24 June, 2015
No season screams “PARTY!” quite like summer.
Beach bonfires, pool parties, and neighborhood BBQs are essentials during this hot, festive season. But you don’t need a beach, a pool, or even a grill to throw one of the best bashes of the year. All you need is a backyard, a hefty dose of enthusiasm, and our ultimate guide to throwing a backyard party your friends will be talking about for days!
Here’s everything you need to know to make your backyard soiree an outstanding summertime success.
Planning Your Party
Before you send out those invites, you need to pick the perfect day and time to maximize the friends, fun and frivolity.
Keep in mind that there are several holiday weekends in the summer months where people travel because they get bonus days off work. Avoid scheduling during Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day.
To make sure most of your friends can make it for some outdoor dining, ask them in advance about travel plans and pick a day or evening when the most people will be in town.
If you live in a hot region be mindful of the weather and avoid the hottest times of day. To keep your party guests cool, think outside the box and consider throwing a sunrise brunch or putting on a star-gazing, s’mores get-together.
For those of you lucky enough to live in more moderate locales, take full advantage of the nice weather and schedule your party during the middle of the day – think lawn games followed by dinner al fresco, or a light lunch before an afternoon of sunbathing.
Prepping the Yard
Since the backyard will be the venue for your rendezvous, you want to make sure that it not only looks great, but that it can accommodate the people and activities you have in mind.
Take a quick inventory of your outdoor furniture – if you don’t have a seat for every bottom, consider using this as a great excuse to add to your collection.
But if shopping for furniture isn’t in your budget, you can add seating with dining room chairs, oversized cushions, blankets, and even beach towels or tablecloths. Use items with similar color schemes to give your gathering a unified look that adds style to function.
Once you know how to make everyone comfy, you want to consider the flow of the party. Make sure to group seating in small clusters that invite your guests to mix and mingle. Centralize the food, and if you have games or other activities planned make sure that they won’t interfere with people filling their plates or hopping from one group to the next.
Finally, consider safety.
Look for potential hazards in your yard and get them out of the way. Put away all tools, fertilizers, potting soil, and anything else you might be “storing” behind your house. You don’t want your bestie’s daughter accidentally dipping into the MiracleGro.
In addition to removing obvious hazards, make sure any fire or grill is secured away from where games are being played and can’t be accessed by curious little ones. If you’ll be partying after the sun goes down, make sure you have sufficient lighting. String lights, paper lanterns, and candles can all add a magical glow to your midsummer night’s merriment.
Putting On the Ritz
One of the best parts of throwing any party is decorating. And it’s easier than you might think to transform your backyard into a patio party oasis. Create a cottage feel with mismatched vases and jars of wildflowers strewn on tables and buffets.
Take your friends on a mini-vacation by creating a beach vibe with small beach balls either hung overhead or used as centerpieces. Make your décor interactive by placing bubbles, sparklers, or paddleballs on the tables – and the bonus is these can double as party favors.
Umbrellas or tarps aren’t just great for keeping your guests cool – they can also be decorated with lights, lanterns, or fun cut-outs of images like starfish, anchors, seashells, or flip-flops. Use beach pails filled with sand to hold party favors like glow sticks, flags, sunglasses, or fireworks.
And don’t forget your dishes and utensils are part of the décor as well. Pick fun but sturdy paper plates and wrap up colorful plastic utensils in napkins tied up with string or ribbon. You can even add a flower or other whimsical item to make the event feel even more special.
Make sure you’re prepared for anything by setting up a station with sunscreen, insect repellant, towels, hand sanitizer, and first-aid items like Band-Aids and antiseptic wash. These items can be cleverly displayed in colorful or galvanized buckets and your guests will be beyond impressed that you thought of absolutely everything.
Keep drinks cool and easy to find by grouping different types of beverages in separate ice buckets or coolers. By having dedicated places for water, soda, and alcoholic beverages you’ll make it easy for everyone to find the perfect solution to their thirst.
If you’re serving bottles that require an opener, tie a couple bottle openers to the handles on the bucket to make popping those tops a breeze.
Do as much of your food prep as possible in advance. That will leave you all the time you need for adding last-minute touches.
Start bagging ice from your ice maker days in advance to avoid needless runs to the convenience store for ice. Homemade salsas and potato or pasta salads taste better after giving the flavors a couple days to blend and reach their full potential.
Create a menu full of fruit and veggies and other items that don’t easily spoil or need to be served hot.
Add fun and variety by adding kale or veggie chips to your usual array of Cheetos and Doritos. But most of all, keep it simple. If you’re serving a full meal, limit the number of salads, and other side dishes. Or skip an entrée all together and offer a variety of fun finger foods like shrimp cocktail and veggie kebabs.
Kick Back and Enjoy
Thanks to your party-planning diligence you can actually sit back and relax during your party. Instead of running around after forgotten items or frantically trying to finish up the food, you can mix and mingle with your pals.
Be sure to make the rounds and personally welcome each guest, make sure they don’t need anything, and most of all share a few smiles and a lot of laughs.
Place several ample waste receptacles in easy-to-access areas to make sure everyone knows where to put their refuse. Put extra liners in the bottom so that if you do need to make a run to the dumpster mid-party, it’s seamlessly easy to keep every can in commission the whole time.
Take leftovers straight from the table to the fridge by serving foods in containers with lids. The easier your cleanup is, the more likely you’ll still be excited to throw another party when this one is over. And don’t be shy about getting everyone into the cleanup action. Make cleanup and tear-down (if you have tables and chairs to take down) part of the fun. Form committees and give a prize to the group that finishes their task first.
So, forget the beach or even the pool – your backyard is the perfect place to party.
Even if you’ve never thrown a party before in your life, with these tips and some entertaining gusto you’ll be able to leave everyone thinking you’re a party-planning pro.