While we’re thrilled to be gathering in person, a year-plus of virtual “celebrations” has left our party-planning skills rusty. So we could use some summer party ideas to ensure our upcoming barbecues and birthdays feel like events worth celebrating (not like a group of socially awkward strangers stumbled across adjoining picnic blankets).
Of course, you can text a few friends and fire up the grill or book a table at your favorite beer garden, but if you spent all winter desperate for the company of people you don’t share a bathroom with, perhaps a little more planning is in order. To help you play host to the party of the season—or, at the very least, a night worth remembering—we asked an expert event planner and the woman who literally wrote the book on celebrating everything for their best summer party ideas.
If you’re taking baby steps back onto the social scene (or have kids who aren’t yet vaccinated), it makes sense to keep the party close to home. With a few easy upgrades—and perhaps a belated spring cleaning—your terrace, rooftop, or backyard can make for the perfect spot to host everyone you’ve been missing. Your guests will have both “space to social distance and lots of fresh air,” says wedding and event planner Cherelle Joseph. To encourage mingling, “set up more than one bar to prevent party guests from all congregating in one area,” she suggests.
And whether your outdoor space overlooks a city skyline or a next-door neighbor’s patio in the ’burbs, a little low-effort decor can upgrade any view. “Don’t forget about lighting,” says Joseph. “String up some simple twinkle lights to create ambience and help your guests get around with ease.”
If you’re one for party favors, there’s an easy way to keep it thoughtful and practical: “Give out fabric masks as a take-home gift and have people wear them during the party,” says Joseph. She also suggests keeping germs at bay by setting up hand-sanitizer stations. “Encourage your guests to sanitize at the beginning of the party and throughout,” she says.
Reserve a party pod.
If your home isn’t the most celebration-friendly, look for venues that offer pod or igloo setups. “Pods are so versatile and can be used for garden dinners, chill-out spaces, or movie watching,” says Joseph. They also take the stress out of hosting and offer a change of scenery while ensuring you don’t have to mingle with people outside your social circle.
Plan a low-key activity.
Whether you live by the sea, a city park, or a suburban playground, a scavenger hunt that leans heavily on nature offers an easy (and inexpensive) way to keep your guests entertained, says party expert Darcy Miller, the author of Celebrate Everything.
Simply print out a nature scavenger hunt sheet, hand out pencils, and let the foraging and exploring begin. Your guests can work in teams or race against one another—and the objects they collect can be used in crafts projects or as do-it-yourself party favors. “Set up a craft corner where guests can press flowers they’ve collected, paint rocks they’ve found, or make a paper flower wreath,” says Miller. “Send everyone home with an individually wrapped bouquet.”
To take the inspired-by-nature theme further, serve cocktails topped with edible flower petals and floral chocolate bark. Help guests keep tabs on their drinks with paper-flower wine charms and end your meal with flower-pot brownies.
Or try another easy theme.
Choosing a theme is an easy way to make a low-key event feel more cohesive—and Miller says it doesn’t get much easier than a citrus theme. While she favors lemons for a summertime party, oranges or grapefruits could also offer inspiration. (And vitamin C!)
Use her lemonade stand templates to make a festive paper-lemon garland, cut green crepe-paper leaves to turn yellow balloons into lemons, and fill goodie bags with lemon candies. You can also let your citrus theme inspire party games: relay races where guests run while balancing a lemon on a spoon, or a lemon-juggling contest.
And when life gives you a lemon-themed party, you'd better not forget the lemonade: “Serve lemonade, limoncello, or an elderflower lemonade cocktail,” says Miller. Or “turn fruit juice and lemon slices into lemon Popsicles.” For a decadent dessert, stack scones—layered with clotted cream and lemon zest—into individual tiered cakes.”
Originally Appeared on Glamour