Throwing a fabulous backyard party on a hot summer day is a great way to spend quality time with friends and family. Whether it’s a birthday, an anniversary or just a casual barbecue, planning a party in your own backyard can be a stressful endeavour. You’ll want everyone to enjoy the food and drinks, you’ll want there to be music and activities and above all, you imagine the decor to be Instagram worthy. You’re probably thinking fairy lights, lush flower bouquets and a cozy bonfire.

But feeling anxious about hosting an outdoor party in your backyard will only take the fun out of it for you. That’s why we came up with a bunch of great tips and ideas so you can leave the stress behind and focus on enjoying yourself alongside your guests! Keep on reading for our favorite food and drink options, fun summer themed outdoor decor, activities and planning tips or jump to the topic that interests you most below.

When planning your outdoor summer party this year, please consider the CDC guidelines regarding group gatherings. Should it be too much of a risk to gather in your state or county, keep your friends and family safe by throwing a virtual party instead!

What Do You Need For a Backyard Party?

family eating outside under stringlights

Henry Ford already knew that “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.” Now, you’re not founding your own car company but, this wise saying can be applied to any kind of endeavor, even hosting a backyard party! Look at it this way: Spending a bit more time planning will help you feel prepared for the day of the party so you can enjoy it! Here are a few important things to consider:

  • Party Theme: Do you want your party to have a theme? Whether it’s a Luau, a Frose party or a casual barbecue, this is the first decision you should make so you can plan everything else accordingly.
  • Guest List: Invite guests who will enjoy the party theme you picked. Ask yourself if you want your guests to bring their kids or if it should be an adult night only. Would you rather have a blast with 50 guests or an intimate night by the firepit surrounded by your ten closest friends and family members? Ask yourself these questions before sending out invitations.
  • Invitations: For a casual get together, you can call or text the people on your guest list. If you’re throwing a more elaborate party, consider sending an e-vite or an actual card in the mail. Include details on date and time, location, if there’ll be children around, required or suggested attire and rain plans. Whether that’s taking things inside, having a tent ready in case the weather doesn’t play along or an alternative date for the party, including your rainy day plans in the invitation will save you from reaching out to all your guests on the day the weather report hits. To give your guests peace of mind, you can let them know what time they can expect the food to be served. If you have friends or family who follow a specific diet, you can let them know whether you’ll be catering to their dietary needs or if they should bring something to eat and drink for themselves.
  • Decor: There are plenty of ways to decorate for your summer backyard bash, we list a bunch of fun ideas later on. Since you’re already outside, adding natural elements like branches and flower bouquets will make the space look more inviting.
  • Food & Drinks: For a large party, you can pay a caterer or ask all of your guests to contribute to a potluck. That way everyone will have at least one dish they’ll enjoy and you can save a good amount of money. Read on for more ideas on what to serve at your outdoor party.
  • Activities: The most memorable part of any successful backyard party is usually not the food or what the decor was like but what you did to have fun! We go into a bunch of entertaining things to do in your backyard with your party guests below. Make sure to pick a few of the ideas that fit your guests and theme to ensure that everyone is having an absolute blast!

Let’s dive into some fun inspiration so you can host a summer backyard party that will be a full success without breaking the bank or stressing you out.

Delicious Food to Serve Outdoors

fruit desserts served at a backyard party

Food is what brings us all together. The last thing you’ll want is hungry guests who leave your party early to stop at a Fast Food restaurant on their way home. The key to a successful outdoor party menu is variety. Consider if the food fits in with your party theme, your guests’ age group and if you’re catering to different dietary needs. The more inclusive your buffet, the more people will enjoy it! Here are a few creative and delicious ideas to make sure everyone goes home well fed.

  1. S’mores bar: Kids are not the only ones who enjoy roasting marshmallows over the fire and assembling their own desserts. Whether it’s the nostalgia or just the fact that S’mores taste absolutely delicious, having a little S’mores bar with graham crackers, chocolate pieces, marshmallows and kebab sticks ready will be a hit with all of your guests!
  2. Guacamole, salsa and chips: Your guests will likely show up at different times. If your party starts at 4.30 pm but you won’t serve dinner until 6.00 pm, it’s clever to have snacks ready for your guests to munch on, while they wait for everyone to arrive and the buffet to open. You can serve all kinds of chips, salsa and guacamole as snacks. Make sure to serve mild and spicy salsas to accommodate your guests’ different tastes.
  3. Host a cook-off: If you don’t just want to ask everyone to bring their own food or contribute to the buffet, turn it into a competition! Pick a theme or a dish and ask your guests to bring their best version of it to the party. This can be anything from chili to mac and cheese or pasta salads and even be extended into dessert. Assign random numbers to everyone’s dish and select judges to vote for the best one. Make sure that you organize a little prize for the winner.
  4. Serve finger food: Food that can be eaten without sitting down and needing utensils is ideal for a backyard party. It also cuts down on dishes!
  5. Fruity desserts: It’s summer, so why not serve desserts that reflect the season? You can find delicious recipes like peach cobblers or blueberry-chia popsicles on websites like Bon Appétit that will guarantee your guests to lick their fingers and ask for more.
  6. Barbecue: The upside to grilling is that you’ll constantly have fresh hot food. The downside: You’ll need someone to volunteer as grill master. If you’re not worried to find enough people who’ll take care of the grill or you don’t mind doing it yourself, having a barbecue is the perfect way of serving food at a casual backyard party.
  7. Campfire Bread: If your party plans include a fire pit, this is a great food to serve. Prep the dough and collect a few sticks from your backyard (or ask your kids to do this for you). This will be an absolute hit at any children’s birthday party!

