Expert-Approved Tips To Host A Stress-Free Outdoor Party

Decorated outdoor wedding table with flowers, lights and candles in rustic style

If you feel like summer is slipping through your fingers, you're not alone; with June and July behind us, there's only a couple months until fall. But there's still some balmy nights ahead, and in order to make the most of them, consider hosting a backyard bash while you can. In fact, with a few outdoor summer party ideas that are simple, festive, and budget-friendly, you'll be ready to throw a soiree by this weekend.

That's right: There's no need to overhaul your tableware or purchase expensive decor in order to get the mood right (your dishes don't even have to match). Instead, the pros says to use eclectic elements, feature flowers and fresh summer produce, and make food the star of the show. And the best part? These versatile tips can be used in any outdoor area, whether you have a sprawling backyard oasis or you're working with a smaller space.

Ahead, two experts in outdoor and home decor share their secrets for hosting a memorable backyard get-together. From setting the table, to serving food and drinks, to creating some ambiance, these tried-and-true tips will help you throw a last-minute gathering (or two) before summer's end.


Embrace The Eclectic

Who says a party has to be formal, expensive, or matchy-matchy? "In summer, it's fun to play with color on the table, especially mix and match your pieces to create a distinctive look," says Kathryn Duryea, CEO and founder of Year & Day, a tableware brand. "The easiest way to do this is to have a basic set of coordinating pieces you love on your shelves year-round, then layer in fresh elements through linens, accents, or serving pieces. By keeping a consistent palette among your permanent collection, your can easily add new coordinating elements while maintaining a harmonious look."

She suggests some essential party add-ons that will make your table pop. "Easy ways to bring color to the table are through multi-colored accents in coordinating tones like dip dishes and bud vases."

Credit: Year & Day

Keep Decor Au Natural

There's no need to spend extra money on decor when the theme is "summertime." Instead, highlight the season's harvest with fruits, veggies, and even flowers from your garden (or your next best bet, the local farmer's market.)

"I love a simple centerpiece, and summer fruit and vegetables can make for beautiful and colorful arrangements," says Duryea. "I keep it simple with lemons or heirloom tomatoes in a low-serving bowl. The secret is to really fill the bowl for an abundant, colorful, and textured way to tie the table together."

As mentioned, you can also get festive with florals by displaying blooms in bud vases. "I love single-varietal floral arrangements," she shares. "Right now, I am loving pink dahlias in a [blush] bud vase for a tone-on-tone look."

Make Food Your Feature

To that, Terry Lin, cofounder and chief design officer of sustainable outdoor furniture company Outer, adds that you don't need ornamentation if you have beautiful hors d'oeuvres and courses with colorful accoutrements. "Think of your food spread as the decoration," he suggests. "Make the food and the presentation the star of your party. If you think about what makes for a memorable party, it’s about the people, the conversation and the food."

Step Out Of The Kitchen

"I always say you don’t have to be a cook to be a host!" says Duryea. "Summertime, in particular, is a great time for simple cold spreads that are easy to assemble. Preparations like watermelon feta salad, heirloom tomatoes with fresh basil, or a charcuterie and crudite [arrangement] are easily styled on a serving platter."

Adds Lin, "Who doesn’t love a charcuterie board with your favorite meats, cheeses, breads, crackers and antipasti treats?" He lends a final tip: "Don’t skimp. You want your boards to be overflowing with yumminess."

Let Guests Serve Themselves

When throwing a backyard bash, the last thing you want to do is play bartender all night. "A crowd-pleasing, large-batch cocktail is easy to prepare in advance and keep fresh on ice," Duryea advises. "My go-to cocktail is a Tequila Blanco Gimlet with fresh lime. For a garnish, fresh basil or mint or a slice of lemon adds flair; especially these special pink lemons that I occasionally find at the farmer’s market. I love showing them to my guests!"

Think Green

Make little changes to reduce waste; not only is it good for the environment, guests won't leave disposable products lying around and it'll keep your party tidier. Duryea says that two of her go-to hacks are serving carafes of cucumber or lemon-infused water instead of water bottles, and opting for cloth napkins instead of paper ones.

Set The Ambiance

When it comes to setting the tone for your soiree, music and lighting can create a welcoming atmosphere that encourages guests to relax and mingle. Duryea suggests assembling a house playlist, then making small adjustments to it before every gathering. "Our recent favorites are songs from the Big Little Lies soundtrack, which is my go-to playlist for hosting this summer," she says.

Further, simple, soft lighting can bring coziness to an evening get-together. "Candles are an inexpensive and easy way to set a mood, and are especially enchanting outdoors as the sun sets," Duryea points out. "I pepper votives and tea lights throughout the outdoor surfaces and also incorporate candles on the main table."

Stringing up twinkling lights and placing lanterns with faux candles on steps or around patios can also add some (flame-free) magic to your backyard.