The summer is the easiest time of year to entertain. The hardest part is finding a date when all your friends and loved ones are free to come over. Once that's done, though, the rest is smooth sailing. You can keep the menu super simple (or, as we recommend later in this story, make it a potluck) and set up a place for people to sit outside. That's it! Easy, right?
Here are a few of our smartest tips to help make your life even easier — and to make this summer's annual backyard cookout the best ever.
1. Keep the bugs away.
Bees, flies, mosquitos, and other creepy-crawlies can really make or break an evening outdoors. If it's too buggy outside, your guests are going to want to go inside — or worse, head home — early. Keep the party going and steal these tips.
Have a Less Buggy Outdoor Dinner
2. Use a tray.
This idea is so simple yet so brilliant. And of course, we picked it up while watching Ina. She loves herself a serving tray — she's always gliding out from her kitchen to the patio carrying food and drinks on a large tray. Use one to carry out condiments, fully assembled dishes, or other odds and ends, and you'll make less trips in and out of the house.
Read more: Ina Garten's Go-To Outdoor Party Tool
3. Throw a fire pit party.
If you have room in your backyard for a small fire pit, we strongly encourage it. A gathering around a fire will always feel extra intimate and encourage guests to stay and hang out longer. Plus, the fire will help keep the bugs away (see point number 1).
4. Make it a potluck.
There is zero reason to stress. It's summer, after all! If grilling up some burgers and dogs is too stressful, don't do it. Just make your gathering a potluck and ask your friends to pitch in.
Some Help for Your Next Potluck
5. Don't forget the bottle opener.
A cooler is pretty useless without a bottle opener (unless you're only serving cans of stuff), so think about tying a bottle opener to the handle. This way, people can use the opener and no one can walk off with it!
Read more: An Important Tip for a Better Cooler
6. Turn your utensil crock into a wine chiller.
Don't spend money on a special wine chiller (unless you really want to, that is!). Chances are you already have one in your kitchen — your utensil crock! Just take out all those wooden spoons before your next party and use it to hold a bottle of rosé and some ice.
See the tip: You Probably Already Own the Perfect Wine Chiller
7. Build a floating cooler for the pool.
If you're lucky enough to have pool, you should consider building a floating cooler so guests can grab a drink without having to get out and dry off. It's way easier than you'd think to make: You just need a plastic bin, a pool noodle or two, and a serrated knife.
Get the steps: How To Build a Floating Cooler for Less than $10
8. Bake a cake.
We know, you really don't want to turn your oven on right now. But do it in the morning — before things get too hot — and you'll be so glad you did. These cakes are total crowd-pleasers. Of course, if you simply refuse to preheat that oven, we have some great no-bake options as well.
9. Mix up batches of cocktails.
If you want to offer more than just beer and wine, we suggest serving pitchers of cocktails. This way, you can make them ahead of time, and guests can help themselves and you don't have to play bartender.
Some Pitcher Cocktail Recipes
10. Use Non-Breakables.
Even if people aren't running around your backyard barefoot, you still might want to keep the glass items to a minimum. The more glass there is, the more likely it is that something will break (especially with the wind or all those trips in and out of the house). Stick to acrylic or plastic cups, and melamine plates and serving dishes.
Go shopping: These Are the Prettiest Picnic Plates of All Time
What other summer entertaining tips do you swear by?