Hosting family and friends for a cookout over Labor Day weekend? Skip the stress and deliver the fun with these party-ready tips.
One of the best ways to enjoy the hazy, lazy days of summer is to invite friends over for an alfresco feast. And if you want to ensure that your barbecue party goes off without a hitch, take a look at these tips to plan ahead and keep the party going when night falls.
1. Test your equipment. Before you send out the invitations, check that your barbecue is up to the job. It may sound obvious, but, if it’s gas, make sure it’s working. And the size of your grill should determine how many people you invite to the barbecue party, as the last thing you want is people waiting for their food when you run out of room.
If you’re planning to entertain often or are a serious cook, it may be worth investing in a larger barbecue with a prep area.
2. Consider your seating. Guests will need a comfortable place to sit and eat, so think about seating for your barbecue party. In a compact space like this one, consider bench seating so that everyone can squeeze in. Of course, you may not have this kind of built-in option, so a stash of collapsible chairs could be good standbys too.
Think about practicalities: Some people are happy to hold plates in their laps, but others prefer a surface. A mix of both is a good idea. If you have nothing at hand, stacked pallets like these could be a good quick solution. Employ trays or even suitable pieces of wood as makeshift tabletops.
3. Be prepared. Behind every laid-back barbecue party is a deceptively high amount of planning time. Ensure that your party goes smoothly with plenty of prep. As soon as you know who is coming, ask all confirmed guests for any dietary requirements and write up your shopping list accordingly. The day before your barbecue, take time to marinate any meat, and prepare salads and accompaniments.
4. Put away breakables. Avoid broken glass and plate mishaps by swapping your regular tableware for brightly colored outdoor tableware. There are some stylish melamine plates, cups and bowls available. You could opt for a mix of bright colors, or choose blue and white or a monochrome set for a pared-back look.
5. Get the drinks ready. If you’re planning to mix up some cocktails, how about using a bar cart?
You’ll also need plenty of water and soft drinks, some flavored syrups for the kids and perhaps even a fruit punch for the adults. Ice buckets or coolers are a great idea for keeping drinks cold and can be left in the shade for easy access.
6. Create a kids’ area. It’s a good idea to give children a designated seating spot of their own at the barbecue party. It will keep them safely out of the way of the grill and free up seats for the grown-ups. This Moroccan-style picnic tent is perfect as a shaded den and can be set up with rugs, pillows, and blankets.
7. Make simple and fun desserts. Give yourself plenty of time to socialize with your guests by not adding extra work. Keep desserts fuss-free and make them ahead of time if you can. Some easy jam tarts like these are a good choice and easy to eat without plates. Alternatively, set up an ice cream bar with a selection of flavors and toppings.
8. Don’t let the rain stop you. At least one of the summer’s barbecues is bound to be accompanied by a downpour. Plan for all eventualities with a temporary gazebo, or go for a fairly simple garden sail like this one. For an even easier solution, you could keep a garden parasol (or two) on the sidelines to bring out when the heavens open.
9. Light up the space. Hopefully your barbecue party will go swimmingly and carry on into the evening. Make sure you have plenty of lighting so that you’re not plunged into darkness when the sun goes down. Dot some solar-powered lamps around the flower beds to give a glow to your greenery, string up fairy lights, and add even more atmosphere with some candles.
10. Stay warm. If the party does continue when night falls, be ready with plenty of blankets and throws. A brazier-style pit can be used as both a barbecue (if guests get hungry again) and a heat source!