High/Low: Stylish Essentials for Your Sophisticated Summer Party & Their Budget Alternatives

Goodbye, red Solo cups; hello, real glasses and glowing electric candle ambiance.

We’re all about the casual backyard get-togethers with friends, but what if you’re ready to throw a summer party that has a little more….sophistication? Maybe a little more “put-together” than simply grilling something and handing out paper plates, but still comfortable and fun for everyone?

Putting care into the decor details of your party doesn’t mean it will feel stuffy. In fact, consider the last time you were at a backyard party, where the host clearly put thought into the smaller details, like plates and lighting. Felt kinda nice, right?

We’ve compiled several ideas for your next summer get-together. You don’t have to splash out for the most-expensive upgrades to your backyard shindig, but if you want to, we’ve pulled together the best “High/Low” options!

high low Stylish Essentials for Your Sophisticated Summer Party & Their Budget Alternatives

Lighting – String Lights

If you invest in only one thing from this list for your next summer party, make it string lights. Nothing radiates comfort and ambiance like string lights draping over your party, giving your guest a sense of place, even if the party is outdoors under an open sky. The secret? Don’t hang them flush along your exterior wall, but draw the middle section of the lights out over the area(s) you know guests will be lounging, or eating, to create a sort of V-shape of string lights over your party.


Pottery Barn

These Edison bulb string lights have a cool vintage look, with a modern twist.

image of an outdoor patio dining set and string lights hanging

image of string lights



With 4.5 stars, over 40,000 reviews, and at this price point, adding string lights to your next party is a no-brainer

Lighting – Lanterns

For additional ambiance, consider including lanterns. Whether soft, floating orbs or a traditional design with a modern twist, adding a few extra large lighting sources will create visual interest and double as an effective way to light up your party. Who doesn’t love functional decor?



Solar-powered with LED bulbs, these lanterns also promise weather resistance and a durability warranty

image of two lanterns

image of six round paper lanterns



Six lanterns are plenty to add additional, glowing lights throughout your backyard. Plus, each lantern comes with their own “lamp bead,” so you won’t have to worry about installing bulbs!

Lighting – Electric Candles

Alright, I promise we’re almost done with lighting suggestions for this article, but really, you’ll be amazed at the difference having multiple lighting sources, at different eye levels, will do for the atmosphere of your party. Electric candles of varying heights can be placed in groups of odd numbers (1, 3, 5 — you get the idea) on different surfaces around your party, drawing your guests’ eyes downward from the beautiful string lights and lanterns above, and giving your whole backyard or balcony a warm, welcoming glow.



These battery-powered LED candles have surfaces that are actually made from wax, so they look ultra realistic. Note that these candles also come in medium sizes, allowing you to create more visual variety. I recommend grouping medium and tall candles together.

image of a battery powered electric candle

image of set of nine battery operated candles



Remote controls help set the mood with these LED, battery-powered electric candles.

Portable Bluetooth Speakers

A good-quality sound system playing chill, vibing music will carry your party through the inevitable conversation lags, or quiet moments where everyone simultaneously decides to check their phones, or — who knows? Maybe it’ll inspire a backyard dance party!


Best Buy

Highly-rated with a 24-hour battery life, this Bluetooth speaker promises crystal-clear audio and a thumping bass.

image of a portable bluetooth speaker

image of a portable bluetooth speaker



Waterproof with a 20-hour battery, this affordable Bluetooth speaker is a surprise hit at its lower price point, according to verified customer reviews.

Lawn Games

Lawn games are an awesome way to break the ice, particularly if your guests don’t all know each other. Bonus extra: If you’re hosting a party on a balcony, you can’t be worried about game pieces falling off the sides, so we’ve included a game that’s easy to play, and no pieces can accidentally fall onto your irritable, elderly downstairs neighbor’s prized potted plants *ahem*.



Unleash your inner Viking! No, just kidding, but seriously, Kubb (“Koob”) originates from Sweden and dates back to the Viking times, and is described as a “combination of bowling and horseshoes.” This particular set is made from ultra-durable rubberwood, which can take the beating from regular play better than softer woods like birch.

image of rubberwood lawn game set

image of throw burrito game



You might not think this card game counts as an outdoor game, but with burrito missiles flying around in abrupt chaos in this fast-paced, hilarious game, outside play is recommended!

