Laura Gaskill, Houzz Contributor
Summertime calls for a distinctly unfussy approach to entertaining, and thankfully so -- because who wants to sweat over planning a summer soiree? Make things easier on yourself by hosting outside on your patio or deck, getting guests to pitch in and embracing low-key, budget-friendly decor. From DIY flowers and quick extra outdoor tables to a beachy outdoor bar, these 10 ideas will make your party planning easier.
1. Whip up an extra table with sawhorses. Short on outdoor dining space? Hunt down a few sawhorses and top them with a length of board as big as you want your table to be. You can paint the board, cover it with a cloth or butcher paper, or leave it as is.
2. Fashion a wooden crate into a drinks container. If you line it with plastic, any old crate can be a rustic-chic open-top cooler for keeping soda and beer on ice. It won't keep it cold as long as a real cooler, but it should do the trick at a party.
3. Give your outdoor bar a tiki makeover with a palapa roof. Search for "palm leaf thatch panels" to find a source and tack a few lengths of the grassy stuff to the roof of your outdoor bar or shed to give it some tiki bar style.
4. Dress up candles with woodsy details. Curl a wide green leaf and drop it into a glass jar -- then fill the jar with water and float a tea light on top. Or use lengths of birch bark (available at craft stores) to wrap the outside of a jar or candleholder, and fasten them with twine.
5. Use soda bottles as vases. A row of tall, slender soda bottles lined up in the middle of a table makes a pretty (and supereasy) centerpiece. Just plunk one bloom in each vase, and you're done! Try gerbera daisies, cosmos or sunflowers.
6. Seat everyone at one big table. Who wouldn't love coming into a backyard set up like this? Put two or three tables together if you have to -- the dramatic effect will be worth the effort.
7. Boost ambience with lanterns and signs. Flank the entrance to your party area with a pair of big lanterns and lean a sign nearby -- it can announce the menu or simply say, "Welcome!"
8. Give guests a healthy option with fresh flavored waters. Fill a big drink dispenser with ice water, flavored with fresh ingredients for a healthy thirst quencher on hot days. Try lemon, lime or orange slices; fresh mint leaves; or cucumber rounds.
9. Create activity zones to keep large parties moving. Setting up several distinct areas can help a large gathering feel more manageable, as your guests will naturally be drawn into smaller groups. For instance, you could set up a dining table, a fire pit circle, a porch lounge and an outdoor bar.
10. Go wild with your arrangements. Plucking flowers and foliage from your own backyard is cheaper than buying them, and it can be more fun, too! Push yourself to look at your garden anew and clip something unexpected to tuck into your bouquet. Dandelions look charming in mason jars, flowering chives are utterly romantic, and an artichoke makes a dramatic centerpiece in a mixed floral bouquet.