20 Essentials for Summer Entertaining

Dining table by lake on sunny day

Maskot / Getty Images

There are certain entertaining essentials you'll need to make every gathering feel effortless. Scouting out the perfect location is the first step, and doesn't have to be complicated: a patio, garden, spacious backyard or outdoor terrace all require the same basics you'll need for summer events and parties. Once you have the space nailed down, it's time to move on to the details. Tumblers, portable seating and throw blankets are just the start–additional thoughtful touches will be sure to impress all of your guests. Here are the 20 essentials everyone needs for the ultimate summer entertaining.

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    Vicky Barone

    Snazzy tumblers are always great to have on hand. They are a great tabletop accessory and are perfect for outdoor use. For summer, we tend to lean towards bright and colorful glasses vs. neutrals. The pop of color is a fun touch for entertaining outdoors; it will remind guests of tropical escapes and make them feel at ease.

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    Drink Dispenser

    Drink dispenser on a party pallet

    Candice Picard / Unsplash

    A carafe or creative beverage dispenser helps you serve your guests with style. Encourage guests to help themselves with an easy-to-access beverage dispenser. You can find dispensers that come in all shapes and sizes. If you find the right style and position it correctly, it will fit seamlessly among the rest of your summer entertaining decor.

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    Outdoor Bar

    Outdoor patio bar

    Cameron Whitman / Stocksy

    A backyard bar is the easiest way to transition guests from indoors to outdoors. Creating an outdoor bar makes it easier for the host and guests to relax and enjoy the summer day. There's always that one guest who loves to play bartender! Single out your friend and put them to work.

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    Ice Buckets

    Ice bucket
    M. Okimoto & G. Kaye / Getty Images

    Be sure to have plenty of ice ready in the freezer for the day of the party! It's the absolute worst when you have to leave mid-party for an ice run. No one wants to be tasked with that chore (even if they generously offer). Save everyone the trouble and make sure to have enough ice ready in advance. In addition to the ice itself, make sure to have coolers and ice buckets readily available for all beverages.

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    Food on grill
    Caiaimage / Sam Edwards / Getty Images

    Nothing says summer like BBQ! One idea perfect for outdoor get-togethers is grilled kebabs. Have guests build their own meat and vegetable skewers or prepare them in advance. A sweet or spicy glaze will top off the meal and leave guests wanting more.

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    GMvozd / Getty Images

    Popsicles in the summer are such a delight. Buy popsicle molds and make your own for your party. Either make them with guests or in advance before everyone arrives. There are so many amazing fresh juice popsicle recipes to try. Cool off with these tasty strawberry-pineapple-lime flavored summer treats.

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    Shannon Fields / FOAP / Getty Images

    Smores and fire pits are perfect complements to one another. You really can't invest in a fire pit for your home without putting equal devotion into the ingredients to make smores. Smores should always be a top priority when considering summer menu essentials. To make things easy on yourself amidst party planning, you can find smore kits as a one-stop-shop for summer gatherings.

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    Fire Pits

    Colorful Adirondack chairs around a fire pit

    Jon Lovette / Getty Images

    Nothing says cozy like an outdoor fire pit. Make sure to have extra blankets on hand to keep guests warm as the sun sets and temperatures drop. Extra points if your fire pit is on a lake, beach or river setting. You can build your own fire pit or buy a smaller portable version–they come in so many shapes and sizes so there is an option for every type of summer party and setting. Plus, outdoor fire pits add charm and warmth to any space.

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  • 09 of 20


    Empty hammock with stripes in home backyard surrounded with trees

    Anastasiia Krivenok / Getty Images

    Space permitting, a hammock is a day and night essential required at all outdoor gatherings. A hammock is essential because it allows your guests to escape from their day-to-day for a moment and feel at ease in the rocking motion of the swing. Hammocks are easy to assemble and also add tranquil space to a party.

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    Portable Seating

    Foldable wooden garden chairs in backyard

    Sunrise@dawn Photography / Getty Images

    Portable seating or folding chairs are great to have on hand for outdoor gatherings. If you are low on storage space, we suggest renting portable seating for a one-time event. If you host more frequently, look into buying bulk seating at cost-efficient shopping centers.

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    Throw Blankets

    Orange plain throw blanket laid on grass near wildflowers

    Mirko Macari / EyeEm / Getty Images

    When hosting outdoor gatherings, especially evening and nighttime events, having throw blankets on hand is always a generous gesture. Throw blankets make guests feel at home and welcome in their setting. A toasty fire, delicious s'mores and throw blanket is heaven on a gorgeous summer night. Plus, blankets are great for protecting your legs from pesky mosquitos or lounging on the grass, picnic-style.

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    Citronella Candles

    Citronella candles on an outdoor table

    Jeff Wasserman / Stocksy

    Mosquitos are the enemy when it comes to outdoor events. It's great to have a non-scented mosquito repellent on hand for guests to use freely. It's also a great idea to have citronella candles strategically placed on your property for extra protection from those annoying insects. You can even make your own!

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    Kay Bartolozzi / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Sparklers are fun for kids and adults alike. When the sun goes down and you want to keep the party going, pull out a box of sparklers! They instantly refresh a dying party and bring big smiles to guests' faces. Remember to be safe and use them away from your home, especially if there is alcohol involved.

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  • 14 of 20

    Table Settings

    plated food on a table

    Jeff Wasserman / Stocksy

    Appropriate tableware is important as a summer essential. Once you decide if you are serving small plates, appetizers or a full course meal, make sure to choose platters and tableware that is outdoor-friendly. Save the fancy china for the indoors. Accessible plating helps make guests feel comfortable and encourages an atmosphere of relaxation.

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    Bamboo, zero-waste party utensils

    Valentin Ghita / 500px / Getty Images

    Keep things simple with plastic utensils for outdoor events. They are disposable and will save you time during clean-up. Some people prefer wood utensils that are eco-friendly. Wooden utensils also look a little more chic for an outdoor setting.

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    Cutting Boards

    A festive outdoor table with food on cutting boards

    Adrian Cotiga / Stocksy

    Woodcutting blocks are great to have for creating layers and height for your food presentations. Additionally, they add character and style to your summer table. They also protect your summer linens and table from hot plates and big messes. 

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    Serving Platters

    Marble party platter with fruits and vegetables

    Luisa Brimble / Unsplash

    Be sure to have your serving platters ready to go once you start grilling. When entertaining outdoors, it's important to plan your food placement in advance. It's no fun to be running around your kitchen in search of the perfect platter before your burgers burn.

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    String Lights

    Outdoor string lights
    Lumina / Stocksy United

    When the sun goes down, turn those strings lights on! A string of lights can add a magical quality to your outdoor soiree, be used in addition to candles or replace them entirely, create ambiance and allow guests to party into the night. We think it's best to leave the string lights up all summer–no need to re-install for every party. Just switch out a strand when bulbs begin to burn out.

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    Outdoor pillows around table

    Alberto Bogo / Stocksy United

    Outdoor throw pillows are the best! Throw them across the lawn for picnicking, lounging and late-night stargazing. Happy couples and groups of friends alike will appreciate having the option to grab a throw blanket and pillow to relax under the stars. Moroccan-inspired poufs are another great alternative.

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    Outdoor Planters

    Planter wall with succulents

    Nicholas Roberts / Stocksy United

    Planters are an easy way to spruce up your backyard patio or lawn. Planters are most definitely a summer essential for those hosts with a green thumb. Another great idea is to hang macrame planters around your grounds for a summer event.

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