Fire Pit

Wow your guests and make awesome s’mores with a small, contained, “smokeless” bonfire.



Solo Stoves are the new hot (ha) item this summer, and for good reason: They’re portable, no gas or propane required, burn highly efficiently, look great, and produce little to no smoke.

image of stainless steel portable fire pit

image of an outdoor fire pit



Highly-rated and positively reviewed on Amazon, this “less smoke” fire bowl pit is a great budget alternative to the Solo Stove above.

Dining – Plates

Paper plates? Not at your next party! Sure, you might have to run the dishwasher after, but get a little spendy — and add a dash of sophistication and class — by using real plates.

$20 per plate

Casafina Gifts

These beautiful Portuguese-made stoneware plates come in a classic green, neutral color, which will look stunning alongside other colors on your table.

image of a green dining plate

image of a set of four dining plates

$38 (Set of 4 plates)


Another great neutral-colored stoneware plate, with small Robin’s egg speckles for added visual interest.

Dining – Tall Drinking Glasses

Water, lemonade, Long Island Iced Teas — you’re going to need some bigger, sexier glasses to hold those ice-cold drinks.

$40 (Set of 4 glasses)


We love the etched detail design on these glasses. It’s a simple, timeless look.

image of a set of four tall drinking glasses

image of a set of four tall drinking glasses

$15.99 (Set of 4 glasses)


Beautiful crystal grooves and a premium sturdy design at an affordable price.

Dining – Cocktail Glasses

Ideal for those summery cocktails, these sparkling, elegant glasses are perfectly sippable.

$16.95 per glass


If you opted for the pricier option for the tall glasses, you’ll want to echo the etched design with your cocktail glasses, as well, which is easy with these beautiful highball glasses from CB2.

image of a cocktail glass

image of a set of four cocktail drinking glasses

$30.99 (Set of 4 glasses)


A sophisticated, classic yet affordable highball glass design from Amazon.

Dining – Chargers

“What the heck is a ‘charger’? Looks like a glorified placemat!” You’re not wrong, my friend, but not only do humble plates instantly look more visually interesting, but your whole table will look better, and also,chargers can catch stray bits of food, making cleanup easier. Especially when you use rattan chargers, like the ones below. Rinse, and done!

$25 per charger


Pro tip: How do you know if you’re choosing a good shade of brown? Look for black undertones (lots of cheap brown shades have red undertones) in the brown, like these rattan chargers from Oka. With black undertones, it’s easier to pair other colors with brown — this advice holds for both your wardrobe and your dining table.

image of a woven rattan underplate charger

image of a woven rattan underplate charger

$42.99 (Set of 4)


These golden brown chargers will add a bit of summery backdrop to any plate.

Dining – Flatware

Cool flatware — that is, your knives, forks, and spoons — can also give your table extra style.

$149.95 (20 piece set)

Crate & Barrel

Check out the texture on the handles of this cool set of flatware from Crate and Barrel! A rustic look which can either be dressed up or down, making these flatware pieces perfect for your summer party and beyond.

image of a dining set of flatware

image of stainless steel flatware set

$22.99 (20 piece set)


I wanted to find another flatware set with a similar texture but at a lower price point, and I think these are an excellent alternative!

Dining – Table

Of course, your guests need somewhere to congregate. Aside from comfy lounge chairs, the most-important furniture set you can have is a place where people can sit together, dine, and converse as the fireflies emerge and the sun sets on your perfect, classy-yet-still-comfortably-casual summertime party.



This handsome outdoor table features a simple, modern design and an optional butterfly extension to accommodate 8 guests. Add the chairs from the photo to complete the look or get a set of metal ones.

image of a wood and metal dining table with black and white plastic chairs

image of a table and bench dinin table set



Hewn from naturally weather-resistant acacia, this table + bench combo is perfect for seating multiple guests while still looking gorgeous, no added chairs requried.

Which idea(s) are you going to try for your next summer party? Tell us in the Comments!

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Lindsey Silva

Lindsey Silva is a native Texan currently living in Germany. She writes about home decor and real estate, and dabbles in academic editing. Her interests include Brazilian jiu-jitsu, balcony gardening, binge watching Forensic Files with her husband, and spending an unhealthy amount of time on Reddit.