Longer days and warmer temperatures are ideal for hosting al fresco get-togethers. Think like a partygoer to decide what you would enjoy. Then step up your backyard summer entertaining with timely tips for comfy seating, mood lighting, delicious food, refreshing drinks, unique decor, and interesting discussions.

Set a Welcoming Scene

Mix outdoor furniture like elevated teak bar sets with this deep-seating teak sofa set. That combination invites guests to circulate between cozy meal and intimate conversation areas. Choose solid fabric colors and stripes for seat cushions that complement your home’s landscaping or architecture. Earth-tone and water-inspired hues will suit exteriors of stately, older estates and stylish, modern homes.

Plan Your Menu

Serve refreshments that fit each gathering’s atmosphere. Hosting a formal affair? A caterer can handle everything from preparations through cleanup. For casual parties, create a spread of finger-food snacks including crackers, cold cuts, cheeses, chips, dips, olives, nuts, raw vegetables, and fresh fruits. Offer 12 appetizers during cocktail parties. When serving dinner later, start with four to six hors d’oeuvres. Finish off meals with one 9-inch tart or pie per eight to 10 guests. Diverse room-temperature options will avoid problems with hot dishes cooling off and chilled desserts melting.

Create Beverage Stations

Feature beverage selections with and without alcohol. Stock various red and white wines, beers, and soft drinks. Supply specialties that specific audiences will prefer. Whip up virgin strawberry/banana daiquiris or smoothies for afternoon baby showers. Offer whiskey to men and wine coolers to women. Budget around three servings per person typically. Making time to relax and enjoy your guests is the secret to hosting great parties. Instead of devoting every moment to distributing and refilling drinks, create a self-serve beverage station so family and friends can help themselves. Just load up a teak ice box with assorted wines, beers, cocktail mixers, sodas, and ice. This durable tropical hardwood looks more elegant than foam and plastic coolers. Avoid long bar lines at large events by establishing separate locations for different beverages throughout your party space. Place glasses, ice buckets, liquors, fruit garnishes, swizzle sticks, and cocktail napkins on adjacent tables or ledges. When using plastic cups, provide colored markers so everyone can personalize theirs with easy identifiers. Tie beer and soda bottle openers and wine corkscrews to ice box handles so guests won’t misplace them accidentally. Handy drains makes emptying easy after partiers go home.

Establish Ambience

Consider lighting for summer soirées. Summon an enchanting evening glow by placing votive candles on coasters or elegant runners on dining and coffee tables. Everything and everyone looks better by candlelight. Increase visibility with patio lanterns and yard torches. For daytime socials, place versatile rotating umbrellas with offset stands to shield seating zones from summer’s heated glare. Tilting canopies let you fine tune adjustments according to the sun’s movements, ensuring welcome respites throughout daylight. Choose from an array of colors that will reflect nature’s beauty in your outdoor living spaces.

Be Imaginative

Provide personal fans to everyone as party favors upon arrival. Use colored markers to personalize them with guests’ names. Set a relaxed tone for informal meals by rolling plastic cutlery in napkins or placemats and arranging them in rustic baskets. Use accent pieces in clever ways. Fresh blooms elevate casual occasions. Skip centerpieces that might blow over in the wind. Instead, embellish every place setting with a single flower in a shot glass or mini clay pot as a take-home keepsake. Flaunt unexpected pairings like tortilla chips and salsa in margarita glasses. Enlist wooden cutting boards as serving trays. Stow breadsticks in vases for a classic Italian flair.

Inspire Conversations

Invite and introduce friends representing various ages, genders, locations, professions, and interests. If you think strangers will feel uncomfortable, include some motor-mouths. To avoid everyone congregating around the food, separate chatterboxes in multiple hot spots. Space teak ice boxes apart across from your buffet. Situate party games away from your central gathering area. Those tricks will encourage motion and conversation. Asking friends to be hosting helpers is becoming a popular trend. They’ll relish the honor of joining your hospitality group. Shy recruits can turn their assigned duties like replenishing food/drink stations and directing traffic into icebreakers. All attendees, including you, are guests. So don’t stay so busy ensuring everyone else’s enjoyment that you forget to be sociable. Your events will be more memorable when you join in the fun.