With weather heating up and COVID-related restrictions easing, getting together with loved ones we haven't seen in a while is top of mind for many of us, and your backyard can serve as the perfect space for such a reunion.
While costs can certainly add up when it comes to entertaining, throwing a backyard soiree doesn't have to break the bank or become ultra time-consuming. Read on for tips from expert party planners about throwing an unforgettable backyard summer party that your guests (and credit card) will love.
Digital Invites Are In
There's no need to get formal here — digital invites are the way to go.
"We love using Paperless Post for inexpensive invites — guests still get the experience of 'opening' a traditional invite envelope and they even have matching stationery for those family members who may prefer paper," notes Kate Whelan, Owner of Kate Whelan Events, adding that the service includes online RSVPs and is a more environmentally friendly option.
There are other advantages for choosing electronic invites, too.
"First of all, if you need to relay any last minute updates (example: don't forget to bring your towel for the pool), you can easily send out a message to everyone at the same time," Lindsey Mensch, Owner of Lili Marie Parties, tells Lively. "This is particularly handy for outdoor events that may be affected by weather — you may have to cancel or postpone a backyard BBQ if the weather is especially bad, so instead of frantically shooting out 20 texts, you can easily send one message to all of your guests."
Use The Decor Your Space Provides
The beauty of an outdoor event is that you can keep it simple and let the natural decor speak for itself, whether that includes lush trees, flowers, or plants. You may even consider your upcoming event as an opportunity to plant a few things yourself.
"I grow zinnias from seeds every year — they are cut and come again flowers, so you can make bouquets all summer from just a few plants," says Whelan. "They can be planted on a patio in pots, or in the ground if you have the space."
When it comes to table decor, you can DIY flower arrangements by ordering cheap vases online and popping flowers in yourself, but Mensch says there's an opportunity to think outside the box.
"One fun way to save on centerpiece decorations is to use your party favors as decor — you can spend a small amount of money to put the party favors in gift bags with tissue paper that coordinates with your color scheme. Line the bags up so they run down the center of the table."
Also, instead of buying table linens, Whelan loves to rent fun options from La Tavola for backyard events. "It's much cheaper than buying and they do all the laundry for you," she says.
One more clever entertaining on a budget tip Whelan suggests is using cheesecloth as a cheap and chic alternative to linen and makes for a beautiful runner when paired with simple candles and bud vases.
Prepare Summertime Food
There are plenty of delicious food options out there for a backyard shindig that won't hurt your wallet.
"Tacos are a budget-friendly favorite — you can get marinated asada from your local deli to grill and offer fresh grilled veggies, homemade salsa, guacamole and grilled tortillas to guests," suggests Whelan.
Something to consider is serving mostly cool or room temperature food, so you're not stressing about trying to keep dishes hot, Rachel Welland, Owner of Bliss Events, tells Lively. A few summertime flavors and ingredients Welland recommends for your menu include: lime, citrus, berry, peach, watermelon, mint and corn.
"Consider making upscale sandwiches that can be displayed on a platter, so you don’t get stuck cooking at the BBQ during the entire party," Welland says. "If it's a hot day, serve cool soup (such as gazpacho) in fun, small bowls or cups. Cook and roast vegetables and seafood ahead of time, and serve it chilled at the party — put the bowl over a tray of ice to keep it extra cool!"
Serve Batches of Beverages
Ditch the idea of bartending or mixing drinks for each guest and instead grab a selection of canned beverages like hard seltzers, kombucha, or ciders with light and fresh summer flavors that can be displayed over ice, suggests Welland.
Another refreshing (and easy) beverage idea comes from Whelan and is to make or buy grapefruit popsicles to dip in chilled vodka or even champagne. (For a non-alcoholic option, try these 4-ingredient collagen popsicles.)
"Making big batches of drinks and serving them in jugs with spouts or dispensers is a convenient way to save money," adds Mensch.
"You can get creative and coordinate your party theme with the drinks, for example, if you're serving tacos, you can make a couple different types of margaritas and treat your guests to a margarita bar."
Note: these batches of drinks can be made with alcohol already in them, or you can leave the alcohol out and let guests add their own. "If you are having a lot of kiddos at the party, omitting the alcohol out works great, so the little ones can enjoy the fun signature mocktails as well," Mensch says.
A few other useful beverage tips from Mensch:
- If guests will be adding the alcohol themselves, let them know what type you suggest mixing and place the bottle conveniently next to the jug
- Put a small cooler or bowl of ice next to the jugs for guests to scoop into their glass
- While cutting up fruit to float in the dispensers can make for a pretty display, you may want to be careful with fruit like lemons and limes because the rinds can make the drink bitter after soaking in the liquid all day.
Set Up Interactive Entertainment
DIY is the way to go if you're looking to include entertainment for your party on a low budget, since hiring professionals like a band or magician — while awesome and convenient — quickly adds up, Mensch tells Lively. "One option is to make an initial investment in purchasing some backyard games like giant Jenga or Connect Four, or perhaps bean bags/corn hole."
To up the ante, Mensch suggests having guests form teams for a tournament. She adds that if there will be a lot of kids at the party, you can set up activity stations with supplies purchased from The Dollar Store.
"Buy several packs of bubbles and set up a bubble station, or perhaps print themed coloring sheets and purchase a few packs of crayons and set up a coloring station," she says.
Another idea, if you have the space for it, is to set up an obstacle course with materials from around the house and offer prizes.
When it comes to entertainment, music is key.
It's important to curate an epic playlist, Seri Kertzner, Chief Party Officer of Little Miss Party Planner, tells Lively. She, too, suggests if you're hosting outdoors, set up a few lawn games like corn hole, ring toss, and/or Spikeball.
Get Creative With Personalized Favors
For easy and thoughtful party favor suggestions that aren't too pricey, Kertzner proposes sending guests home with something personalized. "Think about items that will remind guests of you, whether that be something like a homemade jam or spice rub, or perhaps a bottle of your favorite BBQ or hot sauce — add a note to each party favor thanking your guests for coming over," she says.
If you want to opt for something non-edible, Welland suggests you could make little items such as a salt scrub, small potted succulent, or potpourri.