Lawn & Garden Outdoor Living

15 Outdoor Entertaining Tips for Stress-Free Summer Hosting

A little planning will make for a lot of relaxing.

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Easy Does It

Summer is all about “living easy.” Stressful, decadent meals in the formal dining room are swapped for casual backyard BBQs. Stoking the indoor fire is replaced by splashing in the outdoor pool. And trying to get it all in before nightfall becomes easier as the days get longer and the weather warms up. When it comes to hosting at your home, it should be as easy as the vibe the season emits. That’s why we tapped entertaining expert and home accessories designer Joanna Buchanan for her top tips for stress-free summer hosting.

Use Decor from Indoors

“Just because you are outside doesn’t mean it needs to be paper plates!” says Buchanan. Make the outdoors fancier: Bring out some taper candles, display a bouquet of fresh flowers in a vase, and drape blankets over chairs.

Related: The Most Stylish Outdoor Decor, According to a Design Pro

Utilize Natural Surroundings

Take a look around and you’ll be amazed at the natural world begging to be highlighted as beautiful decor. Shrubs and flowers can be snipped and popped into vases to add gorgeous embellishment to the table.

Set Up a Self-Serve Bar

A self-serve bar enables guests to feel right at home. “When guests arrive, encourage them to help themselves,” says Buchanan. “Unless you have help, you will be running around all day serving drinks…and that’s no fun!”

Don’t Serve Everything at Once

“Have ‘waves’ of food coming out as opposed to serving everything at once,” says Buchanan. “I always have one wave for when everyone arrives (appetizers), then the ‘meal’ aka BBQ. Later, I do a serving of cold sandwiches and fried chicken perhaps. Finally, the big desserts!”

Related: The Best Bar Carts for Entertaining

Make a Signature Drink

“It’s also fun to have a signature drink,” says Buchanan. “I like to do something that looks good, so think about that when planning a drink!” Add pops of color and dimension with fresh fruit and herbs, and create fun with festive stirrers.

Use High-Quality Dinnerware

For an elevated hosting experience, be sure to use high-quality melamine plates and glassware. “People can’t believe the quality of the wine glasses we have for our outdoor parties. I love to have beautiful things no matter what the use!” says Buchanan.

Keep Kids Safe

“When outdoor entertaining, there’s no need not to include children,” Buchanan says. “We have a pool, so we always get a lifeguard when we know small children will be around.” Buchanan suggests working with a lifeguard from the local YMCA. “The kids there are usually happy for a few extra hours of work, and they usually do a good job of entertaining some of the small children as well—even beyond the pool!”

Related: The Best Walkie-Talkies for Kids

Don’t Forget the Younger Kids

For a family-friendly event, be sure to offer activities that get adults and younger kids joining together in the fun. “My husband is a big believer in the game of egg toss,” says Buchanan.

Have Games for Adults

For day-to-night gatherings, be sure to create fun things to do between the meals. A game of cornhole or lifesize Jenga is a crowd pleaser. Games are great for breaking the ice and keeping things lighthearted.

Related: How to Build a Cornhole Set

Anticipate Extra Guests

As a host, you never want to run out of the goods! Always anticipate extra guests. Ways to prepare include having extra place settings, extra towels, enough non-alcoholic beverages, and of course, plenty of food!

Use Proper Lighting

Lighting is so important,” says Buchanan. “When the sun goes down, how are you lighting the event? Will you be using outdoor lighting? Tiki sticks? Tea lights? These lighting choices really set a wonderful mood so plan for it! And have them ready!”

Keep the Bugs Away

No matter how beautiful the party is, if pesky bugs are biting guests, it’s going to be hard for everyone to enjoy themselves. “Don’t forget incense sticks and bug spray,” says Buchanan. “We use an organic one but have something stronger on hand for those who prefer to be hardcore!”

Prepare the Lawn

“If you have grass outside, make sure to schedule the landscaper the day before the party,” says Buchanan, to ensure the lawn is at its most presentable. “Don’t forget to turn off the sprinklers the night before,” she adds. “You don’t want wet grass!”

Related: 7 Lawn Care Myths Debunked

Plan Out Seating

Be sure there are enough places for guests to relax. “Have multiple seating areas if possible, so that people can find a spot to catch up with friends or just take a quiet minute on their own,” Buchanan suggests.

Don’t Plan for Perfection

While having yummy food, delicious drinks, fun games and beautiful decor will make for a great party, be mindful that there may be glitches. “Don’t expect or plan for perfection. A party will always bring unexpected surprises,” says Buchanan. “Roll with them!”