How to Host and Plan a Summer Party the Martha Way

Look to our founder's inspirational summer gatherings as you plan your own.

martha stewart grilling at bedford home

Hugh Stewart

Summer is the season of al fresco entertaining, and if you’re busy gearing up for the next few months of hosting outdoor celebrations, there’s only one person to turn to for help: Martha. From elegant backyard dinners at her Bedford residence to casual family pool parties at her Skylands estate in Maine, our founder knows how to throw a warm-weather gathering.

If you’re looking for ideas for your own backyard parties—whether you need help curating a seasonal menu or finding tablescape inspiration—look to Martha, who is the trusted source for summer hosting. To help you start planning, we’re sharing entertaining ideas straight from our founder that will make your next summer get-together a success.

Curate a Colorful Menu

Herb-Roasted Pecans with Red, White, and Blue Potato Chips
Noe Dewitt

From blooming flowers to bright blue skies, summer is a season that's bursting with color. Like Martha, you can use the season's natural palette and punchier shades to guide your menu choices. At one of her past summer soirées, Martha served this colorful platter of Herb-Roasted Pecans and potato chips in hues of purple, red, and yellow. 

Serve Frozen Desserts

Frozen dessert

Courtesy of The Martha Blog

A mainstay of summer entertaining is no-bake desserts. After all, who wants to turn on their oven to bake a pie when temperatures are scorching hot? Not Martha. Instead, she turns to desserts like homemade popsicles, including the ones pictured here. “We made raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, yogurt, and coconut flavored fruit pops—and many of the berries were picked right here at the farm,” she said of the fan-favorite treat. 

Choose a Theme

Composite of Summer Tostadas and Corn

Courtesy of The Martha Blog

One way to help curate a cohesive al fresco dinner menu is by sticking to a theme. For this summer outing, Martha's menu consisted of a plethora of delicious Mexican dishes, including tacos, quesadillas, tostadas, grilled corn, as well as chips, guacamole, and flavorful salsas.

Make a Martha-Rita

martha stewart holding pomegranate martha-rita drink

Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Give guests a welcome reprieve from the heat by making them one of Martha’s signature cocktails: a Martha-Rita. The refreshing, frothy drink—a mix of tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and pomegranate juice concentrate—serves four, so you can make it by the batch and easily fill partygoers' glasses up when they're ready for a drink. A Martha tip? Limit this fruity beverage to one serving per guest (it's strong!).  

Use Fresh Ingredients

Table of salads

Courtesy of The Martha Blog

Whether you're harvesting fruits and vegetables from your own garden or buying them from your local market, use the season's freshest offerings when curating your menu. A salad table is one of Martha's favorite ways to highlight in-season ingredients. At this summer gathering, vegetables from Martha's gardens were used to make a criolla and beet salad.

Curate a Bright Tablescape

Table settings with houseplant

Courtesy of The Martha Blog

When choosing a color palette for your table settings, Martha prefers working with brighter hues. "We used a palette of light green and blue enamelware and coordinating cloth napkins," she said of this tablescape. For an extra thoughtful touch, Martha lined the table with one of her favorite houseplants—money plant (Pilea peperomioides)—which guests were welcome to take home with them.

Break Out the Grill

Linda Pugliese

Throughout her decades of experience as a skilled chef, Martha has learned a thing or two about how to man the grill. One dish your summer gathering won't be complete without? Some of her favorite burgers, which range from Turkey-Meatloaf Burgers to Aged Cheddar-and-Swiss Cheeseburgers.

Serve Martha's Chard

Martha Stewart Chardonnay

Courtesy of The Martha Blog

If you're planning to serve wine at your party, make it Martha's chardonnay. With a touch of oak and ginger flavors, this medium- to full-bodied wine will go with anything you serve at your backyard cookout.

Make a Crudité Platter

Crudité platter

Courtesy of The Martha Blog

While charcuterie boards are a delicious option for guests to snack on, they don't fare well when left sitting out under the hot sun. Instead, opt for a crudité platter, like Martha did at this party. Her chef made a gorgeous, vibrant arrangement of celery, carrots, edamame, and other vegetables.

Provide Games


Yard games are a must when entertaining outdoors. Take Martha's word for it—at her own parties, she provides everything from badminton and bocce ball to croquet and cornhole for guests to enjoy.

Make Homemade Cookies

Platter of cookies

Courtesy of The Martha Blog

If you are going to fire up the oven, make it worth your while and bake a batch of cookies. Not only are they easy for guests to grab and go, you won't need to worry about putting out additional plates and silverware when it's time for dessert. At this barbecue, Martha provided guests with trays of Banana-walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Milk Chocolate Cookies.

Decorate With Container Plants

Table with container plants

Courtesy of The Martha Blog

While freshly cut flowers are a beautiful way to decorate during summer, they can wilt quickly when left under the hot sun. A more desirable, equally stunning alternative? Container plants. Martha loves to utilize houseplants (like the ferns pictured here) on her tablescapes when setting up for her outdoor gatherings.

Jump in the Pool

Martha Stewart in the pool

Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Of course, it wouldn't be a Martha-inspired party without a pool selfie (or two!). Encourage guests to take a dip and keep towels on hand for them to use post-swim—they'll want one when heading to the food table to grab seconds.

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