Everything You Need for the Perfect Summer Party

Friends Having Outdoor Barbeque

Woo-hoo! You're throwing the perfect summer party. But the problem is...you're a perfectionist. Your overwhelming stress about getting all your ducks in a row will make it totally un-fun. If anyone even shows. The truly perfect party starts with this simple and fun (yes, thorough) planning process.

Nightmares? Never.

Go to your perfectionist happy place: your memory bank of worst-case scenarios and all the horrible party disasters you've ever witnessed. Dredge them all up! Relish the recollections: activities that bombed out, obnoxious guests, tacky decorations, and clunky social dynamics. Savor every item on your good, long not-to-do list. Delight in all the mistakes other hosts have made. Write all of it down. Your party will kick their parties' butts!

Go to your other happy place, the place of ideal thoughts and feelings. Imagine all your favorite summer party moments: games in the cool breeze and sunshine, engaging guests, contagious laughter, irresistible cuisine, and colorful surroundings. Jot it all down. Your party will be a compilation of all of these superb elements.

Seasonal Menu with the (Highest) Standards

Freshly Grilled Corn Cobs

Sure, standard summer refreshments are always a winner, but you can go one better. As a food snob, you need to up your game.

  • Set out frou-frou dipping sauce for skewered, grilled corn on the cob.
  • Garnish your cocktails with in-season fresh fruit.
  • Marinade your grilled meat with mango sauce or fancy spices.

Think: how can I top "good"? It's a once-in-a-lifetime taste extravaganza for your guests.

Strapped for cash? A slender wallet isn't a death sentence for excellence. Make lemonade out of lemons, make soup out of stones. In fact, remember Stone Soup? Just have each guest bring a seasonal summer treat from the farmer's market or grocery store.

Idyllic Summer Decorations

Mason jar decoration

The picture-perfect summer party decor has to meet some pretty tough criteria:

  • It needs to wow everyone.
  • It shouldn't distract.
  • It creates the optimal environment.
  • It requires minimal set up and clean up.

Place a huge, beautiful, centerpiece in a central area to draw guests to gather and chat. A dramatic, colorful summery floral arrangement or scented pillar candle circled with little votive candles will heighten elegance. If your inner over-achiever is nudging you, go for a chocolate or punch fountain for a magical feeling. For a beachy theme, an over-sized beach ball or sandy backdrop will amuse everyone.

Or, hang one string of unique, festive lighting around the border and add some cute Mason jar candle lanterns. Voila, done.

Mood Music Everyone Will Love

Beach party

Yes, yes, your music taste is The Best. All the same, it's not sufficient to just crank up the speakers and impose your all-time favorites on your victims--I mean, guests.

Set a tone that creates social connections, not barriers. Make sure the volume doesn't hinder speech. Broadcast an upbeat playlist long enough to match your party's duration.

Guarantee your superior musical influence will reign over the party with the least effort by creating a superlative play list and let it fly. Later in the evening, switch to another self-made play list with soft ballads. It won't disturb your neighbors. It will enable new memories and even new romances to blossom.

Flawless Social Flow

Friends Enjoying Summer Barbeque

Certain types of flora attract certain types of butterflies. Invisible boundaries allow guests to flutter seamlessly from one zone to another. Apply this strategy by delineating zones around your social butterfly sanctuary:

  • Arrange a big, open section for the physical-action oriented guests to dance or play sports.
  • Off to the side, have the food spread with comfy seating for the conversationalists.
  • Inside, set up a room with a film or video where mega-introverts can retreat. Put in a summer time classic or two, like Grease or Dirty Dancing.
  • Consider another room with coffee table books and photo albums for semi-introverts to congregate and discuss.

Remove the Guest Work

The utopian party includes guests who will 1. Enjoy the event. 2. Enjoy each other.

You want to invite people you like... but that loud, opinionated fellow who's lonely and going through a divorce? Don't invite him. No one, including him, will benefit from his attendance. If you're aware of tensions between two of your invitees, make your guest list visible and let them decide. Don't take too much responsibility, dear people-pleaser.

Structure and Rules

Good news! Structure is actually imperative. Zero organization causes unpredictability and anxiety for you and them. Okay, now, don't get carried away. An itinerary that's too restrictive does choke guests.

So post a loose schedule in the invitation:

  • 6:30: Arrive
  • 7:00 - 7:30: Ice breakers
  • 7:30 - 8:30: Meal and mingling
  • 8:45 - 10:45: Main activity with the option of more mingling
  • 11:00: Goodbyes

Hint: You and they will breathe easier if you actually enforce it.

Delegate to Relate

Don't be a partyr (party-martyr). Let go, control-freak! If you do everything yourself, you'll miss all the fun and kill all the joy. Assign people with skills to small tasks. If a guest leans toward the wallflower side, they will praise you and the heavens above for letting them help. It gives them a way to participate and feel included without standing awkwardly by the punchbowl.

Damage Control

Yes, control! The exemplary host prevents guests from suffering.

A lot of people are going to show up with imperfect emotions if you don't warn them that they may have to walk 20 blocks for parking, or encounter extra fees or drink minimums at the venue.

Anticipate anything that could rob your guests' comfort and safety. Cover food to keep the flies away. Provide guests with bug spray, umbrellas, blankets, chairs, and extra jackets or sweaters.

You're the Most-est

See? No need to worry about getting your ducks to march in formation. You and they can swim around freely, mixing and mingling at your matchless summer get-together.

Everything You Need for the Perfect Summer Party