Until I had a backyard and outdoor space to use, I saw all the fun outdoor serveware, dining sets, glasses, decor, etc. and tried to find all the reasons to make the purchase….but I did not.
Last year, I moved in the middle of winter (January) and couldn’t wait until Marshall’s, HomeGoods and TJ Maxx had all the summer entertaining items….until the world came to a halt and all the stores closed for months. I got a table at Target, which was great to have for the very small gatherings we would spend the summer enjoying. To my disappointment, even when the stores opened back up, the inventory wasn’t as great as in years past, so the options were limited.
We made due, and this spring, despite many big life changes, I made sure to take time to expand my outdoor entertaining inventory. Check out my recommendations below – they’ve done me well at the end of last season (some were gifts from friends and family when they were able to finally visit) and multiple gatherings so far this year.
Ice Bucket and Stand –
I recommend this one from Crate and Barrel. I received it as a housewarming gift, and I absolutely love it. You want to have something that is large enough to fit a variety of beverages, and tons of ice – in the summer, you can never ever have too much ice. I also use this for storage of outdoor items such as cups.
Rolling Cooler –
You can’t really have enough, and helpful to have a few different sizes – make sure they have wheels! There is nothing fun about carrying a full cooler. They are great for keeping ice frozen during backyard parties, keeping food and drinks cool for a day at the pool, beach or on a boat. I love using them to transport freezer meals to friends and family as gifts and keeping groceries cold in the car during the summer months. I recommend keeping an eye out at warehouse stores or Target for deals throughout the year. If you can’t find a cooler, or it’s a bit out of your price range, another option is a kiddie pool filled with ice!
Insulated Cups/Tumblers –
These are useful not only for outdoor parties, but for hot days all around. Keeps drinks cold longer, keeps your hands from freezing or a drink slipping out of your hands. And, they are generally different colors….built in “name on cup”…just in color form. I highly recommend these tumblers, they are multi-functional, and come in many different color sets.
Melamine Serveware –
Consider getting a few platters, large serving bowls, snack bowls, chip and dip platters, etc. You’ll appreciate the variety, they are all generally dishwasher-safe so you can easily wash and use again the next time. You don’t have to worry about serveware breaking as easily when outdoors, it isn’t single-use or disposable, so you won’t waste.
Melamine Dinnerware –
Same as above, there are so many different sets, so many options for designs – and somehow, they all fit together! I find having 12 dinner plates, dessert/appetizer plates and wide bowls are a good number to keep on hand at all times.
Folding Tables –
These are great for outdoor and indoor entertaining. You can easily store these when not in use, they can seat an extra 6-8 people or be used as a buffet table for all your food offerings. I recommend having 2-3 on hand to use throughout the year. Think backyard BBQs, happy hours and then consider the option to use indoors for a Thanksgiving or New Year’s feast.
Outdoor Games –
Have a few easy games on hand for adults and kids alike. Whether a frisbee or two, a game of tennis ball catch, bags, ring toss, etc. it keeps everyone happy, and having fun while the weather is warm. Check out sales and clearance sections throughout the year to help buil your game collection without breaking the bank.
Citronella Candles –
For all the mosquitos and bugs – they get to be a nuisance sometimes – but the candles keep them at bay, and add a bit of ambience to the outdoor entertaining space.
Sunscreen, Bug Spray and Anti-Itch Spray (for bug bites) –
Keep a bin of outdoor essentials for your guests, to keep them comfortable before the sun starts beating down and the bugs start to fly around at dusk. I find great deals on sunscreen of different strengths at Marshalls, and similar stores – so that your guests have options of what would work best for them (suggested: 15spf, 30spf, 50spf). Bug spray can be found on sale at hardware stores often. Nothing is worse than getting a bug bite and not being able to calm the itching. I recommend Hydrocortisone spray or ointment for guests to be able to quickly medicate a bug bite if needed. Remember to check your supplies before each party – and if you’re not sure what to have people bring when they ask to help, you can always request some of these supplies that you want to keep on hand.
Outdoor/Washable Chairs, Blankets, Pillows –
Whether plastic, wicker, metal or a combination; chairs, blankets, and pillows not only add color to your outdoor space, but provide options for all who visit Kids and teenagers can sit on the ground/blankets, parents can use pillows when sitting with their kids on the ground, and adults can use chairs or move their chairs to visit with different people throughout the party/parties. Purchase blankets and pillows that can be washed/cleaned with a hose, and same with chairs (most are easily cleaned). Makes for easy cleanup and prep for the next outdoor gathering!
What are your go-to outdoor entertaining items? What makes your summer gatherings easy to host and execute? Keep an eye out for sales and for all the cute outdoor items that will not only look great this summer, but also make your lives easier!
Don’t forget to comment below or email me with any questions or suggestions for summer entertaining!