwise cooked.
Here’s a few Summer grilling recipes that we love:
As of 2017, over 3% of US adults are vegetarian, so there’s a good chance someone at your party won’t be a carnivore.
But don’t worry, cooking for vegetarians requires no extra effort, just a little forethought.
As a courtesy, make sure you prepare the vegetarian dishes in a separate area than the meat items. While some vegetarians may not mind some a little cross contamination with meat, unless you know for sure it’s better to assume they don’t.
It’s also worth considering if any of your guests are vegan. This could add some additional constraints such as avoiding dairy or eggs when you choose your dishes.
Also keep in mind most meat eaters will also eat your vegetarian dishes. At a bare minimum you’ll want two options, but to be safe consider offering three or four.
While this may sound like a lot of work, remember that most vegetarian dishes can be prepared well ahead of time so you’re not rushed in the lead up to your party.
Here are some classic Summer vegetarian dishes, as well as some modern twists, to help inspire you:
- Grilled Corn
- Summer Vegetable Potato Salad
- Curry Black Eyed Peas
- Grilled Halloumi Salad
- New England Baked Beans
- Greek Orzo and Feta Salad
We don’t believe desserts are a must have for Summer parties and outdoor BBQs. Then again, nobody will be upset if you do have some sweets available.
Here are some of our go to Summer dessert recipes:
As an alternative to preparing a dessert, you can always opt instead for prepackaged items.
Choosing items thats are separated into smaller servings is a great way to save time and allow your guests to pick their own portions. Think ice cream cups or packages of small cupcakes.
3. Other Food ConsiderationsWhen picking your food, there are a few additional considerations you should remember.
There’s a certain satisfaction that comes from preparing a full Summer party spread. But there’s also no shame in having someone else do it for you!
If you’re short on time or preparation space, consider having your guests each bring a side dish. This will keep your kitchen clean, and saves you time and money.
You can also have your party catered. This is a great option for large groups or when you’re short on time. Some of our favorite catering options are below:
One idea we love for Summer parties is hiring a food truck, especially if you’re mostly inviting your neighbors.
Most food trucks will have no problem parking outside your pad for a couple of hours if they know the guest list is big enough.
Consider covering the costs and offering prix fixe menu, or you can just let your guests buy their own food off the normal food truck menu.
Dietary Restrictions & Allergies
It is important to consider food allergies and sensitivities. The number of people who don’t eat gluten has tripled in the past 3 years. And nearly 11% of adults over 18 in the US have at least one food allergy.
You probably already know who from your guest list has food allergies. But there are some easy steps you can take to accommodate most allergies:
- Keep crackers and other gluten items on a separate dish
- Make sure you have at least one main dish and one side dish that is dairy and nut free
- Don’t add dressings and toppings; let your guests decide if and when they want to add them
- Fresh fruit like apples, bananas, and oranges are generally safe for any allergy so keep some on hand
- Set aside one or two cuts of meat and some vegetables that don’t have any sauce or spices in case you find out one of your guests has an allergy
Accounting for food allergies doesn’t have to be a big deal, and your guests will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
4. DrinksHaving a great spread of food is key for any Summer party, but let’s not overlook the drinks.
Start With a Signature Cocktail
A great Summer party will have a variety of drinks, but we love creating one signature drink that will appeal to the masses.
Start with a great tasting fruit like peaches or strawberries, and then pick a spin on your favorite type of drink. Pick something that can easily be made in bulk so that you can serve it from a pitcher.
Here’s some ideas to get you started in choosing a signature drink:
As a bonus tip, consider setting out some mason jars or other non-traditional glassware to serve it in.
Once you’ve settled on a signature cocktail you should build around that. Having a diverse drink offering will go a long way with your guests.
Your best bet is to stock up on a variety of beer and wine to compliment your signature cocktail.
For beers, you can’t go wrong in the Summer with Mexican lagers, wheat beers, and pale ales. Provide some lime and orange wedges for an optional fresh garnish.
Remember that cans are easier for your guests, but if you do have bottled beer make sure there is an opener nearby. And everything should be placed on ice several hours ahead of time.
For wine, white wine and rose are the way to go for Summer. We love mixing and matching different varietals from different vineyards so guests have a diverse sampling.
Whatever you grab, make sure all your bottles are placed on ice a few hours ahead of time and remain cool during the party.
Also remember that bottles with screw tops will be easier for guests to handle. However if you do grab some bottles with corks just be sure to open them ahead of time and replace the cork in the top.
Once you have purchased your drinks, we recommend getting 2-3 bins from which to serve them in during the party.
We love aluminum or galvanized bins for beverage holders. They are decorative and can be used around your home long after the party ends.
Beautiful home decor delivered every 3 months!
Even if you know all your guests personally, don’t assume everyone will want an alcoholic beverage. It’s important to always have a good selection of non-alcoholic offerings as well.
We recommend a 3:1 ratio: for every 3 alcoholic drinks you have on hand, there should also be 1 non-alcoholic offering.
Make sure each is clearly marked. Or better yet, keep them in separate parts of the yard or house to make it obvious for your guests.
Buying prepackaged drinks like soda and water is also a good idea. Some guests may want a familiar drink, and having brand name packaging will make it easy for your guests to spot them.
But this is a Summer party, so there’s no need to settle for boring. Non-alcoholic beverages are really easy to create on the fly if you stock up on a few basic building blocks.
Start with a couple packs of flavored sparkling water to use as a base. We love La Croix and Hint Water because they work great on their own or as a mixer.
