Warmer temperatures, blooming flowers, longer days—the signs of spring and summer are starting to arrive. Now is the perfect time to break out the patio furniture, fire up the grill, and relax with family and friends—and what better way to celebrate this than by hosting a summer bash?! Here are some tips on how to kick off the first outdoor party of the season—and make it one your family and friends will never forget.
First things first: set up the scene. Create your guest list to help you determine the amount of seating and the type of furniture you’ll need. While your guests will likely mix and mingle throughout your outdoor space, you’ll still want to have an adequate number of tables and seating options available for those who want to kick back and relax.
If you’re hosting a more casual party, use lots of poufs and pillows in addition to lounge chairs and accent chairs to offer plenty of comfortable options. Small, intimate gatherings may work best with a sectional sofa. For a formal dinner alfresco, opt for a full dining set. Have a set of folding chairs nearby so guests can easily take a seat and move it to wherever the action is throughout the event.
Wondering what to serve at your party? Stick with the classics—and give them a little twist. For entrees, serve dishes that are both fresh and filling, like chicken Caesar salad, chipotle pulled pork, sliders and smoked brisket. For a unique take on the summer barbeque, serve grilled pizza. This option is a good choice for non-meat eaters as the toppings can be easily customizable. Look for gluten-free pizza crusts for guests with other dietary limitations. As for side dishes? Elevate the look of staples, such as potato salad, pasta salad and pretzels, by placing them in a glass storage jar. Corn on the cob is also a classic side dish for a summer party.
Top off the night with an easy dessert everyone loves: s’mores! Set out sheets of graham crackers, chocolate bars and marshmallows around a firepit to encourage guests to indulge. You can even add in unexpected ingredients, such as peanut butter, cinnamon graham crackers and chocolate sandwich cookies, to bring fun flavors to this favorite summertime treat.
Similar to your food setup, make a self-serve drink station to complement your easy-going yet stylish party atmosphere. Fill a few drink dispensers with different beverages—water, iced tea and lemonade are a good start. Want to try something a little different? Infuse water with strawberries, cucumbers, mint or lemon to bring a fresh spin to the drink. You can even fill one of the dispensers with a batch cocktail—strawberry margaritas, rosé sangria or Moscow mule punch are sure to please the crowd.
Sometimes, the most fun outdoor parties are also the most simple. Make your entertainment just as low key by having a few yard games available throughout your outdoor area. Bag toss, horseshoes, ring toss and similar activities encourage people to take part in the fun. This will give guests the option to play in between eating, drinking and conversing.
Of course, no party is complete without the perfect pic for social media! Set up a simple backdrop of faux flowers or colorful streamers, and encourage everyone to document the night so you can look back on what was the perfect summer kickoff party. You can even invite guests to use a special hashtag to easily see all the party photos in one place. To infuse a bit of vintage style, have instant cameras on hand. Everyone can enjoy snapping pictures throughout the evening, and they can take a memento home to look back fondly on your summer kickoff party!
Sara Marie Hall creates original online content about outdoor furniture for Crate and Barrel, where you can find stylish options for summertime entertaining.