12 Easy Ways to Prepare Your Backyard for Summer Entertaining

Before inviting guests over for your first barbecue of the season, make sure your exterior—and all your outdoor hosting essentials—are ready.

If you love hosting, you know that warmer weather means one thing: al fresco entertaining is right around the corner. From dinner parties on the patio to afternoon lunches by the pool, few things are better than gathering with your loved ones outdoors in the summertime. But after a long winter of snow and rain, your backyard is likely in need of a refresh. From restocking tablescape accessories to tending to your garden, there are a few things to check off your to-do list before you can mark your backyard party-ready. 

backyard summer party with friends


Restock Your Outdoor Serveware

Before hosting your first dinner party of the season, do a review of your outdoor dinnerware—and if you don't have a designated collection for outside use, consider investing in one. "I recommend a mix of melamine and acacia wood staples, which are reusable and more durable than ceramic or glass," says Kristine Cooke, event planner and designer at Simply Charming Socials. "Choose a few great bowls and platters, along with a set of neutral dinner plates and appetizer plates." Also add acrylic stemless glasses to your collection for ease and versatility. 

Wash Your Outdoor Linens

Beautiful linens, from napkins to a table runner, can do wonders when it comes to creating a compelling outdoor tablescape. But these pieces will need some love after a season spent in storage. "If you're using linens for your tabletop textiles, make sure that they are freshly laundered and pressed," says Liz Curtis, an entertaining expert and the founder of Table + Teaspoon, the first rent-the-table service. If any linens are stained beyond repair, consider buying a fresh set for the summer ahead.

Stock Up on Citronella

The last thing you want is for your guests to head home covered in bug bites. Prevent this mishap by setting up a few mosquito traps and incorporating citronella in your backyard. "As temperatures soar, so will your friendly neighborhood insects," says Curtis. "Luckily, citronella comes in so many different forms. You'll surely be able to find one that fits your décor." From candles and sprays to citronella plants and essential oils, find a pest prevention option that works for your landscape. 

idyllic home with swimming pool in summer backyard


Check Your Pool Toys

If you have a pool (and are planning a few pool parties), some of your toys might need a refresh. Check to ensure there aren’t any holes in your inflatables and that you have enough floaties for the kids. While you're at it, add a few extras to your entertaining arsenal. "Inflatable lounge chairs are the ultimate luxury to ensure that your guests never want to leave the pool," says Curtis. 

Set Aside Pool Towels

More often than not, your guests will forget to bring pool towels. "A fresh stack of oversized beach towels and a basket of flip-flops will make your guests feel taken care of poolside or by the hot tub,” says Curtis. This will also prevent them from tracking water into your house when they're done outdoors. If you already have designated pool towels, be sure to wash them and store them in a dry, cool place before having visitors over for a swim. 

Prepare Your Yard Games

It's likely been close to a year since you last used your yard games, so now is a good time to ensure they're in playable condition before scheduling any outdoor parties. "Break out the corn hole, giant Jenga, ring toss, and ping pong to check for missing pieces or weather damage while they were stored for the winter," says Cooke. 

string of lights hung in backyard area in the summer


Add Outdoor Lighting

Not just for aesthetics, patio lighting is important for safety, too. "Step outside in the evening to review your lighting situation," says Cooke. Be sure all stairs and corners are well lit—and look for any tripping hazards. To add ambience, consider displaying a few candles throughout your backyard. "Play with light and height by staggering votives, pillars, and tapers," says Curtis. "If wind might be an issue, place candles in hurricanes to prevent them from blowing out or spilling wax onto your surfaces."

Create Shade

Once the season is in full swing, it can get very hot in your backyard. For daytime parties, ensure you have areas with protective shade so guests can lounge comfortably. Whether it's a hanging chair under a canopy of trees or a patio umbrella by the pool, keeping your visitors cool during the dog days of summer is a must. 

Tend to Your Yard

You want your yard to feel like a welcoming oasis for your visitors, and overgrown plants and grass tends to look unruly. "While a full landscaping refresh isn't necessary to impress your guests, take some time to make sure foliage is trimmed back, the lawn is mowed, plants are watered, and dead flowers and leaves are removed," says Curtis. If you do wish to add some new foliage to your yard, consider choosing plants that can withstand the summer heat

tablescape in backyard garden area

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Prepare for Al Fresco Dining

Summer entertaining typically includes some sort of outdoor dining element, from small bites by the pool to an entire sit-down meal. Whatever party type you're hosting, make it easy for guests to eat and drink outdoors. "From bistro tables to full dining sets, create a space where guests can eat," says Cooke. "Consider purchasing an outdoor bar cart that can serve as a beverage station or sideboard while entertaining." Take a look around your backyard and ensure you have enough space to display food and beverages—and that your guests have areas they can set down plates while mingling.

Check Your Grill

Planning to host a few backyard barbecues this summer? Test out your equipment before inviting guests over. "Uncover your grill and smoker and give them a good clean," says Cooke. “Check gas lines, tanks, grates, and tools to ensure you're ready to cook up your next outdoor meal." If you’re running low on any necessities, like pellets, charcoal, or propane, now is the time to stock up. 

Clean Your Patio Furniture

Even if you put your patio furniture away for winter, it will still likely need a thorough cleaning before being used by guests. "Wipe down dusty tables, oil any wooden or teak pieces, and wash upholstery covers if you can," says Cooke. "Look for mildew on cushions or cracks in wooden furniture and repair or replace." Be sure to check the care tags prior to cleaning to ensure you're using the correct cleaners. 

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