Then offer some fresh fruit like strawberries, pineapple, and raspberries. Anything that has a lot of juice will work well when mixed in with sparkling water.
As a final touch, offer some fresh herbs such as mint, lavender, and stevia. All of these add great flavor and can act as natural sweeteners.
5. EntertainmentGive your guests an easy way to mingle and make new friends.
The best part of Summer parties is being outdoors and mingling with friends and family. For the most part, your guests are the entertainment for you and each other!
But that doesn’t mean you can’t help set the mood. Start by providing a little back ground music. Nothing too loud, just a little background noise to create an inviting ambiance.
You can use a Beats Pill portable speaker to play your favorite Spotify playlist. Or just ask Siri to play jazz. It makes for great background music and is a nice change up from most radio station playlists.
It’s also a good idea to have some casual yard games available. Nothing that requires a lot of physical exertion, just something to keep people moving around.
Remember most guests will be holding food or drinks, so pick games that can be played with one hand!
Here’s some of our favorite yard games that are perfect for both kids and adults, and also work well in smaller yards:
- Corn hole
- Ladder golf
- Bocce ball
It’s also worth keeping a couple of different sports balls lying around. Football and soccer balls require no additional equipment, and you’ll be surprised at how people naturally gravitate towards them.
6. DecorEvery great party deserves some great decor.
We’ve finally made it to our favorite part of partying: the decor!
Simply put, it’s all in the details. There are several ways to add simple and impactful decor to any Summer party:
- Twinkle lights or colored lanterns over your patio and yard
- Simple, clean linens on tables
- A centerpiece of fresh flowers
- Scented candles
Beautiful home decor delivered every 3 months!
For lighting, make sure anything you use is weather resistant. Avoid glass bulbs in case they break.
In terms of bigger decor, we love the setting up an outdoor bar cart so guests can serve themselves. These are great for storing ice, drinks with mixers, and appetizer trays.
It’s also a handy to keep some small end tables around the yard to ensure there are plenty of places to set food and drinks.
Consider using bug repelling scents outdoors. Citronella and lemongrass smell great and will keep your yard bug free.
Add some outdoor pillows for comfort and color, along with some places to set drinks and plates, and you’re good to go!
7. Tips For Kids
Make sure you’re prepared for guests of all ages.
There’s a good chance your Summer party will involve kids. Here are some things to consider when little ones will be a part of your fiesta.
Food & Drinks
For the most part whatever food you make for your adult guests will work for children as well. But anyone who’s ever had dinner with a young child knows how picky they can be.
For that reason, we love placing prepackaged snacks in a dedicated kids area.
Grab a small basket or serving bowl to hold all the kid’s snacks, and place it in an area that’s easy for them to reach. Gold fish crackers, pretzels, organic fruit snacks, and animal crackers all make great choices.
Young kids will also love something to cool them off on hot Summer days. We always pickup a box of ice pops and keep them frozen and easy to access. You might even find some of your grownup guests sneaking in for one!
As with your adult guests, you should consider food allergies when planning kids snacks. Make sure at least one of your snack choices is free from common allergies like nuts and dairy.
For kids, it’s also important to keep a dedicated drink area away from any alcoholic drinks. Juice pouches and milk boxes are a great option for kids.
Older kids might also appreciate building their own fun drinks using the non-alcoholic guide above. Sparkling water with fresh fruit and a garnish will make them feel like one of the grownups.
Most yard games are great for both kids and adults, but different age groups will likely need different ways to keep entertained.
Consider setting aside a dedicated water area for water balloons, small water guns, or sprinkler games. These can all be setup ahead of time, and encourages kids to keep the adults dry.
Just be mindful of water waste and ensure there is an adult monitoring the water at all times.
One of the ideas we absolutely love for kids entertainment is pinatas. Make sure you have something tall to hang them from, some sturdy rope to hang it with, and some goody bags to collect the candy.
Also make sure you have a solid wooden bat or rod to swing. Most kids bats are foam or plastic and won’t be strong enough to break it open.
The kids will absolutely love trying to break it open, but make sure you protect them from themselves. Have them line up in size/age order so everyone gets a chance.
And most importantly, make sure they leave plenty of room between themselves and the person swinging the bat! Their natural instinct is to crowd around the action, so having an adult monitor them is important.
In addition to outdoor activities, it’s a good idea to have some indoor areas available for kids.
Setting up an arts and craft station is a great way for kids to show off their creativity. It also gives them something to do away from the sunshine if they need a break.
8. WeatherHope for the best but prepare for the worst.
With Summer parties comes Summer weather. While sunshine is the perfect ingredient for a good time, rain and severe weather can just as quickly ruin it.
Here in Colorado, Spring and Summer weather in unpredictable. We can go from blazing hot sun to rain and hail quickly.
So, with that in mind, we always suggest having a backup plan:
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast 24-48 hours before the day of your party
- Serve your food on your kitchen island, counters, or dining table indoors so it won’t need to be moved (plus it should keep it safe from bugs!)
- Put drinks in smaller bins and coolers that can easily be moved inside
- Make sure there is at least one large outdoor trash receptacle to quickly dispose of used plates and cups
- Provide some sun and weather protection with sun shades and large umbrellas
All of these will help ensure your party can change gears quickly if needed, and keep the good times rolling no matter the weather.
Now go out there and party til the sun comes up.
We think Summer is the ultimate party season. The warm weather and long nights make it the ideal time of year to host your friends and family.
No matter how casual or formal you make your party, we hope our Summer party guide helps you plan it out and make it one for the ages.
How about you? Have some Summer party tips to share? Let us know in the comments!