Warmer, sunnier weather is here again, which means the time for al fresco entertaining has arrived. When it comes to summer fun, nothing beats the simple delight of a laid-back outdoor gathering with friends and loved ones. Here, we bring you a handful of tips, ideas and hacks for entertaining in your own backyard, with ease.
Keep the menu simple
By their very nature, backyard gatherings tend to be casual affairs, which helps take the pressure off when it comes to planning a menu. Our advice? Fire up the grill and keep things simple. After all, nothing says summer quite like barbecued burgers and hot dogs. For something a little fancier, opt for prime cuts of meat or fresh fish, but be sure to include options for vegetarians and vegans, too—all manner of veggies taste amazing off the grill.
Round out the menu with make-ahead snacks and sides—think potato or kale salads, chips and dips, baked beans and easy-to-eat desserts like cupcakes, lemon squares or fresh fruit. Of course, if you want to make things even easier, you could always turn your backyard bash into a potluck and have your guests bring the sides.
Set up a beverage station
Create a self-serve bar, away from the food. Not only will a bevvy station stop you from having to roam the party refilling cups, it’ll also give your guests more opportunity to mix and mingle as they pick or prepare their drinks.
Stock well-insulated coolers or ice-filled tubs with a variety of beer, wine, pop, juice and plenty of bottled water. Amid the coolers, set up a table or makeshift bar and load it with a few simple spirits, as well as stir sticks, cocktail garnishes like fruit wedges and fresh herbs, and plenty of outdoor-friendly cups and glasses. This will give guests the opportunity to prepare their own cocktails (i.e., sangrias, shandies or classic gin and tonics) from what’s on-hand.
Be sure to include some sharpies and tags, too, so people can keep track of which cup is theirs.
Provide plenty of seating
Most likely, your guests won’t all be sitting down at the same time, but it’s still important to make sure you have more than enough seating options for everyone. Try to have at least five more chairs than you do people on your guest list—that way, if someone brings along a friend or two, you won’t be scrambling to find them somewhere to sit.
In terms of set-up, if you’ve got the space, consider creating a few different seating areas where your guests can congregate. Ideally, at least one of these spaces will be in the shade. Keep some throw blankets and pillows on hand, too, in case guests want to spread out on the lawn, picnic-style. Those blankets will also come in handy when the sun goes down and our cool, southern-Alberta nights set in.
Avoid unwanted guests
And by unwanted guests, we mean bugs. Mosquitoes, wasps, ants, flies—they’re all an inevitable reality in the summertime, especially when there’s good food and sugary drinks around.
Luckily, there are plenty of eco-friendly ways to keep those pests away. Before the party, cut your lawn short, trim back your trees and hedges and clear the area of any stagnant water (in bird baths, flowerpots and kiddie pools). Surround your yard with citronella candles (you can also get tiki torches that burn citronella oil) and put natural bug sprays on one or two side tables, just in case your guests want to spritz.
Finally, keep trash and recycling bins off to one side, making sure they’re easy for guests to access, but far enough away from the main party area.
Make A Soundtrack
Music is essential for setting the right tone at an event. Before the party, create a playlist of crowd-pleasing summer tunes that span a variety of genres and decades. If you’re short on time, opt for streaming a pre-made summer playlist from whichever music source you prefer.
On party day, set up a good Bluetooth speaker and let the music play. Just remember to keep the volume at a level that makes your neighbours happy and allows your guests to chat without straining to hear each other.
Get Your Game On
Last but not least, no backyard party would be complete without a few outdoor party games. Whether kids are present or not, having games at the ready is a sure-fire way to keep people of all ages entertained. Games also help break the ice among guests who might be meeting for the first time.
Reserve a spot or two in your yard for classic outdoor activities like cornhole, horseshoes or bocce ball. Or, if you’ve got a little extra time before the actual event, consider putting together a summer-themed scavenger hunt that will have your guests racing around your yard solving clues or riddles (no more than 10!) in search of hidden treasures.
No matter what you choose to do in terms of food, drink and entertainment, keep in mind that our summers are short—so remember to relax, have fun and savour the seasonal joys of spending time outside with family and friends. The more at ease you are, the happier your guests will be!