Tip: To avoid loads of dishes, opt for recycled paper plates — they’ll keep your kitchen and your conscience clean!

The Best Drinks for a Backyard Party

drinks served in large pitchers at backyard party

Hydration is key! On a hot summer day you’ll want to make sure your guests have plenty of options to stay hydrated and enjoy the party. From water to soft drinks to alcoholic beverages — here are our favorite serving ideas and tips so you can ensure that you won’t run out of drinks.

  1. Make cocktail batches in advance: There are plenty of fruity summer cocktails that you can make in larger quantities before your guests arrive. Set a few pitchers aside and serve margaritas, mojitos or even bloody marys for a brunch-themed backyard party. You can always offer a few alcohol-free versions of these cocktails as well or serve delicious smoothies!
  2. Creative ice cubes: The hotter the day, the colder you’ll want to serve your drinks. Ice cubes are great to chill any drink that’s gotten a little too warm but your guests will love a creative twist to keep their drinks cool: Serve frozen berries or make wine ice cubes ahead of time so drinks don’t get watered down.
  3. Serve lemonade or iced tea: These are the ultimate summer drinks. You can easily make your own lemonade or iced tea at home or serve your favorite store bought drinks. Either way, your guests will appreciate a non-alcoholic beverage that is this delicious and refreshing.
  4. Prepare sangria: A big pitcher full of delicious fruit is the perfect summer drink. Whether you add alcohol and serve it to adults only or just make it a fun kid-friendly punch — Sangrias practically scream summer party.
  5. Fruit infused water: No matter how delicious your soft drinks, smoothies and cocktails are, on a hot summer day your guests will appreciate a fresh glass of water. If you want to spice things up, you can add cucumber or lemon slices to your water pitchers. Ginger cubes or strawberries also make a glass of water more appealing.

Tip: For a party with children present, set up a seperate cocktail station with a floral bouquet . Especially when you’re serving delicious cocktails or sangria that appeal to children because of the bright colors and yummy fruits, it will be much safer to keep the adult drinks in a separated area.

Summer Themed Backyard Party Decor

stringlights hanging from pergola outside

Instead of buying lots of balloons, confetti and banners to decorate your backyard with, why not invest in decor that you’ll actually love to keep around after the party is over? We’ve compiled a few decor ideas that are not just pretty but practical! From lighting your backyard party to adding pops of color, these affordable decor elements will transform your outdoor space into a beautiful oasis.

  1. Snacks as centerpieces: Instead of buying expensive centerpiece decor, just fill vases, mason jars or bowls with snacks! You can serve veggies like carrots and cucumbers, chips and salsa or cookies. These centerpieces don’t just look amazing, they’ll also (mostly) clean themselves up!
  2. Hang Hoop Wreaths: This cute DIY will look beautiful over a buffet or around your pergola. It’s super easy to put together and adds an airy and colorful touch to your outdoor space!
  3. String lights: If you’re looking to add a whimsical touch to your backyard, wrap string lights around trees, poles or a pergola. It’s a safe way to light up your garden at night and looks so lovely, you’ll never want to take it down.
  4. Flowers: Flowers always make for pretty decor. You can use the outdoor party you’re throwing as an excuse to plant more flowers in your garden or decorate tables with fresh cut flowers. At the end of the night, have your guests take some of the flowers home with them as a keepsake!
  5. Banners: For any party host with kids at home, keep your little ones busy while you set up outside. Simply get some string and colorful paper, ask your children to cut out the paper pieces, glue them to the string and then hang up the DIY banners as decoration! Your kids will love this craft and the banner will definitely be a unique piece of decor that they’ll be proud to show off to their friends and family.
  6. Mason jar lanterns: Creating your own lanterns can be easy and cheap! Try out this cute DIY to craft lanterns you can hang up in trees or simply place mason jars on the tables, add a little sand and a candle to light up your party.
  7. Chalkboard menu: For anyone who loves hand lettering, you can decorate your buffet or cocktail bar with a pretty chalkboard menu that includes all the dishes, ingredients or recipe ideas.
  8. Colored vases: Use old wine or beer bottles and recycle them as flower vases or lights. Peel off the tags and wash the bottles thoroughly. If you want to add a pop of color, fill the bottles with a liquid (water-proof) paint, shake it and let the paint drip out until it’s dried.

