It’s summertime, and the entertaining is easy when you enlist a few clever strategies (and we don’t just mean making the guacamole ahead of time). Follow our five steps to a stylish backyard party, and the only things you’ll have to worry about are keeping your own glass full.
1. Raise the Bar
The ideal drinks setup is streamlined, well stocked, and self-serve. Case in point: A batch of freshly squeezed lemonade will please practically everyone. Ice it down in a four-gallon stainless-steel dispenser and no one will get stuck manning the bar. Kids can help themselves; adults can punch theirs up with vodka and citrus and herb garnishes, which double as decor.
Supplement with an easy-to-sip aperitif (we like floral Lillet) and sparkling water, and you’ll have all the refreshments you need. Don't forget to update your cooler: An oversize resin Champagne bucket has al the appeal of a galvaanized-steel one, but will look chic storing supplies in your kitchen, too. As for quantities, here’s our rule of thumb: Plan two drinks per guest for the first hour, then one each per hour after that; one gallon equals 16 eight-ounce drinks.
Sansone Fusti dispenser and spigot, $147, gourmetitalian.com. March Oaxacan glasses, $8 each, marchsf.com. Kinto Baum canisters, from $28 each, amazon.com. Tina Frey Champagne bucket, $380, shophorne.com. Restoration Hardware French Beam teak console, $1,995, restorationhardware.com.
2. Refine Your Table
Dinner outdoors can be just as gracious and comfortable as one you’d host inside. To encourage guests to sit back and stay awhile, set a table with sturdy ceramic plates and flatware, hefty (but unbreakable) glassware, and colorful linens. To anchor your tablecloth in a breeze, clip a fishing sinker onto each corner (see our how-to). Echo the natural surroundings with wooden accents, floral prints, and statement-making palm leaves, which won’t wilt in the heat.
Kerry Cassill Tropical Fiji table linen, 67" by 98", $136, shop.kerrycassill.com. Williams-Sonoma Italian washed-linen napkins, $50 for 4, williams-sonoma.com. Homenature resin-handled cutlery, $195 for a 4-piece set, homenature.com. Cost Plus World Market Reactive Glaze Muir dinner plates, $32 for a 4-piece set; Reactive Glaze Muir salad plates, $28 for a 4-piece set; and Driftwood chargers, $20 for 2, worldmarket.com. Terrain Picnic wineglass, $8, shopterrain.com. Sur La Table Wooden Pinch bowls, $35 for 4, surlatable.com.
3. Uninvite Pests
Run an electric fan and cover food with mesh domes to keep bugs away. This artistic deflector, inspired by a Mexican street vendor trick, shoos flies naturally: Sunlight reflecting off the water-filled glass bulb confuses and repels them.
De La O Anti-Fly Sphere 3.0, $85, delao.mx.
4. Turn on Tunes
Connect a few Bluetooth speakers via wifi, and anyone with a smartphone can DJ. This sleek model with surround sound emits a warm, campfire-like glow. Queue up a few songs, or get our playlist.
Deganello & Pardo UMA Sound Lantern, $479, store.moma.org
5. Light the Way
Once the sun sets, create ambience (and prevent twisted ankles) with generous, well-placed lighting. Oversize lanterns lit by flameless LED candles can hang or perch along any path that needs brightening. String battery-powered, outdoor-safe bistro lights between trees for extra illumination sans outlets.
CB2 Kini natural-rattan lantern, from $50, cb2.com.
Now, see how you can give your backyard a stylish upgrade with these simple tips: