9 Ways to Make Your Summer Party More Fun

These make-ahead projects, menu ideas and clever decorating tips will make outdoor entertaining a breeze. 

Backyard barbecues and cookouts are some of the most popular pastimes as the summer begins.  As a good host you’ll want to decorate to set a festive tone, you’ll also want to make sure your guests have activities that will provoke conversation and laughter. And you’ll of course want to serve up tasty fare. Check out some simple ways to make sure your party is a success.

HGTV Going Yard Episode 113 - Coleman

HGTV Going Yard Episode 113 - Coleman

Guests enjoy the yard in the outdoor dining area during a party at the home of Ken and Rachel Coleman which underwent a makeover that took their large, neglected and overgrown back yard that made the yard disfunctional, unuseable and unattractive and turned it into a wonderfully functional space where this busy family can enjoy time together in the dining area, the firepit area or in the sports areas, or time alone, on the lawn or near the koi pond. Inspired by a clean, traditional appeal, this new space is low maintenance and offers this busy family an easy place to entertain friends, family and all the neighborhood kids as well as to offer them a safe place to grow up in.

Photo by: Jamie Rector

Jamie Rector

1. Serve Ice Cream

From the little ones to the grandparents, this menu item can be enjoyed by all age groups. If you really want to impress, make your own and make it ahead. If strawberries are in season in your area, whip up a wholesome batch of fresh berry ice cream. Ice pops and ice cream sandwiches are less hassle because they don't require any utensils. To make it easy on yourself, use our secret for keeping ice cream cold while it sits outside. 

2. Create a Theme

You don’t have to go overboard and spend a lot of money, just a few touches to suggest a style is all you need. For a Western theme, get a few hay pales to serve as extra seating, (you can use them as compost later), use bandanas for napkins, and succulents and cacti for centerpieces. You can also use color as your theme. Take a look at the pretty purple table below that was set with dollar-store taper candles, fresh fruit and lilac linens.

3. Play Games

Cornhole boards are becoming common in many backyards. One of the reasons this game is so popular is everyone from little kids to grandparents can play. Party games are a sure way to break the ice for guests who don’t know each other, and games you can play with a beer in your hand are a big plus. Other fun backyard games to try are ladder golf, croquet, bocce or bottle ring toss.

4. Set Up a DIY Bar Cart

If you don’t have a cart, use an old end table or TV console. You can probably find one at the thrift store for a few bucks. Set out ingredients for two to three signature cocktails. Stick with two types of liquor to keep it simple. Print the recipes on card stock and display them on the cart or tie them to the cart with pretty ribbon. Guests will enjoy being mixologists and taste testing their concoctions. Plus, a DIY bar will free you up to do other hosting tasks. 

Upcycled Bar Carts

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5. Keep the Bugs Away

Nothing can spoil a party more than pesky flies and mosquitos. The easiest way to keep them away – a fan.  Bring your indoor fans outside, just a slight breeze will keep bugs away from your table, and keep your guests cool. Hang a few streamers in front of the fan to make it look festive. Citronella candles also work well and will add to the ambiance. 

6. Start a Fire

There’s something about gathering around a fire that inspires conversation. Add in an activity like roasting homemade marshmallows and making s’mores to keep it more interesting. Even if you don’t have a big fire pit, you can create a tabletop one using leftover charcoal from the grill. Carefully pour some hot coals from the grill into a terracotta pot lined with aluminum foil, perched on a trivet. Don’t try to bring the charcoal up to heat in the pot. It makes a spectacular tabletop station for roasting marshmallows, kind of like fondue for the garden-party set. If you're not using charcoal, make a s'more roasting station, using food-safe ethanol gel cans nestled in a container with pea gravel. For a small campfire, split the top of a log to make a long-lasting Swedish torch

7. Show a Movie

Turn your backyard into a theater. Hang a canvas drop cloth or a white sheet to serve as a screen. Buying a projector can be pricy, you can get one that hooks up to a smart phone for about $250. Do some research, there may be a party-supply place in your area that rents projectors. Or maybe you can ask at work if they’ll let you borrow one for the weekend. Don't forget the popcorn. 


8. Decorate With Pinwheels

Even if you don’t have kids, frame your garden or a walkway with pinwheels. They’re easy to make using plastic folders. Pick a color that matches your flower bed or stick with everybody’s favorite trio - red, white and blue. It’s a festive decoration you can leave up all summer long. 

9. Blow Bubbles

Place a few jars of blowing bubbles out on the table(s). Place them in cute Mason jars and make them part of your centerpiece or table setting. Even if there aren’t little kids at your party, adults will enjoy having an excuse to blow bubbles. DIY bubbles are just as easy as going to the store. 

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