9 Barbecue Party Ideas To Help You Kick Off Summer Right

As soon as the weather starts warming up, you just know those hot summer days are right around the corner — so it's time to put a few barbecue party ideas into action. With the welcome change in weather, all I can do is dream of lazing around in the grass with friends, eating tasty food, and enjoying a cold drink. And come June, it feels like everyone gets the socializing bug as they emerge from their winter cocoon. The best thing about summer gatherings is how spontaneous they can be — you get off work early on a sunny day, call a couple of friends, and just find a comfy spot to kick back and sunbathe.

When it comes to summer gatherings, a backyard (or balcony!) barbecue party is about as laid-back — and as satisfying — as it gets. Still, there are a few key ingredients that are essential if you want to take your barbecue party from good to great. There's no need to create a huge 4th of July-type of blowout here. It's easy enough to assemble all the key elements for a hit barbecue a day before, or even the day of, if a little adrenaline-fueled dollar store shopping is your thing. I've rounded up nine tips for throwing the best barbecue party so you make sure you hit all the right notes. Check out the list below, and get planning.

1. Get Creative With Classic Recipes

For most people, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear "BBQ" is grilled meats. Burgers or hot dogs are great, but you'll get bonus points with guests if you get a little creative. And don't forget about side dishes! Although meat tends to be the star, you'll probably have at least one vegetarian guest — and a lot of people wanting something light and fresh to go with that burger. Grill up some tasty veggie burgers, colorful fresh peppers, portobello mushrooms, and that unforgettable summer classic — corn on the cob! You can also cut costs and prep time by making your barbecue a potluck affair.

2. Prepare Pitcher Drinks

It's hot out and your guests need something to accompany their major intake of grilled meat. Cold beverages are the way to go. While it's tempting to mix up some fancy individual cocktails, that's too labor-intensive for a chill barbecue. Besides, nothing says summer like a pitcher of sangria or a bowl of refreshing punch. Make up a big pitcher the morning of, and let your guests serve themselves. You can also keep a cooler filled with the traditional beers and sodas. Easy, breezy.

3. Decorate

You can work as hard as you choose on this one. A few sets of string lights and some tea lights in mason jars will do magic for setting the mood, or you can go all out with garlands and elaborate table settings.

4. Stock Up On Grown-Up Supplies

No matter how old you are, you're too old for red cups. Get your fancy party game on with some glam paper cups and plates, like these awesome marbled ones from Leif.

5. Set Up Comfy Seating

Make sure you've got your space set up to accommodate a crowd. Lay out a few picnic blankets, and bring some cushions outdoors.

6. Prepare Some Tunes

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Get someone to bring some Bluetooth speakers so you can have some tunes at your barbecue. Make your own personalized playlist. Even better if you have some musically-inclined friends who can bring a guitar for a summery sing-along.

7. Keep Bugs at Bay

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This might not be as exciting as the rest of your party-planning, but chances are you'll have some uninvited insects guests crashing your barbecue. Make sure you're prepared with some Citronella candles, bug spray, and insect-repellent towelettes for your guests.

8. Help Guests Beat the Heat

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Have a few bottles of sunblock on hand and leave a basket of handheld fans in plain view for your guests to get relief from the hot sun.

9. Don't Forget Dessert

Hopefully your guests will still have room for some dessert, since there's no better way to end a barbecue. There are so many tasty ways to satisfy your guests' sweet tooth, from grilled fruit to good old fashioned ice cream. The options are endless, and all that's left to do is get creative.

Images: The Kitchn; The Comfort of Cooking ; The Kitchn; A Pretty Life in the Suburbs; Leif; The Effortless Chic; Giphy; Giphy; Giphy; Joy the Baker/Instagram