The long days (and evenings) of summer are perfect for outdoor gatherings of all kinds. From gussied-up drinks and quick bouquets to destination parties, let these 15 ideas jump-start a summer of fun.
Decorate with fruit. Take advantage of the bounty of fresh fruit at the market and use whatever catches your eye to create a lush display. Pile up fruit on a cake plate or platter, or plunk big handfuls of fresh herbs in water glasses in lieu of flowers.
Gussie up glasses. One quick way to make a gathering feel like a special occasion is to pay some extra attention to the presentation of drinks. Perch lemon rounds on the edge of each glass, set out colorful paper straws, or freeze a batch of ice cubes with fresh herbs or edible flowers inside.
Take over the dining room. It requires some commitment in time (and muscle), but this grand gesture can bring a party to life: Haul the dining table outdoors and use the freed-up space as a games room. Fling open the doors and encourage mingling indoors and out.
Make quick wildflower bouquets. Snip flowers in your own backyard, or use a store-bought arrangement, and divvy up the blooms among an assortment of recycled bottles and jars for a charmingly rustic centerpiece. Cluster the vases in an old wooden crate or tray, or tie a group of vessels together with jute twine.
Set up a shed bar. If your backyard shed has been serving no real purpose (aside from accumulating junk), why not use an upcoming party as motivation to finally clear out the space? On party day, set up a table and bar stools inside and stock a cooler or two with your favorite beverages.
Pass-through from the kitchen. If you have a kitchen window that’s reachable from the yard or patio, you have a potential pass-through spot on your hands. A simple counter on the outside, paired with stools and a wide-opening accordion window, makes for a popular perch on party day — or every day.
Have a classic campout. There’s something so appealing about a summer night spent outdoors under the stars. Pitch a tent, light a fire in the fire pit and make s’mores. Whether or not you actually sleep out is up to you!
Stock a basket with poolside essentials. If you want to host a pool party, keep a basket filled with extras for guests who come unprepared. Sunscreen, sunglasses and beach towels are must-haves; bottled water, tasty snacks and a pile of new magazines are lovely extras.
Host a leisurely lunch alfresco. The key to a luxurious-feeling lunch in the backyard is a really long table. Even if it’s plywood atop sawhorses, it will look grand once covered in tablecloths. Be sure to position your table beneath a leafy tree or wide umbrella for shade, and cover platters of food to protect them from bugs while you’re getting set up. A cluster of lanterns or vases hung over the table will make a memorable centerpiece.
Take over the driveway. If you’re finding it hard to make space for a big dining table outdoors, consider moving the cars out and using the driveway as your alfresco dining room.
Create a corner for cozy chats. Particularly as a party winds down and just your nearest and dearest friends are left, it’s nice to have a spot to sit and chat, removed from the former hubbub. A daybed tucked under a shady overhang and piled high with plump pillows makes an inviting nook.
Bring on the (secretly easy) brunch. Brunch, especially when accompanied by champagne and fresh flowers on the table, is an elegant affair — so it may come as a surprise that as far as parties go, it’s a relative breeze to host. Make a cook-ahead dish like a frittata, mix up a batch of waffle batter and invite guests to do their own griddling. Set out a bountiful fruit bowl and fresh-squeezed juice (and champagne if you wish).
Ramp up evening ambiance. Any gathering benefits from mood lighting, and for parties on the porch it’s especially key. Scatter tea lights and votives (real or battery-operated) and hang string lights overhead. If your porch lights are bright, leave them off and use only the candles and string lights.
Host a clambake on the beach. If you don’t have a big enough yard or porch for hosting all your friends (or you’re just looking for something different to do), consider inviting the troop to meet at the nearest beach for a party at the shore. Whether you do a true clambake or just stake out a picnic spot and grill some burgers, the salt air and ocean waves will provide all the party ambiance you need. Enamelware plates are unbreakable and a step up from paper, and big seashells work wonderfully to hold down flapping tablecloths and runaway napkins. No beach nearby? Pick your favorite local lake or park instead.
Make a new tradition. Whether it’s a weekly potlock, cocktails on the front porch or Friday night grilling in the backyard, establishing a regular day and place to meet up with family and friends can be a great way to carve out time for fun, even when life gets busy. If you don’t always want to play host, set up a rotating schedule from the get-go with a few other willing friends and take turns.
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