Hosting a Chill Summer BBQ

Summer’s finally here and you’re ready to get grilling. Since the weekend forecast is dry and clear – why not host a last-minute cookout? A casual BBQ is a great way to reconnect with others after a long winter. So get ready to toast the warm weather with great friends and family.

Planning a last-minute BBQ can be easy if you keep it simple with the following tips and ideas.

Time & Duration

Decide on the best day and time for your casual cookout. Weekends seem to work best for most people, and a 3-6 hour duration is reasonable.

If you want your BBQ to last into the evening hours, Saturday may be the best day. In this case, consider starting your BBQ at about 4 p.m. If you’d rather keep your event to daylight hours, start at about 2 p.m. on either Saturday or Sunday.

Invites & Attendees

So how many people do you want to entertain? Will you invite family, friends, or both? Since you have limited time to plan for your BBQ, a smaller guest list will be easier and less work for you. But if you feel ambitious and want a larger gang, go for it! Be sure to consider your budget, as well as the size of your outdoor entertaining space when deciding.

Since your BBQ is just days away, contact guests by mouth, text message, or by phone. Be sure to get a headcount so you have ample food, drinks, and seating.

Food & Drinks

Keeping your menu simple allows you to chill and mingle with your guests. So planning on two or three varieties of appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts should be fine. Consider classic options like: 

  • Appetizers – fresh fruit tray, guacamole with tortilla chips, relish platter •
  • Main – burgers, grilled (or oven baked) chicken, veggie kabobs
  • Sides – baked beans, pasta salad, corn on the cob
  • Desserts – watermelon, brownies, cookies

For drinks, choose classic BBQ options like water, lemonade, and iced tea. If you also want to include alcoholic drinks, beer, wine, and your signature cocktail mix are good choices.

Will you be providing all of the food and drinks, or will you ask your guests to contribute food or drinks? Many invitees may automatically volunteer to bring a side dish, appetizer, or dessert – a great time-saver for you. Be sure to respond with a hearty “yes” if they do! If any guest follows a special diet like low sodium, vegetarian, or gluten-free, it’s helpful if they bring a dish to share that they also feel safe eating.

Tableware & Seating

For tableware, there are plenty of disposable cups, plates, and utensils that you can buy. But while disposable seems easier, why not try inexpensive and reusable tableware instead? This environmentally-friendly option works especially well if it’s a smaller party and everything can fit into one dishwasher load. Although tablecloths aren’t necessary, fabric is an eco-friendly choice. You can even get creative and use repurposed bed sheets, or blankets. Flannel-backed plastic or vinyl tablecloths can also be reused often.

Based on the number of attendees, gather enough seating so everyone is comfortable. If you don’t have enough chairs, ask your guests if they could bring a few of theirs. You can also create additional “seating” with a picnic blanket and pillows on the grass. This is a fun option for children, too.

Entertainment & Activities

Create a fun vibe with a few wireless speakers and a summer-worthy playlist. It’s a great way to get the BBQ party started and keep it lively.

If you have the space, set up some outdoor game entertainment. Designate areas for croquet, bean bag toss, and a net for badminton or volleyball. If your BBQ includes kids, provide lots of balls, sidewalk chalk, and bubble bottles. Dust off your old college soccer table and find a flat place for it on the lawn or patio.

Comfort & Sun Protection

While sunshine and clear skies create a perfect setting for gatherings, there are certain aspects we’d rather avoid, like bugs and sunburn.

You can minimize flying pests with natural bug repellent sprays and wipes, as well as burning citronella candles.

To avoid sunburns, help your guests limit their sun exposure by providing plenty of shade. This can include existing shade trees, table and patio umbrellas, and canopies. Shade will help to keep your guests comfortable and safe from the short and long-term effects of harmful UV rays.

When you invite your guests, also suggest that they wear sun-protective clothing and accessories like sunscreen, sun hats, and sunglasses. Be sure to provide extra sunscreen for guests to reapply later.

Lighting & Miscellaneous

If your BBQ extends after sunset, be ready with pre-hung string lights, lanterns, and candles. Provide a few lightweight blankets to ward off any evening chill. If you have a fire pit, add marshmallows to your food list!

Be prepared with lots of ice and tubs/coolers to keep foods and drinks cold. Place a trash can and a well-labeled recycle bin outdoors as well.

Snap a few group and candid photos to remember your gathering. Most importantly, relax and enjoy your friends and family.