25 Tips for Planning the Ultimate Backyard Get-Together

Long summer days and entertaining go hand-in-hand. After all, we might as well celebrate the extra hours of sunlight by kicking back with a few of our favorite people while enjoying a refreshing cocktail and tasty nibbles. Take your summer soiree from just fun to fun-tastic with our tips.

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Party on the Patio

Warmer temps mean it's time to take entertaining outdoors. Whether you prefer to keep your get-togethers casual or opt for sophisticated soirees — however you party, there's no denying that sips and snacks enjoyed outdoors always taste best.

Ensure Your Party Is Made in the Shade

Turn an over-exposed patio or deck into a shady hangout with a billowing shade sail. Our step-by-step instructions show you how to sturdily set up the supports and customize the shade to better fit your outdoor decor.

Keep Kids Occupied

If kids are included in the party, plan activities like a bubble station to keep them safely occupied, leaving the adults free to relax and enjoy themselves. Get 11 more party tips every parent should know >>

Don't Forget Your Best Friend

Pets are family so include them in your party plans. Invite outgoing pets to the party; alternately, provide a safe, quiet area for pets that are skittish around strangers, not feeling well or are afraid of loud noises. Get more tips for keeping pets safe this summer >>

Provide Self-Service Sips

Put your wheelbarrow or garden cart to work as a handy drink station you can move around the party. If kids are present, stock it with only non-alcoholic beverages so they don't accidentally grab a tipsy sip and keep the booze behind the bar.

Keep Kids Hydrated

An inflatable baby pool is just the right size to keep a variety of juice boxes and sodas iced down and handy so your littlest guests can help themselves. Get more stress-less tips for hosting kids >>

Gather 'Round the Fire Pit

S'mores + summer = a tasty treat made in fireside heaven. Make s'mores happen (some more) by creating the perfect setting with a DIY fire pit surrounded by a group of low benches or outdoor chairs.

Cozy Up Chairs

Wooden patio chairs are great but not always the most comfortable to sit in for long periods of time. Encourage guests to linger longer with outdoor pillows and throws.

Fire Up the Grill

What would backyard entertaining be without everyone's fave summer foods hot off the grill? Whether you're hosting a neighborhood block party or just friends or family for a good old-fashioned cook-out, fire up the grill and ask everyone to bring their favorite side dish or dessert to share. Try one of these 10 foods you didn't know you could grill >>

Then, Let Guests Top to Fit Their Taste

A variety of condiments and toppings will make it easy for guests to please their palate while the self-serve set-up frees you up to mix and mingle. Get our tips for setting up a hot dog bar >>

Or, Serve an Easy-to-Munch Menu

If grilling out isn't your thing, you can still serve an easy-to-prepare menu that'll free you from kitchen duties. Hand-held bites, like these Mini Tacos, are easy for guests to enjoy while mingling. Other two-bite favorites include: Mini Quiche Florentine, Smoked Gouda and Herb Puffs and Chile-Lime Roasted Cashews.

Keep It Casual

Summer is the season for kicking back and relaxing. Make your party planning as low-stress as possible by pre-prepping dishes the day before and piling the buffet table with a variety of nibbles so everyone can serve themselves. Try one of these 10 dips that'll take your party to the next level >>

Satisfy Their Sweet Tooth

Even the most diet-devoted guest finds it hard to pass up a bite or two of something sweet making individual desserts like cupcakes, tartlets, cookies and parfaits a tasty choice. Try one of our 25 decadent desserts for any occasion >>

Simplify Set-Up

Make party set-up and clean-up a snap by subbing an inexpensive fitted sheet for a tablecloth. When the party's over you can just throw it in the wash. Best of all: the sheet's fitted corners keep it from shifting or flapping around in the breeze.

Upgrade Your Utensils

Make post-party clean-up a snap with disposable bamboo flatware that looks great, is much sturdier than plastic (no more broken tines!) and is biodegradable so it's also a win for the environment.

Craft a Summery Centerpiece

A beautiful centerpiece makes any get-together feel more special, but they can be pricey. No worries, we have 10 ideas for DIY-ing a florist-worthy centerpiece on the cheap, like this bright arrangement featuring backyard blooms and citrus slices.

Whip Up Big-Batch Cocktails

Free yourself from bartending duties and actually enjoy the party by mixing up a big batch before guests arrive. Serve your custom concoction in a punch bowl, pitcher or large beverage dispenser so guests can help themselves. Try one of our 15 crowd-pleasing summer sips >>

Or, Serve Boozy Frozen Desserts

What would summer be without a frosty frozen dessert? And, what’s a party without a few adult beverages? Combine the two and beat the heat with this refreshing red wine sorbet. Get the recipe >>

Buh-Bye Bugs!

Don't let mosquitoes crash your party. Keep bugs at bay with this colorful and all-natural citronella-infused bracelet. Learn how to make them >>

Game On!

Backyard games are a surefire way to break the ice between guests who may be meeting for the first time. Badminton, croquet, bocce or horseshoes are all safe bets — or, check out this list of 19 games that'll get everyone in on the action >>

Or, Make It a Movie Night

Invite friends to join you for an after-dark flick fest. Hook up a projector to your laptop, then display a favorite summer flick on a screen or blank wall. Movie buffs of all ages will love a laid-back evening under the stars. Learn how to make your own DIY movie screen >>

Bring the Indoors, Out

Weather permitting, bring out indoor pillows, flatweave rugs and throws to create a cozy lounge area for guests to gather. Having a soft spot to land after filling up on good food and drinks will encourage guests to linger long after dark. Get more tips for creating an outdoor living room >>

Craft Upcycled Lanterns

Seriously, upcycling has never looked so good. Craft these nearly-free cuties to brighten up tabletops or hang them from low tree limbs to light the way to the party. Make your own with our step-by-step instructions >>

And, Colorful Decor

With just a few inexpensive supplies and a little creativity, you can whip up these colorful lanterns while binge-watching your favorite show. Learn how to add the watercolor patterns >>

Light Up the Night

Don't let the setting of the sun send guests packing. Keep the party going with twinkling strands of bistro lights. Learn our tricks for temporarily, but safely, illuminating your backyard >>

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