Summer Barbecue party ideas
Put out the patio cushions, pull off that grill cover and fire up the stereo. There’s nothing like sunshine and warm weather to get you in a party mood. Gather your friends, family and neighbors right in your own backyard to celebrate the season with our summer barbecue ideas.
Themes and Invites
Barbecue can be a theme in itself, but, as you may have more than one summer party coming up, think about ways to set your bashes apart. Festive seasonal themes like beach parties and luaus work all summer, and the patriotism of red, white and blue is acceptable for the entire month of July. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and make your party unique with an idea like “Christmas in July” or “Pizza on the Grill.” It’s a good idea to send out invites to your barbecue specifying the theme and previewing the menu. If you have opened your backyard pool, let guests know so they can come prepared to take a dip. Also, requesting RSVPs can help you buy just the right amount of food for your big cookout.
No matter the theme, you’ll likely need to prep both your indoor and outdoor party spaces. Make sure to clean all of your patio furniture and possibly invest in extra seating, depending on how many guests you expect. Botanicals will give both the patio and the interior a fresh feel and a pop of color. Take advantage of seasonal blooms like pastel peonies or yellow-orange marigolds. Arrange a floral centerpiece for your dining room table, kitchen counter or snack or buffet table, or scatter flowers around the party space in glass bud vases. Create contrast to the delicate single-flower buds with large potted plants on the deck—think lush, leafy ferns and other greenery.
If you host your summer barbecue early in the season, decorate with pastel flowers, and let the floral decor grow more vibrant in color as the summer progresses. For parties that continue into the evening, use string lights and large floor lanterns to create a soft glow. Don’t go too bright with lighting, as you’ll drown out the moon and stars overhead. If you’ve gone for a luau-themed bash, tiki torches are a fun way to light up the barbecue atmosphere.
The grill isn’t just for steaks, ribs, burgers and hot dogs—throw on some fresh, in-season veggies, too. Zucchini and corn are fairly common grill foods, while carrots and sweet potatoes are unexpected and tasty. No matter which veggies you choose, resist the temptation to flip or move them too often so they’ll come off the grill with those signature char marks and quintessential smoky summer flavor. Check out our article on how to grill a pizza to wow your guests and put a fun twist on the traditional barbecue menu.
Balance the grill menu with fresh, raw options like salad. Create a self-serve salad bar or put together a large mixed salad to serve. Place in a wooden serving bowl for an earthy look. You can prepare both adult and non-alcoholic lemonades and spritzers to serve and also set up a small self-serve bar as a second option. Keep plenty of ice on hand to combat the summer heat and include fresh herbs on the bar for guests to infuse their drinks. If the blazing sun threatens to melt your outdoor bar, move it indoors.
Spice up your summer barbecue with yard games that kids and adults alike can enjoy. Have some games set up beforehand so guests can feel free to pick up whatever activity available. While games like horseshoes and bocce ball may be better suited to grownups, kids can easily participate in croquet and badminton, and adult couples can face off in pairs. Include more casual games like the bean bag toss, a backyard party classic, and have a football, mitts and softballs on hand for a spontaneous game of catch. You can also find (or make) oversized versions of games traditionally played indoors. Jenga and Yahtzee easily transition to patio or yard play.
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