Summer is the optimal season for hosting friends and family outdoors—long nights and warm weather are an unbeatable combination. But, if the thought of having everyone over to your backyard and keeping your cool sounds utterly impossible, the pros are here to help.
Below, three professional event planners weigh in with key tips that will make entertaining at home this season feel like a total breeze. Keep reading, then get ready to send out those invites. You can thank us later when your parties become the talk of the neighborhood.
Meet the Expert
- Madison Hummel is the lead planner and owner of Madison Avenue Events in Washington, D.C.
- Qiana Turner is the owner and chief event planner at Madison Elyse Events in Chicago.
- Kelly Soule is the principal planner and owner of Kelly Elizabeth Events in Boston.
Make a Game Plan
Whether you're looking to host a themed get-together or are happy keeping things ultra-casual, now is the time to lay all of your big ideas on the table. Madison Hummel of Madison Avenue Events stresses the importance of creating a vision for your event ahead of time.
"Do you want something big, bright, and welcoming like a backyard barbecue, or something intimate and sophisticated like a catered sit-down dinner?" she says. "Have fun perusing Pinterest and Instagram for ideas that you like and save them to a board to ensure they work together in a cohesive vision."
Set a Budget
Keep in mind that hosting expenses can add up very quickly. "Get out your favorite pen and notebook and list out top priorities," Hummel advises. "Is it food, entertainment, drinks, or a giant balloon garland? This will help guide you on where to invest your money right from the start."
While Instagram and Pinterest are certainly great resources for gathering inspiration, the parties featured online may be more costly than you might imagine. "Many of them start at $5,000 and can go up to $25,000 depending on the complexity," Hummel says. "So, make sure to be realistic with the number."
Book Rentals Early
Don't procrastinate! If you plan to host a party sometime this season, square away all of your rentals early on, advises Qiana Turner at Madison Elyse Events.
"'Tis the season for outdoor parties and tents, tables and chairs may be hard to come by," she says. "By planning early, you get everything you need to make your outdoor soiree a success."
Outsource When You Can
By no means should you expect to handle everything yourself when entertaining at home, says Kelly Soule of Kelly Elizabeth Events. "Cooking all the food, arranging flowers, mixing drinks—you can’t do it all and socialize with your guests," Soule notes.
Instead, play to your strengths. "Think about what pieces bring you the most joy and focus on those," Soule advises. Maybe this means that you design a fab tablescape—but abstain from cooking.
"Hire a caterer, order drop-off food service, or bring in a bartender," Soule suggests. "They can not only set up all of your food and keep your guests fed but also can help clean up," That sounds like a win-win to us.
Curate a Great Playlist
What's an outdoor get-together without music? Build a playlist (or recruit a music-loving friend or family member to do so), or opt for a live musician if you have the budget.
"If you have a speaker system set up at your home already, that is a great start," Soule says. "From a solo guitarist to full live band, live music always livens up the atmosphere and provides an impressive touch."
Of course, you will want to refer back to your budget before committing to this kind of service.
Set Out Water
It's imperative that you keep your guests nice and hydrated.
"While it’s very fun to think about all the delicious cocktails your guests can enjoy, on hot days what guests really need is water," Soule states. "Setting up a self-service water station is key and will allow guests to hydrate without affecting the bar line."
Don't be afraid to jazz up simple H20 with a few fun, fruity additions, as well. "For a special touch, add some flavors," Soule suggests. "Cucumber and mint, blueberry and lemon, and pineapple and coconut are some of our favorite infusion combinations. It’s as simple as cutting up the ingredients and dropping them in." Refreshing, simple, and healthy!