Tip: Add a simple yet sophisticated touch to your table decoration with colorful candles! Light blue candles for example will pair beautifully with neutrals and greenery.

Fun Backyard Party Activities

adult friends grilling outside and playing with bubbles

If you want your guests to stick around after the food is gone, plan a few activities. Backyard games are fun at any age and with a little creativity you can set up activities that will keep the youngsters entertained and inspire the adults to embrace their inner child.

  1. Piñata: Piñatas are so much fun and super easy to organize. They’re definitely a great game to include at a children’s birthday party but who’s to say adults can’t take a swing at it? You may want to include different kinds of treats for a grown-up but the fun is all the same.
  2. Create an outdoor photo booth: Set up a designated area to take pictures. You can provide a frame or backdrop and props for your guests to dress up and take funny pictures. Your guests can use their phones to take pictures but you can also lay out a few disposable cameras. Once you’ve developed the pictures, you can send them to your guests as a thank you for coming to your party!
  3. Campfire Storytime: You don’t need to have a campfire to tell stories but it sure adds an element of mystery. Ask your friends and family to prepare a scary, funny or inspirational story they can tell once the sun has set. The best storyteller wins a price!
  4. Yard games: You can definitely set up the standard yard games like corn hole or beer pong but have you heard of frisbee tic tac toe? You can draw the lines on the sidewalk with chalk, spray it on grass with white paint or simply lay down an old shower curtain with sharpie lines on it. Hand out a few frisbees and challenge your guests to a round of outdoor tic tac toe!
  5. Bubbles: This is the easiest way to keep kids occupied without making a huge mess! You can lay out bubble bottles for them or try these giant outdoor bubbles that will have kids and adults in awe.
  6. Set the mood: Music is an essential part of any party. Whether you want your guests to dance their hearts out or just have some comforting background noise, make sure that you set up a speaker (or soundsystem) outside. Put together a playlist (or search for one online) that’s about five hours long. This is the typical length of a party and will ensure that you don’t have to listen to the same songs over and over again

Tip: If you have enough room in your backyard, try to set up separate areas for lounging and entertaining. That way your guests can sit down and relax where it’s quiet or choose to hit the dance floor by the speakers.

How to Take Your Backyard Party to the Next Level

friends chilling in backyard movie theater

Hopefully you’ve found your fair share of inspiration and are already writing down shopping lists to buy all the food, drinks and decorations for your outdoor party. If you can hold your horses for just a little while longer, we may have a few more ideas that could take your party to the next level!

  1. Set up a Picnic Area: This can be a great alternative to renting or purchasing extra chairs. Kids will love the idea of sitting on a picnic blanket and eating their food or playing games but it may also appeal to some of your adult friends. After all, what’s more romantic than a picnic by candlelight on a hot summer night?
  2. Provide an Essentials Basket: Your guests will absolutely love this detail and it doesn’t take much to put together. Simply think about a few essentials your guests could need, that could be sunscreen, bug spray, hand wipes, blankets, sun hats or even towels.
  3. Sharpies and Tags for Guests and Cups: Make sure that everyone knows who they’re talking to and what drink was theirs by providing a few sharpies and name tags. Your guests can attach them to their clothing and cups to avoid confusion and unnecessary trash.
  4. Cover drinks: Make sure no dirt, bugs or food lands in your drink by covering cups up with cupcake liners. This simple and effective DIY will protect your drinks all day and night.
  5. Keep bugs away: Besides providing your guests with bug spray and covering all drinks, there are simple and natural ways of repelling bugs! Try these floating candles for example that you’ll place in a mason jar or bowl filled with water, lemons and rosemary. They’ll look pretty and keep the surrounding area bug-free. Adding plants like lavender, marigold or lemongrass to your backyard is also an excellent way to keep bugs away and guests happy.
  6. Keep drinks cold: Fill an inflatable kiddie pool or a wheelbarrow with ice to keep drinks cool. This set-up will also serve as an interesting piece of decor and is way cheaper than running an outdoor fridge on a hot summer day!
  7. End the Night With a Movie: Turn your backyard party into a movie night once the sun sets by buying or renting a projector and setting up a little movie theater outside. Simply hang a white curtain or sheet to project the movie onto, lay out pillows, blankets and chairs and serve popcorn for anyone who still has room for a snack.

Getting together with your friends and family to enjoy a hot, sunny day and a cozy summer night can be the highlight of your week. We hope that our list sparked some inspiration and you now feel more comfortable with the idea of hosting a backyard party. With a little bit of preparation, your party should be a full success! And remember no backyard party is complete without some beautiful summer flowers!