Wondering how to plan a backyard party this summer? You’re in good company. The backyard is an extra living space that’s just sitting there and waiting to be used. And a backyard party is the perfect way to turn up the fun on any celebration — birthdays, anniversaries, game-watching, etc.

Personally, I’ve always wanted to throw a summer solstice party. That’s the longest day of the year, if you’re scoring at home. Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby laments that she always means to do something on the longest day of the year, but she always forgets. And, alas, the summer solstice has passed, and I’ll have to put my plans on ice until summer 2018.

But let’s not fret. There are plenty of things to celebrate in your backyard, and there’s still plenty of summertime left to celebrate such things. To help you make the most of your space and your opportunity to celebrate, here are some pro tips on how to plan a backyard party.


1. Lighting is Essential

Without the right lighting, your backyard party doesn’t stand a chance of creating the right mood. I love café lights, and I have them strung in my backyard. But café lights aren’t always an easy lift, especially if you don’t have trees to hang them from or you’re short on time for preparation.

Here’s another idea that’s a little easier to execute: Place LED lights inside of balloons, blow them up, and then place them strategically around your backyard. This creates a nice, colorful burst and soft lighting that helps set the right mood.

Lastly, if you have a mosquito issue like I do, find some mason jars and then float inside of them citronella candles. It makes for nice, attractive lighting, and it also helps keep those pesky, blood-sucking insects away from your gathering.


2. Get Creative With Drinks

What’s a good party without a little booze? You can open a few bottles of wine, put some beers in a tub of ice, and call it a day. Or, you can have a little more fun. Consider a themed party with themed drinks. Anything frozen, light, tropical or citrusy is a great fit for summer. If you’re more interested in a fall or winter party, cider is always a good idea.

Here’s one of my favorite go-to tricks for making drinks more fun at a summer party: Use berries as ice. Even a glass of water is more fun when blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are cooling it down.


3. Eat the Centerpiece

Use colorful fruits and vegetables as centerpieces on your tables. You can get creative with them, creating a pattern, spelling out a word or even tiering them like a wedding cake. Your centerpieces will slowly ebb away over the course of the night, but that’s OK. When your guests show up, your edible centerpieces will make a colorful and dramatic first impression.

Here’s one benefit of eating the centerpiece: There’s nothing to throw away or store after the party is over.


4. Find Simple Table Runners

You might be tempted to use simple picnic tables, folding tables or other patio furniture for your outdoor party. There’s nothing wrong with this. But everyday outdoor furniture can be a little boring. Consider spicing things up by creating fun table runners using gift wrap or craft paper.

You can even spread magic markers around your tables and encourage your guests to write messages or draw pictures. There will always be “that guy” who writes or draws something crude, but overall this has been a fun activity at parties I’ve hosted or attended in the past.


5. Set Up an Impromptu Photo Booth

Looking for an icebreaker? Go for the photo booth. You don’t have to rent one. Who wants to spend money that could go toward better food or drinks? Just set up a backdrop — something as simple as a white sheet. And set out all sorts of costumes, accessories and decorations. The lighting needs to be good, of course, but all your guests should have a device on them that can take a photo.

And watch the fun ensue. When everyone has had a drink or two, a mob will gather around the photo booth. You’ll also notice that picture takers forget to (or refuse to) take off the pink boa or top hat you laid out, and they continue to wear them around the party for the rest of the evening.


6. Invite Guests Over for the Game or Show

Back when I was in college, some friends of mine moved a big-screen television onto their front porch and ordered a heavyweight title fight on pay-per-view. I’m dating myself a little here, as the big-screen TV was one of the heavy, box-like units from around the turn of the century, and the title fight included none other than Mike Tyson.

I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to you, but: I don’t care at all about boxing. But having the television outside, drinking a drink, eating food off the grill — it was a super cool summer party experience.

So, I know look for opportunities to host a game- or show-watching party in my backyard. I’m lucky enough to have a wi-fi cable box, so I can move my television out back without issue. All I need it electricity.

If you’re into Game of Thrones, host a watch party in your backyard, and piece together some of the suggestions above to make it memorable. Or, as college football fires up again, have your friends over for a little backyard game-watching. It’s a nice change-of-pace that’s become one of my favorite excuses to have people over to enjoy the backyard.


Final Thoughts on How to Plan a Backyard Party

Have fun with any of the ideas above. But remember, a party is first and foremost about the guests. Make sure to have lots of good drinks and lots of good food. And consider bridging the gap between different groups of friends. You’d be surprised at how much better the interaction and conversation can be when you pull guests from different parts of your life.

Of course, if you’re watching Game of Thrones, you may not want a lot of conversation. Football games (and other sporting events) are far better for introducing one group of friends to another.

Have you held a killer shindig in your backyard this summer? Let us know about it in the comments section below, or you can always get in touch with us directly using our contact page.