Here’s the secret to an epic party… Ready?…
It’s the one you get to enjoy.
We’re firm believers in all things laid back and casual, and just because you’re inviting folks over to your place, there’s really no need for you to run yourself ragged. Read on for our best tips, tricks and recipes, and make your next backyard party as much fun for you as everyone else.
Step 1: Prep ahead of time
It’s obvious yes, but you’ll save yourself a load of time if you do some prep work ahead of time.
- Check your gear. Do you have enough charcoal, propane, cutlery, glassware, etc?
- Clean your gear, especially your grill – just warm the grill’s grid, scrunch up some aluminum foil and run it over the grid – that easy.
- Make it a potluck! Ask friends to bring a signature cookout dish, or anything else you may need, be it extra plates or a salad.
- Pre-prepare as much of the food as possible, from prepping veggie kabobs and salad ingredients, to mixing up marinades for the meat.
Step 2: Set the scene
Yes, we’re going super-casual, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep it stylish. Here are some ideas we love.
- Go low. Create a table out of anything large and sturdy by placing it on supporting bricks. Throw a lovely tablecloth over it, arrange floor cushions on rugs, and you’re good to go. Check out this simply fab 30th party at Inspired By This for boho inspo.
- Set the mood for an evening barbecue with lighting. Outdoor lights wound around trees or suspended above the table create a lovely ambience. Add to the glow with votive candles scattered across the table, and candle lanterns strategically placed around your entertainment area.
- Bunting is cheap, cheerful and colorful. String it up for a fun vibe if your party is during the day.
- Set up a buffet table/ food bar, with everything easily accessible from both sides. This I Heart Naptime party decants condiments and toppings into glass jars so that even hot dog toppings look good… Plus guests can easily scoop up what they want.
Step 3: Let ‘em play
Surprise guests with some fun play options, especially if you’ve invited families. Us grown-ups may take some convincing at first, but put out a croquet set, a rainbow parachute, a ridiculously enormous pool float, or even a game of giant Jenga, and before you know it, you’re hosting the party of the summer.
1 Batter’s Box Take & Play Baseball Set, 2 years+ ($69.99) 2 Classic Jenga, 5 years+ ($13.99) 3 Outdoor Croquet Set, 5 years+ ($51.99) 4 Multi-Colored Party Parachute, 2 years+ ($16.99) 5 Make-Your-Own Ring Toss Game, 2 years+ ($14.99)
Step 4: Keep the food and drinks simple
Hear that folks? Simple! Even better, why not make it a potluck and ask your friends to bring over their signature salad or side dish? Here are our recipe suggestions for your chilled-out party.
First, the drinks
You can go low-maintenance… or real low-maintenance. The latter involves basically filling a galvanized or plastic tub, or even a small inflatable pool, with loads of ice, and plenty of soda and/or beer, so guests can help themselves as they wish.
If you’re up for more effort, set up a dispenser stand with flavored waters, juice and other drinks, so that icy refreshments are a mere (self) fill-up away?
Then, some salad
On a hot day outdoors, a great selection of salads goes down a treat.
How about a refreshingly simple tomato mozzarella salad drizzled with a balsamic reduction, courtesy of Little Broken? We love the fresh basil, and would even pop some avocado in there too.
Tabbouleh salad, which, as Recipe Runner reckons (and we agree!), goes brilliantly with all kinds of grilled food. Made with fine bulgar wheat, chopped parsley and mint, tomatoes, cucumber and green onions, it has a lemony tang that’ll have you reaching for it again and again.
Everyone loves Thai flavors, which makes these two salad options surefire winners. The crunchy Thai peanut and quinoa salad from Cookie and Kate – originally a Frugal Vegan recipe – is colorful and nutty, and only needs a few standard ingredients to pull together.
For a meatier option, we love the Thai steak salad from Jo Cooks which is loaded with veggies and topped with sliced sirloin. It has a spicy kick that’s totally addictive.
Food on a bun
Here’s the great thing about food on a bun – it’s easy to eat, easy to prepare, and you can get real creative with toppings. That’s winning.
Teriyaki mayo and grilled pineapple slices take the humble hot dog from yum to deeeelicious. The Endless Meal adds some cayenne and voila… the Hawaiian hot dog of your dreams!
Or, if you decide to splurge on some big, juicy shrimp, then you’re going to want to make the most of the flavor of this shrimp roll. Keep prep simple – we love The View From Great Island’s classic New England-style recipe, featuring only the basics – lemon, chives, mayo, a some finely minced onion and celery. It’s East Coast summer on a bun.
And finally… dessert!
A help-yourself ice-cream bar would be a huge hit with kids and their parents. Simply place individual pre-scooped ice-cream in lidded containers, keep ‘em frosty in an ice bucket, and set out all the toppings so folks can help themselves. We love this set-up by The Inspired Room – so pretty, so summery, and so enticing!
Alternatively, these rainbow pudding popsicles from one of our favorite blogs, Sandy Toes & Popsicles are pretty much summer on a stick. They look great and are so easy to make – all you need is pudding mix, food coloring and some popsicle sticks.
And there you have it folks! A summer afternoon, your backyard, plenty of people you love, and memories for a lifetime. We love summer!