Updated: Feb 15
The idea of inviting family and friends over for a get-together can feel overwhelming. Should there be a theme? What kind of foods should be served? How will the guests be entertained? What if it feels too informal? Or too formal? Take a deep breath and remember there can be beauty in simplicity, and your guests will be excited for the opportunity to create and build community at your gathering. To set the tone, consider using the backyard as the center point for the event. Focusing the festivities outdoors lends to a more informal feel, and the landscape will provide natural décor. If you’re unsure if your outdoor space is party-ready, consider Land & Feast’s land care services so you can enjoy your yard with guests and on your own. When you’re ready to start planning, follow these tips to ensure you and your guests enjoy the time together.
1. Feast—Don’t Fret
Food is one of the biggest stressors for a host, but a little planning can go a long way. The most important tip here (and on this entire list of simple backyard gathering ideas) is to make sure you’re not spending the entire gathering time prepping and cooking in the kitchen or at the grill. Without this intentionality, you’ll finish the day tired and less connected—the goal is to build community and enjoy your space along with the guests. Consider what meals you can prep ahead of time that simply need to be thrown in the oven. A few ideas from Thespruceeats.com: Pigs in a Blanket, 4-Ingredient Appetizer Meatballs, Muffin Cup Ham and Cheddar Quiches, Baked Thai Coconut Shrimp, or Crescent Roll Pizza Pinwheels.
Another option is to make it a no-cook affair. “Summer is the perfect time to curate a delicious spread of store-bought staples with a few artisanal treats,” writes Camilla Styles of Camillestyles.com. “Assemble a snacking board full of delicious cheeses, olives, crudités, dips, dried fruit, nuts—really your options are endless.” When it comes to drinks, put out a cooler with a variety of options, and then don’t be afraid to ask your guests to bring along a bottle of wine or six-pack of beer. “If they ask, share what you’re serving so they can consider a solid pairing,” writes Styles. 2. Borrow from the House
You may be looking at your backyard and wondering where everyone is supposed to sit during your gathering. Don’t go out and purchase or rent outdoor tables and chairs. Instead, look around your house and pick out chairs, tables, or other furniture (small couches, ottomans, etc.) and decide what will withstand the outdoor elements for a few hours. The odds of damage in such a short period of time are minimal, and it might sound random, but it will lend to a more relaxed environment ripe for quality conversation. There’s also this great idea from Realsimple.com, especially if there will be kids at the party: “If you're keeping things casual, you can spread pretty quilts on the ground and let people gather picnic-style.”
The same goes for linens for the tables. Either go without (remember, we’re keeping it simple), or look around for mismatched tablecloths or sheets. The beauty of an outdoor gathering is the yard – this sets the tone, not the linens or décor.
3. Consider Lighting
If it’s during the day and warm outside, make sure to provide shaded spots with umbrellas or using more sheets. After spending your efforts on hosting a backyard gathering, the last thing you want is for your guests to linger inside to avoid the heat. Planning on a sunset or evening party? Getting creative with lighting is a must. For a longer-term investment, consider investing in quality outdoor string lights that can stay up all year, and landscape lighting that will show off your beautiful yard at all hours of the day. If your party is soon or your budget is limited, there are plenty of DIY lighting options that won’t break your budget. A few favorites that you might want to consider for ambiance even if you have the more permanent light fixtures in place: Mason Jar Oil Lamps, Hanging Solar Tea Lights, and DIY Wine Bottle Tiki Torch. If you’re not much of a DIY-er, instead check out the variety of luminary bags and LED tea light candles available through Amazon and other retailers. 4. Entertain, But Keep It Relaxed
Perhaps the area where it is most important to keep it simple is in the entertaining of your guests. Remember that you invited them to your home, and odds are they are simply looking for a relaxed environment with quality conversation. If you have cornhole, darts, or another game that’s easy enough to place in the yard then that’s great, but it’s not required—your party will be just as fun with or without. If you’re nervous about the conversation, these cards are a fun way to ensure your guests are never without a topic to keep the chat going. Place them around and listen in on the fun. A couple of sample Qs: “What’s a fashion trend that needs to die?” And “What’s the best rock song of all time?” When it comes to music, don’t take the time to curate a playlist unless you’re planning on the event turning into an epic dance party. The music will be a background to the conversation and ambiance, and there are plenty of ready-made playlists available. For Spotify subscribers, consider playlists like Dinner Party Essentials or Beach Cocktail Party—look for something that matches the vibe you’re going for. If kids will be invited, be sure to keep it clean.
5. Remember the Bs: Bathroom, Bugs, and Backup
You’ve got the food and fun nailed, so now it’s time to think of some other basics. If you live in an area where bugs are an issue, provide bug spray and purchase citronella candles. Also, keep in mind that your guests will have to use the restroom. Walk the path from the yard to the bathroom and keep in mind what your guests will see along the way. When it comes to the bathroom itself, continue to keep it simple. Do a quick clean, refresh the towels and toilet paper, and light a candle. Finally, have a backup plan in mind in case the weather doesn’t work in your favor. Are you prepared to transition everything inside? If not, reschedule the festivities for another day with better weather. Regardless of how much effort you decide to put into any one area of your get-together, don’t forget that the goal is to enjoy your guests while they enjoy your outdoor space.
Ready to make your outdoor space party-ready? Consider Land & Feast’s land care services to make the most of your backyard.