June 21st will shortly mark the official start of summer, otherwise known as backyard barbecue season. And though we can’t wait to break out the grill for swanky summer soirees, our outdoor spaces look like a mess after months without TLC. Thankfully, we still have some time to spruce up before our first guest arrives. And with these tips, your backyard will look like a professional party space in a matter of minutes. So read on, and for some advice on what to serve at your fiesta, check out The 10 Healthiest Finger Foods.
Light a Candle
If you want to set the mood for a soothing soiree, try lighting some pine-scented candles. One Japanese study found that just 15 minutes in the forest surrounded by pine trees can decrease depressed feelings and reduce hostility. While you’re at it, try The 50 Greatest Happiness Hacks for a fiesta sans frowns.
DIY Some Pretty Planters
Do you have empty milk cartons, old tires, or even a barely-used coffee pot collecting dust in the house? This summer, you can put these old things to good use as planters in your backyard. The plants will add effortless decor to your outdoor space for when you throw a party or just want to relax and enjoy the balmy breeze.
Set Up Multiple Spaces
Sitting at one giant table makes it hard to actually make conversation among a group. Instead, set up a bunch of small sitting areas in your backyard so people can get to know each other in a more intimate setting. This way, it feels more like you’re at a restaurant and less like you’re at a Greek wedding.
End the Meal with Marshmallows
What truly marks the beginning of summer is getting your first sunburn (though you should try to avoid those) and roasting your first s’more over a campfire. Instead of serving a traditional dessert at your backyard barbecue, you can easily use some terra cotta pots to make marshmallow roasting stations for your guests. A cooking grate and some charcoal is all you need!
Make It a Movie Night
Most hosts turn to a party playlist as their entertainment of choice for a sunset soiree, so your guests will be pleasantly surprised to find your backyard set up as an impromptu outdoor movie theater. With a price tag of $75 and up, a projector is a bit of an investment, but you’ll get your money’s worth through the warmer months. And for more on that, here’s How to Transform Your Backyard into a Summer Movie Theater.
Concoct Some New Cocktails
Summer is a great time to experiment with new cocktail recipes featuring fresh fruit and effervescent mixers. We’re talking everything from white wine sangria to strawberry-lime mojitos! Need some recipes to get started? Try these 15 Two-Ingredient Cocktails You Can Make in 15 Seconds.
Paint the Porch
Before you start using your outdoor area for the summer, give your porch a little bit of TLC. The experts over at HGTV recommend adding a pop of color to your porch and painting a few of your patio chairs to match. Just remember to sand the deck before you paint to guarantee a finish that lasts.
Old Table = New Buffet
Don’t let an old table go to waste! To make all of your party food accessible and to prevent people from trekking too much mud inside, throw a tablecloth over an old table and make it into a buffet. Not to mention that putting all of the food out at once means you don’t have to make endless trips into the house while your party rages on.
Blow Up a Giant Drink Cooler
Just like you don’t want to be constantly running into the house for more food, you’ll want to avoid getting people drink refills as well if it means leaving your own party. Enter: the inflatable pool. Fill er’ up with ice and refreshments and you’ve got yourself a bar that serves itself.
Put On a Picnic
Picnics promote a sense of closeness (both literally and figuratively) amongst guests, so why not leave the tables inside at your next party? Plus, dining in the grass means you won’t have to set the table or clean it up later—all you have to do is put some blankets and food out and everyone can serve themselves as they please.
Keep the Kids Entertained
While the adults catch up over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, make sure you have fun games and outdoor activities on hand to keep the kids busy. You can even use an old towel, some tape, and colored paper plates to make a giant DIY tic-tac-toe board.
Put Mosquitoes on the “Do Not Invite” List
Don’t think that your party is safe under cover of darkness. Mosquitoes are lurking in the shadows in the AM and PM alike, and your feast is their feast. To keep your party pest-free, avoid serving beer (which attracts mosquitoes) and keep some fans running to prevent the bugs from landing on you. For more mosquito hacks, check out these 15 Genius Ways to Outsmart Mosquitoes This Summer.
Use Trees to Light the Way
If your party runs well into the night—which, with these surefire tips, it will—then you’re going to want to be prepared with the proper lighting. One aesthetic and affordable way to light up your outdoor area is with string lights. Whether you wrap them around the trunks of trees or let them hang between the poles of your porch like a banner, these lights will keep your party going and make for some great party photos.
Add an Area Rug
“Use your favorite pillows, throws, and lamps from indoors to dress up your outdoor space for the evening,” Salt & Sundry owner Amanda McClements told Washingtonian. Using an area rug for your party will make guests feel welcome and effortlessly ease the transition from indoor to outdoor.
Out of Chairs? Use Pillows
The number of chairs we have on hand doesn’t always match up with how many guests we’ve invited to our BBQ. In a pinch, large throw pillows are a comfortable substitution for chairs—if you want, you can even devote the pillow seating exclusively to the kids’ table.
Make It a Sleepover
You don’t have to travel far to enjoy a night of camping with friends. If you have enough outdoor space, pitch a few tents outside and turn your dinner party into an overnight outing. You can even make eggs and sausage on the grill in the AM so you never have to step foot indoors!
Choose a Theme
Sticking to a theme will make it easier to plan every aspect of your party, including the menu, decorations, and party games (if you feel so inclined to have any). For a summer get-together, we recommended beach barbecue and tropical fiesta.
Get Wet and Wild
No pool? No problem! A pool isn’t the only fun with water you can have at a party. If you’re hosting an afternoon event, why not break out the Slip N Slide or even just the hose? Guests will relish in the relief from the heat—and have fun doing so.
Break Out the Guitar
Don’t be afraid to be the center of attention at your party. If you happen to be a maestro, entertain your guests with a live melody—and yes, if someone asks you to play “American Pie,” you must oblige. But just this once.
Set Up a Photo Booth
Your guests are going to have such an incredible time at your party that they’re going to want something to remember it by. And what better way to hold onto a great night than with photos? All you need is an old Polaroid camera and some fun props like moustaches and mini sombreros to set up a photo booth in your backyard. Who knows, you may end up taking a photo like the one that changed Anderson Cooper’s life.
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