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!
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dining – Flatware
Cool flatware — that is, your knives, forks, and spoons — can also give your table extra style.
$149.95 (20 piece set)
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.
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.