Summer bbq season is just around the corner! After a long winter of eating nothing but soups and sandwiches, I can’t wait to once again indulge on my favorite grilled meats and pasta salads until I’m blue in the face.
My favorite part about summer is getting to host cookouts for friends, family, and neighbors right in my own backyard or public parks. To pull off a great cookout takes a lot of planning and hard work. Whether you are hosting a big shindig or keeping it small and intimate with just a few of your closest friends, here’s everything you need to know to throw a memorable summer bbq cookout!
Set up food stations with the works
At a summer bbq, the sides are just as important as the grilled meats. Allow guests to dress up their grilled hot dogs and hamburgers with an assortment of toppings. I suggest toppings such as sliced red onions, tomatoes, lettuce, mustard, ketchup, and bbq sauce to be on deck for your guests to make their own customized meals. Build a cute condiment station by using small mason jars to store sauces and toppings. You can label each jar with chalk tags and fill in the names with chalk or chalk markers for a cool vintage look.
Play vintage card games
Summer bbqs are the best places to forgo the internet for a bit and enjoy spending time with your family and friends. What better way to do that than by breaking out your favorite childhood games? Games such as Dominoes, Go Fish, Checkers, and Uno will definitely make your cookout a hit. You can even get a game of Spades or Texas Hold’em Poker going with your more competitive guests. Games are a great way to bring people together, especially your more introverted friends, and can instantly forge friendships and create lasting memories.
Have fun with place settings
Welcome your guests with aesthetically pleasing place settings such as red gingham napkins or table cloth. If you’re hosting a more intimate cookout with close friends and family, trade-up the paper products for fancy utensils and matching plate settings.
Keep the fun going at night
Daylight doesn’t have to put a timer on your summer bbq party. Once the sun goes down, continue the festivities with a bonfire. Bring out some folding chairs, a guitar, and some S’ mores supplies and keep the party going. That’s what summer nights are for!
Use gift tags as drink labels
With all the talking and mingling going on at a summer bbq, it’s easy to get confused about what drink belongs to who. Especially if red solo cups are in use. Use gift tags to make drink identification easy. Have guest write their name on a tag and attach it to their beverage. It’s a cool way to also get strangers to learn each other’s names.
Ask guests to bring side dishes
Especially for a larger cookout, don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring a side dish or dessert. That way you won’t get stressed out and have to spend extra hours in the kitchen cooking up lots of food on top of getting the backyard setup and house ready. People love bringing their prized dishes and secret family recipes to share with others. So just speak up and ask when you send out the invitations!
Set up a protective spray station
The only downside to a summer bbq is the bugs. With all the food out in the open, you are bound to attract many pesky insects and bugs. Set up a station with bug spray and sunscreen for your guests. The best cookouts always last the whole day. During that time out in the sun, you and you’re guest will need to reapply sunscreen and bug spray often. Having a station already setup will mean guests won’t have to leave early to avoid mosquito bites once the sun begins to set.
Serve refreshing fruit infused water beverages
For your guests who might not drink booze or enjoy drinking soda make sure to add some refreshing fruit infused water beverages as an option. Cut up some fresh strawberries, melons, mint, or lemon and add it to the water before the party. Especially on humid summer days, having water on hand is essential.
Fill a kiddie pool with ice to keep cold foods cold
Often a cooler won’t hold multiple sides like deviled eggs, salads, fruits, and macaroni salad all in one. Instead, use a kiddie pool and fill it with ice. You can then add multiple bowls and containers of cold foods without the need for multiple coolers. Place the kiddie pool on a table to eliminate dogs from sniffing around and beating you to the food.
Setup a pretty table landscape
Set up a picnic table in the backyard with your favorite table cloth. You can easily find inexpenisve and patterned ones at Marshals and craft stores like Michaels and Joanne Fabrics. Select a table cloth that goes with the outdoor decor or party themed to impress your guests.
Have a great party playlist
No summer bbq is complete without a great summer playlist in the background. Create a playlist a day before the party with all your favorite summer songs and radio hits that everyone can sing along to. Artists like Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Prince, Lizzo, and The Jonas Brothers are some great artists to add to your playlist. Once the sun begins to set for the day switch over from your day time party playlist to more mellow acoustic songs. For this playlist, The Lumineers, Kings of Leon, John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, and Adele are great artists to include. This playlist would be perfect to have in the background playing as your guest makes S’mores under the stars.